The University of Texas at Austin Starts Program to Examine Intersection of Sports, Media and Culture

Dec. 17, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — The College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin has established the Texas Program in Sports and Media to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and research on sports, media and culture.

Texas Program in Sports and Media will unite two programming initiatives and two curriculum initiatives. The two programming initiatives are the Richard W. Pound Olympic Archive Collection and the McGarr Symposium on Journalism and Society. The two curriculum initiatives are the Sports Publicity Project and the sports journalism curriculum.

Through a unique collaboration with McGill University, The University of Texas at Austin will share—and digitize for the Web—the Richard W. Pound Archive Collection, one of the largest and most important archives on the history of the modern Olympic movement. Pound, a former Olympian, is the former chancellor of McGill University and a vice president of the International Olympic Committee.

"With the power to unite citizens regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, professional and college sports are an integral element of American culture that must be examined from a scholarly perspective," said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. "By promoting interdisciplinary discourse across campus and around the world we can discover new truths about the human spirit."

The collaboration with McGill University was spearheaded by Steven Ungerleider, (B.A. '70) Ph.D., research psychologist and consultant to the U.S. Olympic team and several international sport federations. Ungerleider has written six books about athletic training and the sports industry, including "Faust's Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine," which has won numerous awards and been the subject of two films.

"The Richard W. Pound Archive Collection represents 50 years of Olympic history, including sports law, ethics, business and drug issues," said Ungerleider, a former Longhorn gymnast and longtime collaborator with Pound. "By digitizing it and making it available to researchers worldwide, we can shed further light on sports culture and its role in society."

The McGarr Symposium is an annual conference that brings working professionals to campus to discuss sports-related public policy issues, such as doping, athlete stereotypes, sports and human rights in the Third World, fan behavior and violence, and disparities in school-based programs. The next McGarr Symposium, in April, will feature sports commentator Frank Deford, speaking on contemporary issues of sports and society

"The Texas Program in Sports and Media will take advantage of the college's strengths in film and television, popular culture, new media and journalism," said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication. "When combined with the university's long-standing interest and success in sports-related activities, the program will elevate contemporary discussions of sports and American culture, as well as the role of competitive athletics on the international scene."

The program's advisory board will be co-chaired by Dallas businessman Cappy McGarr, (B.A. '73, B.J. '75, MBA '77), and Ungerleider, and be composed  of faculty and citizens with ties to the sports industry, including 10-time Olympic swimming medalist Josh Davis; University of Texas at Austin men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds; former Commissioner of the LPGA and College of Communication alumnus Jim Ritts (B.A. '76); and Senior Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Titans and College of Communication alumnus Steve Underwood (B.J. '74).

The Sports Publicity Project, for which the college is raising funds, will offer undergraduate coursework in sports publicity and advertising, create opportunities for students to intern with sports companies and support faculty research on sports and society. The sports journalism curriculum, established in 2000, features classes taught by award-winning sports writer and columnist Melanie Hauser (B.A. '75).

The Texas Program in Sports and Media will connect with the college's Wofford Denius Chair in Entertainment Studies, which will promote research to understand the impact of entertainment on various aspects of society and how it is produced and consumed.

The Texas Program in Sports and Media is the result of several gifts, including a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. It will work with other sports-related units on campus—such as the Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Journal in the School of Law, the Sports Management Institute in the McCombs School of Business and the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports in the College of Education—to build an interdisciplinary consortium that will put greater focus on the role of media in modern sports and the role of sports in modern society.

For more information, contact: Erin Geisler, KUT Radio, Moody College of Communication, (512) 475-8071; Christopher Hart, Texas Program in Sports and Media manager, 512-471-2431.