Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Vicki J. Rosser

Second Committee Member

Nancy Lough

Third Committee Member

Lisa Bendixen

Fourth Committee Member

Cynthia Carruthers

Number of Pages



Intercollegiate athletics are integrated into the American system of higher education. College student sports fans are abundant, and in identifying with their university's marquee sports team, make up an interesting portion of collegiate culture. There is a lack of qualitative research on college student sports fans, and a need to understand the phenomenon of college student sports fandom at a deeper level than is currently available in the scholarly literature. Thus, this phenomenological analysis sought to discover college student sports fans' experiences.

Students who are highly identified with UNLV's Runnin' Rebels men's basketball team were interviewed. The purpose was to discover their experiences with team identification, and their social experiences that have come about through team identification. Utilizing social identity theory as a lens, students' experiences were captured by five overarching themes: (a) unity and connectivity, (b) pride and good feelings, (c) characteristics of the ingroup, (d) ingroup and outgroups, and (e) emotional and psychological reactions to the game. Students' experiences are discussed, and focused on significant, meaningful, compelling, and interesting aspects, in hopes of shedding light on insightful elements of consideration in understanding students' team identification at a deep level.


College sports--Social aspects; College students—Attitudes; College students--Social life and customs; Fans (Persons); Sports spectators





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