Ellen Staurowsky, professor in the Department of Strategic Communication, has returned to Ithaca College’s sports media program just as her research on racial inequality in college athletics earns national recognition.
Staurowsky’s study, “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth,” has been recognized in several major outlets, including Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times and Columbia Daily Tribune. The study, which she worked on with Ramogi Huma, executive director of National College Players Association, was published in July and discusses how the NCAA’s exploitation of Black Division I football and men’s basketball players. In the study, Staurowsky and Huma discovered that the average college football and men’s basketball player creates about $1–$2.7 million in revenue for their institution in their four years of eligibility. The NCAA does not compensate athletes for any of this revenue and cites “amateurism” as its reason.
Staurowsky has returned to the college after she left in 2011 to work at Drexel University in the Department of Sport Management. She brings her interests in social justice, equity and activism among athletes to the program.
“Holding the sport industry accountable in terms of exploitative practices [is important to me], and that breaks down a couple of ways along race and gendered lines,” Staurowsky said.
Staurowsky also recently published an article, “Exploring Narratives of Scarcity, Uncertainty and Opportunity in Women’s Sports Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” in the International Journal of Sport Communication with senior Grace Dury, Ben Koch ’20 and Cooper Hayes ’20. The article discusses inequity in women’s sports during COVID-19. Focusing on getting students involved in faculty research is something that Staurowsky said is important to her, so she is glad the article was published around the same time that she returned to Ithaca College.
Dury said that she appreciates Staurowsky’s dedication to including all students in her studies. She had only met Staurowsky in person once before joining her on the research.
“I emailed her, and I didn’t think she would want me to join the research project just because she had never seen any of my writing,” Dury said. “She was the kindest soul on the face of the Earth.”
Staurowsky said she plans to add new classes about similar topics to the curriculum. She is proposing one potentially called “Women’s Sports Media Incubator” that will address overlooked opportunities in women’s sports coverage. This semester, she will be teaching “Introduction to Sports Media” and a senior workshop in sports media.
Staurowsky is the only woman of the six professors in the program. Prior to her returning, the only other female professor in the program was Annemarie Farrell, associate professor in the Department of Sport Management, who switched to the sport management department in the college’s School of Business in 2011. As of Spring 2020, there were 127 students enrolled in the sports media major, according to the Office of Analytics and Institutional Research. Of these students, only 17 were women.
Dury said that it is important to have a female professor who cares so deeply about women’s sports.
“Having had male professors in this department, I just always expected it to be a guy, even as a woman,” Dury said. “I think it’s just as valuable for male students as it is for female students to have her and bring that new perspective to the forefront of the curriculum.”
Given that the college is remote for Fall 2020, Staurowsky said that the semester will be different than she first thought when she accepted the job. Despite this, she said she is excited to make the most of the online learning environment.
“All experiences are learning experiences,” Staurowsky said. “Part of what this moment is teaching us is that we can’t take things for granted.”
Staurowsky said she considers returning to the college an exciting step in her career because it is the first time that she gets to fully focus on teaching sports media. While she worked at the college from 1992 to 2011, she taught and had additional administrative roles as the coordinator and graduate program chair of the Department of Sport Management and Media.
Staurowsky completed her fourth degree, a Master of Science in legal studies and NCAA compliance degree, at Drexel University in 2018. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Ursinus College, a Master of Science degree in sport psychology from Ithaca College and a doctorate of education in sport management from Temple University.
Staurowsky said she can laugh at her ironic situation of coming back as online classes begin. Part of the reason she wanted to come back was to experience the personal interaction with students that comes with being in the Roy H. Park School of Communications. The last time she taught at Ithaca College, sports media was part of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
“It’s one thing when you’re on a campus and you have opportunities [to collaborate], but it’s another thing to be in the hallways, to be in the meetings,” Staurowsky said. “There are so many fantastic things that I’m really looking forward to. [Park School students] really go after things.”
Regardless of the way the semester will be taught, students and faculty alike are excited for Staurowsky to begin teaching again. Mead Loop, sports media program director and professor in the Department of Journalism, said that the major has gone through significant growth since the move to the Park School.
“I think we found the most qualified person anywhere, someone who led the sports media program previously and who is so well connected in the industry,” Loop said. “I think I’ll be learning more from her than the other way around.”
Staurowsky has proven herself as more than qualified on the national level of collegiate sports research. Huma said Staurowsky has played a crucial role in much of the work the organization has done in advocating for racial equality and players’ rights.
“We have been absolutely fortunate that Ellen has collaborated with us,” Huma said. “We have incorporated her research into action, whether it be empowering players; public pressure on NCAA sports; disseminating information to lawmakers on the local, state and federal levels; and even in informing the media so that they have a better understanding of what’s going on in college sports.”
Loop said that it is vital for students to not only see a professor’s published works but also to get the chance to work with them on the research.
“That’s graduate–level work at the undergraduate level, so that’s where that peer or mentoring role is really important,” Loop said.
Sports editor Arla Davis contributed reporting to this story.