Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

First Advisor

Tom Regan

Second Advisor

Richard Southall


The pressure to win has grown as a result of the billions of dollars invested in collegiate athletics and the increasing national media attention, and coaches and administrators are searching for an athletic edge (Wieberg, 2008). There are a limited number of American athletes that have the skills to impact the collegiate level. Competition to attract the top domestic players is high, so coaches turn to larger, international recruiting arenas with less competition (Riley, 1997). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regulates collegiate Sports in the United States, which is the only place in the world that provides the opportunity to participate in elite athletic competition while attaining a college degree. According to statistics from the NCAA, over 17,653 International Student Athletes (ISAs) participated in Divisions I, II and III during 2009-2010. This represents 10.24% of the total number of student-athletes participating in Division I, II, and III during 2009-2010. The ISAs’ participation has been constantly increasing through the years. The present study will examine the recruiting process of ISAs by exploring the following three questions:
• Do coaches mainly use their personal Network to recruit ISAs?
• Does the Network have an influence on the recruitment success rate?
• Where do coaches go to recruit internationally?

In this study, I used the qualitative research technique of in-depth interviews with 12 coaches and 10 ISAs of selected Division I and II NCAA member institutions in the state of South Carolina. I found common trends in the ISA recruiting process, grouped by level of competition. Based on the results I created a structure that describes the recruiting process of ISAs from the perspective of the Coaches and the ISAs. Results indicated that there are at least 8 methods used by coaches to identify elite ISAs; however, the coach’s personal-Network is the main one. Previously known as the “talent pipeline”, personal connections have evolved and expanded to become a Network. Depending on the level of competition there is a distinction in the use of the Network. Major Division I programs have better recruiting resources and prefer to do personalrecruitment of ISAs by attending International Tournaments. These coaches use the Network as an evaluating tool. On the contrary, Division I-AA and AAA and Division II coaches rely heavily on their network during the ISA recruiting process. The other methods for ISA recruiting are: direct contact through email, agencies, academies, showcases, U.S. college transfers and U.S. high schools. Additionally, the experience of the coach also had an influence on how the Network was used. Older coaches tend to rely greatly on their well-established Network as opposed to younger coaches who used academies, agencies, and showcases as alternative ways to identify ISAs while they build their network. Next, the recruiting success rate, usually a 5 to 1 ratio, is the same for international and domestic athletes according to the information provided by coaches during the interviews. The only exception to this ratio is when the ISA has been recommended by the coach’s personal network; then the probability of that ISA committing to the institution is close to a 1 to 1 ratio. Finally, coaches search for athletes everywhere. The network usually brings together athletes from the same country or same background; nonetheless Networks extend beyond one country’s limits and can easily cover zones of the world. Currently, the majority of ISAs in South Carolina originate from 6 countries including but not limited to Canada, Germany, England, Brazil, France and Australia. New trends were found in regards to the large increase in ISAs’ participation in Division II institutions in South Carolina. Further research should be conducted to determine if the new trend presents itself nationwide. It will also be interesting to study the athletic and economic impact that ISAs have in NCAA Collegiate Athletics. Furthermore, it would be important to examine the effectiveness of the Network in creating successful athletic programs and compare it with the effectiveness of the recruiting agencies.