A Study of Male Division I African American Football Players Perceptions of Role Identity
Patterson, Eric Dee
University of Kansas
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
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There is limited research focused on male African American Division I football student-athletes' perceptions of the messages they receive from coaches, athletic department staffs, and NCAA policy about their roles as students and athletes. At predominantly white institutions, African Americans make up a small percentage of the student population, but a large majority of the African Americans on campus reside in the athletic department. It is important that athletic departments and universities understand how this group of athletes is socialized into one role or the other. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how seven male African American Division I NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football players made sense of their roles as students and athletes at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). After conducting semi-structured interviews, followed by confirmation communications with participants to ensure the essence of their words was captured, and consulting the student-athlete handbook, the data revealed four major themes. The participants developed an athlete-student identification in their early adolescence years through socialization, and they were re-socialized after arriving at UWI. Using social identity theory as a theoretical framework, the process of how the athlete-student identification was adopted through intentional and unintentional communication was examined. The responses revealed a group of academically motivated young men that struggled with their roles as students and athletes after being exposed to rhetoric that told them football was their key to escaping their neighborhood and securing financial security. While in college the perception was that the football was part of a money-making business, dependent upon winning, and not academics. The African American community, media, coaches (high school and college), counselors, family members, non-athlete peers, and faculty members were said to all factor into why the athlete-student identification was chosen.
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