Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Patricia A. Beitel

Committee Members

Kathleen deMarrais, Joy DeSensi, Craig Wrisberg, Ronald Taylor


The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the experiences of former college football players upon exiting their intercollegiate careers and to explore the liminal period in which they pass from something that is known (their college athletic career) to something that is unknown. In order to address the suggestions of the literature, this study utilized an interpretist approach and a qualitative methodology to explore these experiences. Participants consisted of seven former NCAA Division I collegiate football players who completed their eligibility within the last three years and were at least eight months removed from collegiate football competition. These participants were also not under contract with any professional teams at the time of their interviews. The qualitative technique of in-depth, dialogic interviewing was employed in this study, and questions were of two types: (a) phenomenological; and (b) ethnographic. Interviews averaged three hours per participant and ranged from 1 1/2 to 6 hours of total interview time. Emerging themes included: (a) the transition from high school to college ball was a major one in which players felt isolated from the coaches, and they felt a previously unknown pressure from media and fans; (b) relationships with coaches were negative, or nonexistent; (c) participants perceived that they were powerless, and that coaches and athletic administrations retained full control over their lives and impacted their futures; (d) participants tended to place blame externally; and (e) there were varying degrees of narrowness of identity, perceived alternatives, and coping styles. These themes illustrated that participants tended to be past-oriented, and that multi-dimensional, process oriented frameworks which take an interactive approach were more applicable to the data than uni-dimensional theories. The themes were discussed in relation to applicable theories. Micro-level analysis let to a discussion of locus of control and personal power, and the impact of these factors on the transition experience. The lack of strong ethnic differences in perceptions was discussed and contrasted with current literature. Future directions for research were explored, as well as implication for counselors, sport psychologists, and coaches.

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