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Sports & Communication

Nationally recognized scholar will lead new Center for Sports Communication and Media

Michael Butterworth, an acclaimed scholar and teacher whose work examines the nexus of communication and sport, has been named founding director of the newly established Center for Sports Communication and Media at The University of Texas at Austin, starting fall 2017.

Michael Butterworth

The new Center for Sports Communication and Media will serve as the center of study, teaching, leadership and practice and will bring together several existing programs in the Moody College of Communication, including the Texas Program in Sports and Media, undergraduate certificate in sports media and McGarr Symposium on Sports and Society. The center will continue to support the Frank Deford Lecture in Sports Journalism, the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting Awards, and cross-campus collaborations with the university’s Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport and the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation.

Butterworth’s research interests include rhetorical criticism, political theory and sports culture through the lens of sport as a rhetorical platform to evaluate the possibilities for and limitations of democracy. His work features studies of myth and metaphor, public memory, nationalism and militarism, and identity. Currently, he is associate professor and director of the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University.

Butterworth is author of “Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity during the War on Terror,” as well as articles in journals such as Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Communication & Sport, Critical Studies in Media Communication, the Journal of Communication, the Journal of Sport & Social Issues and the Quarterly Journal of Speech, among others. He also served as the founding executive director of the International Association for Communication and Sport.

"I am delighted and honored to take on this new role in the Moody College of Communication,” said Butterworth. “The excellence of the academic programs in the college, the visibility and reputation of the university and the enthusiasm for sports in the Austin community and beyond combine to make The University of Texas the ideal location to engage sports communication study and practice. I look forward to working with those who have already built successful programs focusing on sports and other interested partners across campus as we seek to create the premier center for sports communication and media."

Michael J. Cramer, founding director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media, plans to transition into an advisory role for the new center and continue to teach on campus. Since the program’s inception in 2010, Cramer has been responsible for start-up leadership, fundraising and programming. He has taught the Business of Sports Media and Sports, Media and the Integration of America Society.

“I would like to thank Mike Cramer for his vision and leadership as founding director of Texas Program in Sports and Media—the current and future work of the Center for Sports Communication and Media would not have been possible without him,” said Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt. “Our new Center for Sports Communication and Media will bring together our many talented scholars, teachers, students, and partners under one virtual roof in order to dramatically expand and strengthen our future work related to communication and sports. This approach to collaborative leadership is modeled after our outstanding work in health and medicine that has resulted in our successful Center for Health Communication. Once established, our existing sports and media programs will become part of the new center and interested faculty, staff and students will become affiliated. As a result, the whole of our sports communication enterprise will be far greater than the sums of its disparate parts.”

Moody College faculty members whose clinical and scholarly work addresses issues of sport include Kevin RobbinsJoel LullaSteve WilleTullos WellsAngeline CloseDawna Ballard and Natalie Devlin Brown. Others throughout UT Austin are expected to align their work on communication and sport under the new center.

“Building upon the strong foundation established by the Texas Program in Sports and Media, the Center for Sports Communication and Media in Moody College of Communication is poised to become the leading institution for scholarship and training on issues of sports, media and society,” said Christine Plonsky, women's athletics director, executive senior associate athletics director and advisory board member for the Texas Program in Sports and Media at UT Austin. “Given the tremendous role that sports plays in entertainment, education and our culture at large, it is more vital than ever to understand the economic, social and cultural impact of sports. Dr. Butterworth is the perfect scholar and leader to further interdisciplinary collaboration that draws upon expertise across campus and beyond.”

Marc Speir

Senior Content Producer


For more information, contact:

Kathleen Mabley at 512-232-1417