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Are College Students ‘Bowling Alone?’ Examining the Contribution of Team Identification to the Social Capital of College Students

While college sport can impact a campus’ sense of community (Clopton, 2007), no empirical research has established a connection with college sport and social capital, an increasingly researched social phenomenon defined as the sum of trust and reciprocating relationships amongst members of a community (Putnam, 2000). Thus, social activities – such as direct and indirect sport participation – that increase social connectedness possess the ability to generate social capital. Using social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978), along with the Team Identification-Social Psychological Health Model (Wann, 2006a), data were collected from randomly-selected college students (N=1252) across 21 NCAA BCS institutions. Results indicated thai the extent to which the respondents identified with their school’s athletics teams (i.e., team identity) did impact their perceived level of social capital on campus (β=.28, p<.001). Further, both gender (β=.07, p<05) and race (β=.05, p<.05) were significant in predicting social capital through fan identification. Numerous implications stem from the findings, including how higher education utilizes athletics within the campus culture. Moreover, the current results bring to light the maintenance of social identities of students on a college campus and their alignment with the overall mission of higher education.