Sports and Society

More than hard-fought, highly-televised contests, sports are woven into our social fabric. At Ohio State, winning teams are part of our identity. Increasingly, they are becoming part of academic discussions.

In the Arts and Sciences, our new interdisciplinary Sports and Society Initiative studies sports’ impact on economy and society, our faculty study and reflect on the influence of sports on culture, and our students demonstrate that sports are intertwined with research and performance.



"When you think about sports from the most basic level — individual decision making — all the way up to how sport drives memory, how it impacts gender, race, education, neighborhoods, communities and beyond, all of these issues have broad societal implications.”  –Trevon Logan

Professor of Economics Lucia Dunn has taught  The Economics of Sports since she introduced the course to Ohio State over a decade ago. Meanwhile, Trevon Logan, also professor of economics and current chair of the department, was developing two large areas of research on sports — sports-betting markets and college football polls.

A series of conversations between Dunn and Logan about expanding the reach of sports research beyond economics developed into a concrete project, and in 2015, they founded the Sports and Society Initiative.

The core team, in addition to Dunn and Logan, includes Chris Knoester, professor of sociology and Nicole Kraft, assistant professor and clinical faculty member in communication.

Sports and Society Initiative Leadership

pictured l to r: Lucia Dunn, Trevon Logan, Nicole Kraft, Chris Knoester

Sports in the Classroom

The Physics of Sports

Mike Lisa Experimental Physics Professor Michael Lisa assumed leadership of the undergraduate course The Physics of Sports in 2010 (offered since 2007). He is the author of the course’s textbook by the same name.

"Teaching this course is a great way to reach out to non-science majors. They will probably become neither professional athletes nor scientists, but they will become our nation's leaders and voters; more than ever, we need such people to have a basic understanding of science," said Lisa.

Sports in the Ancient World

Jason Kayes Jason Kayes begins his fourth year as a lecturer in the Department of Classics. He teaches the course Sports and Spectacles in the Ancient World, which surveys the history and social role of gymnastic and athletic competition in Greece and Rome and their modern revivals.

"It is my firm belief that a proper historical grounding always improves understanding of current events, and sports are in no way an exception. By examining the ancient origins of athletic competition, students gain a deeper understanding of competition in the sporting world today," said Kayes.

Sociology of Sport

Christopher Knoester Since 2011, Associate Professor of Sociology Christopher Knoester has been teaching Sociology of Sport. 

"Sport is important for so many reasons! Clearly, sports are prominent and pervasive. Also, they frequently improve health and well-being, but can compromise it. In addition, they offer economic opportunities and often bring people together. The interactions that surround sport also offer sites for people to teach, reaffirm and, sometimes, challenge cultural values," said Knoester.

Sports Media

Nicole Craft Nicole Kraft is assistant professor (clinical) of journalism in the School of Communication. She began her career in sports with the Philadelphia 76ers, and later became an award-winning news and political reporter. She served as a newspaper editor in California before heading to Columbus as executive editor of Hoof Beats Magazine. She is also an active magazine writer, and writes for the Associated Press covering the Columbus Blue Jackets and other sports.

"The biggest misconception about sports writers is that they're not 'real' writers. Some of the most gifted writers I know are sports writers. Some of the most beautifully written stories I read have been about sports. Sports is the ultimate reality show and the universal language. There is always conflict. There are always colorful characters. It makes for amazing storytelling, and writers who excel in it are truly gifted. There is also the belief that people who cover a given team are fans who write. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sports writers are journalists — pure and simple," said Kraft.

Students and Sports

Psychology + Fencing

Eleanor Harvey, a fourth-year student-athlete studying psychology, competed in fencing at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Harvey, from Ontario, Canada, made history at the Olympic Games when she defeated the top-seeded foil fencer, Italy’s Arianna Errigo, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Eleanor Harvey

Industrial Design + Lacrosse

Emily Stokes graduated last spring with a degree in industrial design and a minor in German. For her senior project, she designed a women's lacross helmet.

"I wanted to do a research project in the athletic world, and I wanted to create something for female athletes," she said. "Industrial design in the sports world tends to be a male-dominated field, and I wanted to do something that would set me apart. I looked at running and soccer but finally decided to focus on lacrosse."

Emily Stokes

Communication + Rugby

Joseph (JoJo) Eramo is a fourth-year student majoring in communication. He is an open field player with Ohio State’s Men’s Rugby Club. Eramo led the entire Big Ten last year in tries and was third in total points. He was All-Big Ten twice and a state champion running back for Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati. After graduating, he plans to attend Officer Candidates School for the U.S. Marines.

Joseph Eramo

Economics + Baseball

In his final year as an undergraduate majoring in economics, Walter King was selected to attend the prestigious MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference to present his own original research, "Wins, an Alternative Calculation of Wins Above Replacement in Baseball." The day after King graduated last spring, he headed off to Anaheim, California, for a six-month internship with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels, where he learned to apply data analytics to player development and the art of scouting.

At the end of his internship, King was offered a two-year contract with the Angels to work as a baseball operations assistant. A native of Berea, Ohio, King is quickly becoming a part of baseball’s analytic revolution.

Walt King