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.
‘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”
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”
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.
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.
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.
As a leading economist of education, Charles T. Clotfelter has brought data-driven analysis to many key topics surrounding American schools and colleges: the impact of K-12 desegregation, teacher compensation, federal tax policy and charitable giving, and cost escalation in higher education, among many others. Yet he, like many other social scientists, had until recently largely ignored a highly visible element of today’s (and yesterday’s, for that matter) campus environment: the highly commercialized endeavor of big-time athletics. Continue reading “Inside Higher Ed”
In Big-Time Sports in American Universities, a new book out from Cambridge University Press, Charles T. Clotfelter examines what some describe as the outsize role athletics plays on many American campuses. Below, the Duke University professor of public policy, economics, and law answers a few of our questions about his work.
You’ve written about school desegregation, the growth of state lotteries, and the rising price of college. What about college sports attracted your attention?
Like a lot of Americans, I have been a fan of college sports from early on, so it was second-nature to me that people might get very invested in the fortunes of college teams. What I did not expect, before I took my first faculty position, was that college sports would be a subject of such intense interest among otherwise serious and studious professors. I began to realize the powerful hold that big-time college sports has on people, and universities, is one of those “ever-present but overlooked” aspects of life that social scientists are taught to look out for. Continue reading “The Chronicle of Higher Education”
It’s Madness as universities play for pay
March 11, 2011 By Charles T. Clotfelter
DURHAM Buckle up. It’s almost time for that annual 21-day wild ride known as “March Madness,” a media event so lucrative that the name is actually trademarked. For three weeks, millions of Americans will talk nonstop about brackets, seeds and upsets, and then remain glued to their TVs or computer screens to see how their predictions hold up.
This 68-team NCAA tournament is a spectacular illustration of why commercialized sports, with all its problems, has an unshakeable hold on American higher education, and why universities do little to rein in its influence.
Universities with big-time sports are like the man in the old joke who complains that his brother thinks he’s a chicken. Asked why he doesn’t have the brother committed, the man explains, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Like this man, these universities choose to live with the contradictions inherent in big-time college sports rather than get out of the game.
For the past three years, I have been researching how and why big-time sports has become so deeply embedded in many American universities. Not surprisingly, I found that sports often dwarfs the intellectual side of universities. For instance, I looked at news coverage of 58 universities with leading athletics programs. Of the 600 articles that appeared over a year in The New York Times, 87 percent were about sports. Continue reading “It’s Madness as universities play for pay”