Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Travis Vogan


This thesis addresses universities’ image repair strategies when a student athlete is accused of sexual assault and the media’s coverage of these strategies. This is a particularly important issue due to the prevalence of campus sexual assault, as recent studies have shown that one in five women is sexually assaulted in college. Sexual assaults involving college athletes typically receive more media attention due to their high-profile nature.

Athletic programs are typically sites of hegemonic masculinity, where men take action to maintain dominance over women. They may do this through misogynistic and homophobic talk or committing violence against women. Athletic departments’ image repair strategies when male athletes are accused of sexual assault also sometimes uphold hegemonic masculinity if their main goal is to maintain the team, which may generate significant revenue for the university. As such, their image repair strategies may allow male athletes to continue to partake in misogynistic practices, including committing violence against women. The media also has been accused of upholding masculine dominance by supporting rape myths or blaming the accuser in sexual assault incidents.

This thesis consists of two case studies: the University of Colorado, which faced several allegations of sexual assault by football players in the early 2000’s; and Baylor University, which underwent a similar scandal starting in late 2015. It contains textual analysis of officials’ image repair strategies at both schools and the media’s responses to them.

Ultimately, both Colorado and Baylor upheld hegemonic masculinity through their image repair strategies, though Colorado did so on a larger scale. In both instances, journalists were largely critical of their image repair strategies and argued that the strategies were not enough to change the structure of masculine dominance.


college athletics, hegemonic masculinity, image repair, media coverage, sexual assault


iv, 63 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 55-63).


Copyright © 2017 Sarah E. Igram