Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Higher Education


Leadership and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Amy E. Wells Dolan

Second Advisor

Susan McClelland

Third Advisor

K. B. Melear

Relational Format



Intercollegiate athletics is a $10 billion marketplace (Suggs, 2012), with some Division I athletics operating budgets approaching $200 million. College athletics programs are charged with maximizing revenues in an effort to support and enhance the student-athlete experience. This study provides an examination of the perceptions of ice hockey season ticket holders on the implementation of a donor-based seating model at Miami University. Miami ice hockey consistently fills its venue and generates crucial revenues for the athletics department. As the cost to compete for championships continues to increase, schools like Miami must be creative in identifying ways to maximize revenues. The need for expanded revenue streams coupled with high demand for tickets led Miami Athletics to introduce a donor-based seating model for ice hockey prior to the 2014–2015 season. This qualitative case study grounded in phenomenology utilized Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) social identity theory. Collective research and standardized open-ended interviews were conducted with 16 randomly selected ice hockey season ticket holders from the 2013–2014 season. A majority of participants in this study were not in favor of Miami Athletics implementing a donor-based seating model for ice hockey. Despite all the criticisms, most interview participants recognized the need for the athletics department to generate revenue to better position Miami ice hockey for success. College athletics is constantly evolving and revenue generation is so critical to compete at the highest level. To maximize revenues, though, understanding the perceptions of season ticket holders on the implementation of a donor-based seating model is extremely important. Nine major themes emerged from this study, with the most prevalent being that people express undesirable feelings toward donor-based seating. Miami Athletics administrators will be able to utilize the results of this study and learn more about their ice hockey season ticket holders’ willingness to support and enhance the student-athlete experience through donor-based seating. Effective communication, relationship building, and student-athlete integration should reduce the backlash that naturally comes from fans having to pay more and ultimately lead to increased funds to support and enhance the student-athlete experience.



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