Organizational change: An examination of factors influencing resistance in an intercollegiate athletics department

Date of Completion

January 2009


Business Administration, Management|Sociology, Organizational|Recreation




The purpose of this study was to situate the resistance to change phenomenon in one intercollegiate athletics department to investigate potential sources of resistance. As such, this study was an exploratory, qualitative case study of a Division I intercollegiate athletics program going through transformational change. Data collection methods consisted of initial and follow-up personal interviews with employees and student-athletes, direct observations, participant journaling, and reviewing archival records, documents and physical artifacts. ^ In general, this was a story of change success. Numerous themes and subthemes were uncovered which influenced responses to change and change agent decision-making. First and foremost, the department had experienced much failed change in the past and was ready for change, which greatly contributed to change acceptance across the board. At the environmental level, the principal force driving change was the affiliation with a new athletics conference. Salient environmental constraints included facility and resource allocations, internal politics, organizational history, and concerns for legitimacy of the organization. At the organizational level, the transformational leadership displayed by the lead change agent, coupled with a relational culture, contributed to greater change acceptance. The change agent also had a background in coaching and was previously known by staff, which enhanced his credibility. However, those longer-tenured individuals who had experienced negative change in the department were more ambivalent or resistant. It was also found that the senior administrative team mediated the relationship between the lead change agent and change process variables. Overall, transparent communication from change agents and participation of employees in the change process helped to mitigate resistance. As time progressed, individuals perceiving threats to power, intrinsic rewards or job security began to resist change more. However, the overall theme was one of change success and acceptance over time. ^ The main contribution of this study to the sport management literature is the development of a conceptual model of change acceptance/resistance, with associated propositions advanced that can be tested in other intercollegiate settings or sport industry sectors. Drawn from the study, a series of recommendations for sport management practitioners guiding change is then offered. ^