24 November 2011

Universities and Big Time Athletics

As you sit down to enjoy a fun weekend of college football, here is a short piece of mine in the New York Times Room for Debate on the significance of the realignment scramble underway among college football conferences.  I'll bet that you didn't know that college football is a 100% government creation;-)



  1. Faculty could stop this in its tracks. Refuse to reschedule exams for college athletes, maintain an honest, objective grading scale, and refuse to collaborate with the athletic department in arranging special treatment for athletes. We enable this sort of abuse.

  2. If only we could get universities with faculties and administrations which had as much integrity as big time athletics. Not that there is much integrity in big time athletics, just that there are actually investigators and rules and a public paying attention.

    Universities defrauding students and the taxpayers have become an epidemic that desperately needs a cure.

  3. Hi Roger,

    Some questions and a comment/question.

    Under what law would a president "step in again to fix college football"?

    Regarding the history of the NCAA...the NCAA website offers this tidbit:

    "In many places, college football was run by student groups that often hired players and allowed them to compete as non-students."

    Thank God TR got involved to put a stop to that, eh? ;-)

  4. Rick Telander, in his book The Hundred Yard Lie, discusses how universities decided to take control of football when they saw how much money it was bringing in. Telander's book is extremely uneven in the quality of its arguments, but I haven't seen any dispute over his history regarding how schools got in the sports business.


    I've often thought that the ridiculous nature of some of the arguments that get bandied about when the subject of college sports comes up is a pretty good indicator for the poor quality of much analytical thought. That so much of the foolishness comes from college professors is, of course, troubling.

  5. I like your provocative comment at the end:

    I'll bet that you didn't know that college football is a 100% government creation;-)

    I don't know much about American college "football", but is it still funded by the government? I assume, given all the money involved, that government no longer plays a role.

    In which case - no, I'm not surprised. I applaud the government setting something like this up.

    However if government still funds college football today, I would be very surprised indeed. Surely the role of government (in something like this) is to create the market, but then bow out gracefully when it (the market) is mature and stable.

    It is one of the problems I have with the BBC over here in the UK. I take no issue with the government spending money to create a media culture and market back in the mists of time, nor with the government continuing to ensure there is a news service which is constitutionally independent (such as the BBC's news service is *supposed* to be).

    But I do have issues with essentially state funds being used to compete with the market in such mature areas as popular radio and television. Why should my taxes (and the BBC's licence fee is almost exactly the same as a tax) be used by the BBC to buy / create such programmes as Strictly Come Dancing or East Enders, when the markets are clamouring to take them on and deliver them for no cost to the general public? The BBC literally gets into a bidding war with Sky (aka Fox) for numerous programmes each year. It is absurd that the state use taxpayers money to compete with the markets.

    Similarly I'd be very surprised (and disappointed) if the US federal or state governments were still funding American college football if the markets were quite happy to do so.