So after watching the final BCS National Championship last night and thinking back on a conversation with some friends from a few months ago, I wanted to address this topic. Students who are not athletes often times get very upset about the mismatched amount of funding found in Athletics as opposed to that found in other area. We see programs being cut and funding falling far short while these programs seem to have unlimited amounts of money.
I feel you. I understand. I have many times found myself feeling the exact same way. But consider this:
Think about the massive shift in funding for higher education over the past few decades. State and Federal support is dropping. Student loans are skyrocketing. It is crazy. These institutions have served to preserve learning and as time has gone on, to produce new knowledge. But in the later parts of the 20th century, especially with the infatuation with television, other parts of college life have come to bear. The American past times play a huge role in recruitment, not just of star athletes but of applicants and in turn, money.
Naturally the program brings in money. Duke and Carolina’s basketball programs bring in millions. Texas, USC, and Alabama do quite well on basketball. Rest assured that between scholarship, sale of merchandise, royalties, ticket sales, and much more, these schools bring in large amounts of money.
But consider what else these programs do. As a student applying, many people have a dream about where they want to go. Louisville gets its name out there through basketball and football and that has brought in a ton of new applications. Carolina gets quite a few applications with its basketball dominance. as do Kentucky and Kansas. These schools are all good academically and would draw applicants, but the dream for students to be a part of those championships and recognition drive up the number of applications.
This in turn improves the quality of student a school has. they are getting better research ideas from these students, they are having more successful alumni, and they are “improving their stock” as it were. It isn’t fun for those suffering with barely being able to pay their bills and struggling with classes to watch an athlete who doesn’t show up to another class after their career finishes or some of the other shady practices that we associate with sports (there is another whole set of issues for athletes about royalties, NCAA “using them:”, etc, but that is for another time).
The fact is that these programs help to create these awesome universities that we all dream of being a part of. They help build them. Should they be kept in check? Should universities get their focus back on academics, research, or something else entirely? Universities are always changing. When Harvard opened in 1636, students spent the day reciting and were tested in that way. That was how they learned. Doing research at a College then was considered absurd. Our institutions are changing, always.
I would also suggest looking at this link: