Advocacy for the rights of college athletes took center stage as a prominent research theme at the 2023 CSRI Conference on College Sport in Columbia, South Carolina, during March 22-24. Faculty, scholars and students from across the country shared innovative research and lively discussion on the biggest issues in collegiate athletics today.
The conference is hosted annually by the College Sport Research Institute (CSRI) – a leading research center based at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.
The conference offered two and a half days of research presentations, panel discussions, teaching workshops, a case study competition and more. Topics from the conference included NIL, athlete identity, injuries, organizational culture, inclusion, mental health and athlete academic and career success as well as business focused topics such as coaching impact, salaries and operating costs, collegiate apparel, esports and more.
The keynote speaker for CSRI 2023 was Richard Ford, Esq., an athletes’ rights advocate and host of The BigAmateurism Monologues podcast. His speech focused on “The battle for the Iron Throne of college sports regulation.”
USC Professor Mark Nagel, who has served as the associate director of the College Sport Research Institute since its creation in 2007, moderated a panel discussion on “Legal and Economic Issues in the NCAA: A Review of 20 years of Litigation.”
“Some of us ended up at CSRI because we questioned and continue to question how college athlete labor is somehow outside the bounds of capitalism in a highly capitalistic society,” said University of Louisville Assistant Professor Ajhanai (AJ) Keaton, who delivered the CSRI Emerging Scholar Plenary Address. “Some of us here have ended up at CSRI because we worked in or currently work in college athletic departments, and we see how marginalized structures and bylaws and discriminatory behaviors and decisions adversely inform and impact college athletes as well as coaches and other personnel.”
CSRI 2023 Highlights
Exclusive Movie Screening
This year’s event also included a unique opportunity for attendees to enjoy a special advance screening of the movie Air: Courting a Legend at Columbia’s Nickelodeon Theatre. The film is based on the true story of the origin of Nike’s Air Jordan line, and stars Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis and Matt Damon.
Richard Ford, Esq.
Richard Ford, Esq., served as CSRI's keynote speaker. Ford is an athletes' right advocate and host of the BigAmateurism Monologues podcast. His speech focused on “The battle for the Iron Throne of college sports regulation.”
Ajhanai Keaton, Ph.D.
Ajhanai (AJ) Keaton, Ph.D., delivered the CSRI Emerging Scholar Plenary Address. Keaton is an assistant professor at the University of Louisville who specializes in research into how race/gender (in)equity inform organizational components.
This year’s event also included a unique opportunity for attendees to enjoy a special advance screening of the movie Air: Courting a Legend at Columbia’s Nickelodeon Theatre. The film is based on the true story of the origin of Nike’s Air Jordan line, and stars Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis and Matt Damon. Damon plays legendary Nike executive and athletes’ rights advocate Sonny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is a longtime supporter of CSRI and has been a guest at the conference, and he and his wife Pam made the screening possible.
CSRI has been at the forefront of athlete’s rights advocacy from its beginnings. The conference was born after CSRI Director Richard Southall and colleagues were asked in 2007 to review abstracts for a conference to be hosted by the NCAA. That conference was canceled.
“We decided that instead of just shirking away when the NCAA canceled an academic conference, that we should just go ahead and develop our own conference, develop our own journal,” Southall says. 15 years later, that conference and journal are still going strong.
“CSRI is committed to presenting college sport research results, providing an opportunity for spirited discussions of issues in college sport, and allowing faculty and students to learn from and with each other,” says Southall. “CSRI's adjusted graduation gap report has become a fixture in graduation rate research. Our publication, the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, has evolved into the preeminent peer reviewed academic journal for college sport research.”