This paper is a description and analysis of the history of the renovation of Memorial Stadium and the building of the Barclay Simpson Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC) on the Berkeley campus, showing how incremental changes over time result in a much riskier and financially less viable project than originally anticipated. It describes the decision making process, the role of various constituent groups including senior administrators and the UC Regents, faculty, community members and local and state governmental officials, donors and protesters. It includes the legal challenges and financial implications of the most expensive intercollegiate athletics capital project in the nation totaling $474 million dollars. Taking into account debt servicing over time, the total expenditures could approach more than $1 billion. These projects were highly controversial from their inception, continue to be so to this day because of current campus wide financial challenges, and illustrate the complexity and risk of managing big-time intercollegiate athletics programs. This study draws on two theories of organizational decision-making, Diane Vaughan’s normalization of deviance and Charles Lindblom’s science of muddling through. They are part of a larger debate within the social sciences about the degree to which structure and/or agency determine human behavior. Structure is the broad framework of rules, regulations, expectations, history and tradition within which organizations function and which provide limits or constraints on human behavior. Most organizational decisions are made within this framework and are inevitably incremental and often risk averse. Agency is the ability to take independent action despite the constraints of structure, entails greater risk, and becomes necessary because behavior within the organization has become normalized over time and deviates, even unknowingly, from changing values.
February 1, 2017
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
A CAUTIONARY ANALYSIS OF A BILLION DOLLAR ATHLETIC EXPENDITURE by John Cummins, UC Berkeley CSHE 3.17 (February 2017)