Exploring a New Division 1 Football Program on a University Campus: An Application of Collaborative Action Research in Higher Education

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This paper is an account of collaborative action-based research that centered on a new NCAA Division I football program at a regional southeastern university, and the positive impacts the collaboration had on the multiple stakeholders involved in the research, which were the university’s sport management faculty, the athletic department, and sport management students. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

During the action research, these stakeholders moved through a cyclical process that involved reflection, planning, action, and evaluation. Through the action-based cyclical process that was utilized, each of these stakeholders were able to learn, adapt, participate, and make positive change.

Positive change occurred with the athletic department’s marketing efforts and game day operations, opportunities for sport management students to participate and learn, and development of relationships between two departments.

Research limitations/implications
The cyclical nature of this research model often leads to original hypotheses and research foci to be highly altered during various stages. Another limitation within collaborative action research can be the breakdown in communication among the many parties involved in carrying out this type of research.

Practical implications
While the significance of this study was initially to capture fan information surrounding a new NCAA Division I football program, the stakeholders quickly realized that the action-based research study had more to offer than producing marketing reports for the university athletic department. Inclusion of the students as equal stakeholders in this project proved vital to student learning and involvement. Having the students play such an important role throughout each cycle of the project allowed for additional networking outside the classrooms with potential employers, as well as in-depth discussions and involvement in the classroom when synthesizing and disseminating the marketing information that had been gathered.

The collaboration between two separate departments within a higher education institution was vital to the overall success of the research project. The overall intent of this paper is to provide a practical approach to collaboration among individuals working in different departments of an organization, as the findings from this research project revealed the overall success of the project was only possible through the collaborative effort and joining resources, abilities, areas of expertise, and capabilities.