Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Christopher Stream

Second Committee Member

Tara Emmers-Sommer

Third Committee Member

Jaewon Lim

Fourth Committee Member

Andrew Kreutzer

Number of Pages



This study examined how urban communities might grow social capital from the passion and support offered by a college athletics program. Given the increasing emphasis on fiscal responsibility from local governments and public universities, recognizing how college athletics programs influence local community social capital, such as anchor attachments formed by alumni and fans, is an important perspective. Historically, the exhausted conversation has focused on economics, such as the economic impact of athletic venues and franchises. (Coates, 2007; Crompton, 2004). Through decades of research, social capital has been measured at various depths and viewed through social, economic, psychological, and even historical perspectives (Dluhy & Swartz, 2006; Goodsell, 1997; Prezza, Amici, Roberti, & Tedeshi, 2001; Atkinson & Fowler, 2012). The lack of research on the relationship between social capital and athletics programs drove this study.

Fifty urban universities in metropolitan statistical areas with a population greater than one million and with successful NCAA Division I football or basketball programs were examined for their impact on their local community’s development of nonmonetary social capital. The success of a university athletic program was measured with an index built from winning percentage, postseason victories, and average attendance per home event. Measuring the social capital in a community was less precise due to multiple data sets from different segments of time and with different units of measurement. Existing public policy literature focusing on social capital identified the variables of crime rates, voter turnout, and volunteer hours. I used additional variables in an existing model to determine trends and correlations on social capital index in the three years of available data and subsequent to significant years of athletic program achievements.

For 38 counties with universities matching the criteria for time periods between 1990 and 2005, the regression models indicated some positive correlations with football attendance, but the results were not statistically significant. However, the groundwork was created to meaningfully direct university officials and legislators toward a conversation on cooperation when considering funding of athletic facilities.


College Athletics; Legislation; Public Financing; Social Capital; Stadiums and Arenas


Higher Education Administration | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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