ROROTOKO

Charles Clotfelter, “Big-Time Sports in American Universities”

COVER INTERVIEW OF JUNE 27, 2011
Author of "Big-Time Sports in American Universities"

IN A NUTSHELL

The United States is the only country with universities that participate in what amounts to commercial sports entertainment.

Why this happened in America and not elsewhere is interesting to contemplate. James Michener called it a “quirk of history.” But what is relevant for our time is the unshakable hold that big-time sports continues to have over the universities that engage in it.

For almost a century, big-time college sports has been a wildly popular but consistently problematic part of American higher education. The challenges it poses to traditional academic values have been recognized from the start, but they have grown more ominous in recent decades, as cable television has become ubiquitous, commercial opportunities have proliferated, and athletic budgets have ballooned.

The book asks two questions. Why do universities play big-time football and basketball? And: Is it good for them or not?

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New Books in Sports

Charles Clotfelter, “Big-Time Sports in American Universities”

by BRUCE BERGLUND on JUNE 8, 2011
Charles Clotfelter

Corruption in big-time college sports recently claimed another victim: Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. Once regarded as a paragon of integrity, Tressel is now seen as one more example of a coach who recruited star players and built a successful program with the benefit of illegal gifts from boosters. Whether the result of Tressel’s deliberate disregard of rules or his neglect as coach, the scandal at Ohio State reminds us again that big-time college sports is deeply flawed.

Listen to the full interview here.

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Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times

‘Big-Time Sports in American Universities’: weighing why universities embrace and encourage major sports programs

May 21, 2011

Duke University professor Charles T. Clotfelter’s book “Big-Time Sports in American Universities” is a delightful guide to and analysis of the intersection between America’s major universities and their big-time sports programs.

For the average reader, this book may seem unlikely to entice. The title is functional (but dull); the author is an economist (oh, dear Lord); the publisher is a scholarly press (before cracking the cover, brew lots of coffee).

But a funny thing happens on the path through all those scatter diagrams, fever charts and the occasional reference to contingent valuation or marginal revenue product. Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor, proves to be a delightful guide on a quest to answer two questions: Why do so many universities embrace big-time sports? And what are the consequences? Continue reading “Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times”

Fred Barnes, The Wall Street Journal

Calculating the Score

April 23, 2011

Pity the poor presidents of colleges with major athletic programs. Football coaches are not just better known than the administrators, the coaches also tend to make a lot more money. And professors lag even further behind. In 1986, the presidents at 44 public universities with teams in the five most established athletic conferences actually made, on average, a little more than their coaches: $294,000 for the presidents, $273,000 for the coaches; full professors earned about $107,000. By 2010, the professors’ income, adjusted for inflation, had climbed 32%. University presidents’ pay had gone up 90%. The football coaches’ pay jumped to more than $2 million—it had “increased by an astounding seven and a half times,” Charles T. Clotfelter writes in “Big-Time Sports in American Universities.” Mr. Clotfelter cites coaches’ contracts packed with incentives: Nick Saban’s 2010 agreement with the University of Alabama, for instance, included bonuses of $125,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference championship and $200,000 for taking the Crimson Tide to a BCS bowl game. The book offers plenty of other eye-opening statistics but is perhaps most surprising in its even-handed approach to the subject of major college athletics. Continue reading “Fred Barnes, The Wall Street Journal”

Office Hours on the Business of College Sports – Duke Magazine Forum


A diverse panel takes up the topic of conflicts and benefits of commercial college sports. Speakers include: Charles Clotfelter ’69, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy Studies, and author of the new book “Big-Time Sports in American Universities”; Alan Fishel J.D. ’86, P’13, partner, Arent Fox, and lead counsel on Bowl Championship Series issues; Chris Kennedy Ph.D. ’79, P’05, P’09, Duke’s deputy director of athletics and Title IX Coordinator, and Nancy Hogshead-Makar ’86, Olympic gold-medal winner and professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. James E. Coleman, Jr., John S. Bradway Professor of Law at Duke Law School, moderated the April 8, 2011 panel.

WOSU Public Radio

The Business of Public Sports
March 29, 2011

Many American universities are known around the country not for their academic accomplishments, but for their football or basketball teams. We’ll hear how the commercialization of college sports creates conflicts for traditional academic values, as universities strive to succeed in athletics, with author and Duke University Public Policy Professor Charles Clotfelter.

Listen here.

April 8, 2011 – 2pm: Duke Magazine Forum

College Sports: The Economics, Ethics, and Excesses of the Games We Love

April 8, 2011 – 2pm: Duke Magazine Forum

[The conversation will be held in Page Gym, rather than Card Gym as previously listed.]

College Sports: The Economics, Ethics, and Excesses of the Games We Love,” is the topic of a Duke Magazine Forum-Office Hours conversation at 2 p.m., Friday, April 8, in Duke’s Page Gym (changed as of April 6, 2011). Those not able to attend in person can watch the discussion live on the Duke University Ustream channel and also submit questions online.

Addressing the issue will be Charles Clotfelter ’69, Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy Studies, and author of the new book “Big-Time Sports in American Universities”; Alan Fishel J.D. ’86, P’13, partner, Arent Fox, and lead counsel on Bowl Championship Series issues; Chris Kennedy Ph.D. ’79, P’05, P’09, Duke’s deputy director of athletics and Title IX Coordinator, and Nancy Hogshead-Makar ’86, Olympic gold-medal winner and professor at Florida Coastal School of Law. James E. Coleman, Jr., John S. Bradway Professor of Law at Duke Law School, will moderate the panel.

Anyone can ask a question online, before or during the discussion. To do that:

  • send an email to live@duke.edu
  • tweet with the tag #dukelive
  • or post to the Duke University Facebook page.

Nick Infante, College Athletic Clips

If I ever wanted to educate a person who knew nothing at all about big-time sports in American universities (and there are plenty of them out there, namely 6.86 billion non-Americans on the globe, and maybe a stray Martian or two), I would start them off with Charles Clotfelter’s book, Big-Time Sports in American Universities.

And why? Well, the book provides an impressively comprehensive narrative of the history of big-time college athletics, the good and bad associated with it, insights into reform efforts and analyses of various aspects of the ever-rising commercialism associated with big-time college sports.

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