The Issues in Sport Project

The college course you see here has a developmental history that goes back to 1997; beginning with the dreams of Dr. Peter French. At that time he was the Cole Chair in Ethics, Director of the Ethics Center, and Chair of the Department of Philosophy of the University of South Florida. He envisioned an International Summit Conference on Sports Ethics to be held by USF. He dreamed of launching and housing a major international scholarly journal for Sports Ethics at USF.

During May 20-23 of 1998 his dreams were realized when USF held The Summit: The First International Summit on Ethics and Sport. At the conference, Dr. French held the first meeting to found the Journal of Sports Ethics. Nowhere before had such a diverse group of talented and concerned academics, professionals, authors, journalists, and athletes met to openly discuss ethical and managerial issues in sport. Panels composed of athletes, psychologists, journalists, sociologists, coaches, philosophers, college presidents, lawyers, social activists and sports administrators, discussed issues, often very personal issues, of importance in sports and society before and with a general audience.

The conference was the idea and result of the visionary work of Dr. French coupled with the energy and creativity of the conference producer, Marcia Sage, J.D.. Together they made this historic gathering a reality.

It was unpredictable, but during the conference a special feeling arose among the diverse gathering; they knew they were participating in something that was very special. The reverence and seriousness with which participants found themselves debating issues flowed naturally from the subject matter. The conference participants made themselves available for in-depth interviews and enthusiastically attended each other’s panels and presentations and posed challenging questions. It was a time of enthusiasm and hopefulness.

Philosophy Lab Corporation feels fortunate to have captured this remarkable event on videotape via the panel discussions and numerous individual interviews thus making the conference available to a wider audience.

Over the next year Philosophy Lab completed the production of the 26 half hour television programs on topics developed from the Summit. This was titled The Sports and Society Video Series. Mr. Mertzman then wrote the study guide for the telecourse, Explorations in Sport and Society. The book, Voices in Sport and Society, was developed from both the scheduled conference activities and hours of interviews conducted by Robert Mertzman. The books were published by Kendall/Hunt in the year 2000.

Kendall/Hunt Publishing and RMI Media distributed the video series as a telecourse and sold copies of the videos to colleges and universities throughout the world. From early on, the telecourse was distributed to colleges and universities in the Northeast as part of Maryland Public Television’s College of the Air. Other colleges and universities, as far away as Australia, Asia and Europe have used materials developed from USF’s Summit Conference on Ethics and Sport.

In August of 2001, Mr. Mertzman was appointed to teach Issues in Sport at USF in Tampa in the School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies, as it was known then. Mr. Mertzman did so with the specific agreement that he could continue to utilize and develop the course materials that came out of the Summit Conference on Ethics and Sport. Since Issues in Sport meets an exit requirement and is primarily for Junior and Seniors from throughout the university, the diverse student population provides both benefits and challenges. It is a great test for the course materials.

During 2002 it became clear to Mr. Mertzman that the Telecourse version was of limited applicability for many universities. He pushed for changes in the study guide and for the development of online video and text materials. At that time, Kendall/Hunt expressed no interest in changing anything in the study guide or other parts of the course materials as they were only 4 years old. However Mr. Mertzman believed that topics, such as Disability and Sport, needed to be covered and other areas needed updating.

In August of 2002, Kendall/Hunt and Philosophy Lab dissolved their relationship and Philosophy Lab acquired the copyrights to all print and video materials and they became the publisher of record for the course materials. The new Issues in Sport Study GuideExplorations in Sports and Society. for the updated course was published in 2002 by Philosophy Lab and replaced the original

Mr. Mertzman saw an integrated website as a way to add current information to the original instructional material and make changes so students would not have out of date materials. New technologies were making that more possible. Philosophy Lab and a team of professionals launched the first Blackboard course cartridge for Issues in Sport during 2002 for a class taught in a more traditional classroom setting.

In the Fall of 2003, Issues in Sport became a “mixed” course where students could view the Sports and Society Video Series on WUSF or the Open University in selected areas. Students could also purchase the Sports and Society Series DVDs and complete the course outside of the WUSF and Open University Coverage area. Tests and essays were completed online.

Gradually, all course materials migrated online. The response of students was immediate and positive for having everything available in one place, rather then in multiple locations. There would be no need to pick up the book and read Voices in Sport and Society, then put in a DVD and play a certain program, then read from Issues in Sport Study Guide, and then go to the Blackboard course cartridge to view various Internet content and take the quizzes.

The Blackboard Course Cartridge was envisioned as a means to expand the adoption of the course at other colleges and universities. In practice the Blackboard Course Cartridge proved difficult to operate. Given the different versions of Blackboard, the limited number of institutions of higher education with Blackboard, and the significant effort and expense required to support faculty using the Issues in Sport course cartridge, Philosophy Lab made the decision that a standalone website for Issues in Sport would be better suited for national and international distribution of the Issues in Sport course materials. In 2008, together with a team of programmers, the first Issues in Sport standalone website became operational. The site contained all the course materials that faculty and students would need to access. No testing or other assessments were collected on the site. This was done so that individual colleges could use their own university’s course management system to collect essays, discussions and assessments.

Throughout 2008 Philosophy Lab added course materials to meet and exceed requirements for continued inclusion in the general education program as a course that meets exit requirements. The Laboratory area of each lesson now focuses on ethics, inquiry, and critical thinking as it applies to issues in sport and issues in life. New video production, web resources, and yet to be implemented interactive activities will complete an exciting addition to the courseware.

By July of 2009, deficiencies in the 2008-designed website persuaded Philosophy Lab to find a different technology and development partner to better serve both students and instructors. The site is in continual development. The new website has enhanced capabilities and additional security for our students and for our licensing partners.

While all the content of prior semesters is available today, we will be adding new resources as they become available. In addition the new website will include new technological advancements, such as interactive exercises in the laboratory. A significant upgrade of all site activities on this new platform should be ready for the Spring Term of 2010. Elements that become ready earlier will be implemented during the term so long as they can be included without confusion.

Also new this term for USF students is the addition of three graduate assistants who will assist in the operation of the course at that institution. This should increase the feedback to USF students and also allow earlier identification of students who may be at risk in the course.

In attempting to keep the website up to date, we always are interested in finding ways to improve what we have. Please feel free to e-mail us with ideas or comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philosophy Lab supports the USF Foundation and other charities. Robert Mertzman, an instructor at USF for the Issues in Sport course, helps to develop these materials and does earn money from the activities of Philosophy Lab. Mr. Mertzman believes that no other courseware or course material is available that meets the requirements of the USF Issues in Sport course. Students are free to disagree and free to not take the course if this situation bothers them. Many students are pleased to have the opportunity to interact with researchers who produce the books and educational materials. Institutions, like the people that make them up, differ on how they address the issue.

Issues in Sport is the main vehicle for continuing the work of The Summit: The First International Summit on Sports and Ethics. We hope to have the SECOND International Summit on Sports and Ethics and as we continue to develop new ways to extend the influence and remind people everywhere, that USF is an exciting place to do research and get an education. Robert Mertzman and Philosophy Lab are grateful for the chance to work with USF to advance investigations into Issues in Sport.

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