Charles Clotfelter On Big-Time Sports In American Universities

This post was originally published in The Faculty Lounge

Regular Lounge readers have heard me discuss before my seminar on Taboo Trades and Forbidden Markets.  Although markets in human organs, sex work, commercial surrogacy, and the like are probably more standard fare in a course of this nature, I think that college athletics and amateurism also have a place, and I normally spend some time each semester on college sports (plus, it’s the Durham-Chapel-Hill area, what do you expect?)

This year I struck gold because my colleague, Charles Clotfelter, has a fascinating new book coming out in the next few months with Cambridge University Press, Big-Time Sports in American Universities.  And last week he visited my seminar to discuss his book, which he’s spent years researching. Continue reading “Charles Clotfelter On Big-Time Sports In American Universities”

Uncle Sam takes one for the team

The Washington Post Originally published 12/31/2010

Uncle Sam takes one for the team
By Charles Clotfelter
Friday, December 31, 2010; A19

For big-time college sports, late December is more than the season of holiday basketball tournaments and the start of myriad football bowl games. It’s also the time for making tax-deductible gifts to the booster club of your favorite college team.

These gifts don’t get mentioned much when we hear talk of the excess costs of college sports, but they play a surprisingly large role in the college athletics business, and at considerable cost to the taxpayer. Continue reading “Uncle Sam takes one for the team”

Is Sports in Your Mission Statement?

The Chronicle of Higher Education Originally published 10/24/2010

Is Sports in Your Mission Statement?
October 24, 2010
By Charles T. Clotfelter

Sports Are Good for Colleges
Jon Krause for The Chronicle

As we enter the thick of college football season, with its abundance of televised games, I am reminded every Saturday of an important but seldom acknowledged fact about several hundred prominent American universities: They are members in good standing of the commercial entertainment industry. But the academic world’s unwillingness to admit that rather obvious fact stands in the way of what should be an honest recognition—­perhaps even appreciation—­of some of the surprising benefits of big-time, commercialized college sports.

The evidence of this commercialization begins with ubiquitous TV coverage. This season’s second week featured 23 nationally televised games on Saturday, plus three on Thursday and another on Friday, not counting the dozens of games covered regionally and those on the Big Ten’s own cable network. It also shows up in mushrooming athletic budgets, lucrative contracts with shoe and apparel companies, hefty sales of logo-embossed gear, and, of course, outsized pay packages for celebrity coaches. The head football coaches at several dozen public universities earned an average of $2-million last year, more than 14 times the average pay for full professors and several multiples of what their presidents made. Continue reading “Is Sports in Your Mission Statement?”

80 years of trade-offs in college sports

The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionOriginally published 11/27/2009

80 years of trade-offs in college sports
November 27, 2009 Friday Main Edition
OPINION; Pg. 25A

Charles Clotfelter; For the AJC
American college athletics, a report says, is “a highly organized commercial enterprise. The athletes who take part in it have come up through years of training; they are commanded by professional coaches; little if any personal initiative of ordinary play is left to the player.
“The great matches are highly profitable enterprises.”
Although these words well describe big-time college sports in 2009, they were written 80 years ago.
On Oct. 23, 1929, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a 350-page report that was based on three years of work and site visits to more than 100 campuses.
Titled simply “American College Athletics,” it received front-page coverage the next day in The New York Times.
What is most striking about the Carnegie Foundation report is how contemporary its findings sound today.
Despite the dramatic changes that have transformed college athletics into a major part of the American entertainment industry — including television and the influx of billions of advertising dollars — the descriptions it gives of conditions in 1929 provide an eerily accurate picture of 2009.
From the earliest days of intercollegiate competition, college sports had been criticized for allowing commercial interests and over-emphasis on winning to undermine academic values. Continue reading “80 years of trade-offs in college sports”