Sports Governance

edgeupdated: 30 March 2019

My interests in sports governance dates back more than 15 years. I started using cases of sports governance controversies in teaching, based on a need to find interesting and unique cases of science and technology in decision making. In 2009 I began to use “sex testing” and the case of Oscar Pistorius in my grad seminar on science in society. Students found these topics fascinating.

I jumped into the deep end of the pool in 2011 when I started a blog, The Least Thing, which I maintained for more than seven years. I spent the summer of 2011 studying FIFA, trying to understand how it could both be so messed up and so unfixable. The result was a major paper (Pielke 2013, linked below) which came out right in the midst of the scandal which engulfed the organization.

In 2011, I made my way to Cologne, Germany for the biennial Play the Game conference.  This, perhaps more than anything, motivated a change in direction for my career. Even in 2011, participation in climate change research and policy was both less interesting and less fun. The PTG folks were my people and I was happy to find them. I have been an active participant ever since and am proud to have played a small role in helping to bring the 2019 conference to Colorado.

In 2012 I initiated efforts to create a new “sports governance center” at the University of Colorado Boulder. The major innovation we pursued was to locate this academic unit inside the university’s big-time athletics department. This took some doing, but in 2016 the SGC had been established. I am, to the best of my knowledge, the only tenured, full professor in the US who is rostered in a NCAA Division 1 athletics program. We will see how long it lasts, but I am extremely proud of this accomplishment.

In 2014, I volunteered to teach a new course above load on sports governance. The CU Ethnic Studies program agreed, graciously, to host the class, Introduction to Sports Governance, which had 12 students that first year. In 2019, the class has 160 students and a waitlist, with a fantastic line up of speakers and topics.  CU Athletics and CU EThnic Studies have been fantastic is supporting the development of this class, which is a massive success (and also time consuming but incredibly rewarding).

My research and blogging informed my 2016 book, The Edge, which is about the battlegrounds where the future of sport is being waged: college sports, doping, technology, gender and more. Check it out here. This book was a joy to write. I learned so much.

I’ve now written a lot of commentaries and academic papers on sports governance topics.  My current areas of interest include:

  • the use and misuse of science in anti-doping regulation;
  • sex and gender in sport;
  • reform of college athletics;
  • governance (and corruption) in national and international sports bodies;
  • the regulation of technology in sport.

Here is a selection of academic papers:

Pielke Jr, R. 2013. How can FIFA be held accountable?Sport management review16:255-267.

Pielke Jr, R. 2015. Gather data to reveal true extent of doping in sportNature517:529.

Pielke Jr, R. 2016. Obstacles to accountability in international sports governance. Transparency International, global corruptions report: Soccer. (PDF)

Pielke Jr, R. 2017. Sugar, spice and everything nice: how to end ‘sex testing’in international athleticsInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics9:649-665.

Pielke, R. 2018. Assessing doping prevalence is possible. So what are we waiting for?Sports Medicine48:207-209.

Pielke, R., Tucker, R., & Boye, E. 2019. Scientific integrity and the IAAF testosterone regulationsThe International Sports Law Journal, 1-9.

I’ll continue to update this page.

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