Navigating the iron cage: An institutional creation perspective of collegiate esports

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Esports are becoming increasingly popular at U.S. colleges and universities (Jenny, Manning, Keiper, & Olrich, 2017). Currently, collegiate esports programs are spread primarily across two departments (i.e., athletics, student affairs), with athletics often highlighted as their most viable home (Bauer-Wolf, 2019). While athletic departments provide important alignment opportunities for emerging esports programs, they also face complex institutional environments that complicate the integration of novel activities (i.e., esports). Through the lens of institutional creation, the purpose of this study was to understand how key actors within athletic and student affairs departments strategically integrated esports. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 university department directors from athletics (n = 10) and student affairs (n = 6). Findings indicate directors from both athletics and student affairs adopted similar institutional creation strategies that emphasized alignment with traditional sport, but dissimilar challenges related to external regulatory control and stakeholder perceptions. The discussion highlights the theoretical importance of institutional language and provides recommendations for the future management of collegiate esport.




This article is the authors' final published version in International Journal of Sport Managment, Volume 20, April 2019, Pages 171-197.

The published version is available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333613739_Navigating_the_iron_cage_An_institutional_creation_perspective_of_collegiate_esports.