Monday, July 09, 2007

Or, You Could Try Something Else ...

I see in today's paper that my alma mater is furrowing its collective brow about how to handle its misbehaving gladiators. As usual, the simplest way of solving the problem is escaping any consideration whatsoever: eliminate scholarship sports. Eliminate all the big-ticket, semi-pro sports (the football, basketball, etc.). Eliminate the "athletic scholarship" -- surely a contradiction in terms.

Another Purdue graduate who's a member of the IU faculty, Murray Sperber, made the case in much detail some years ago, in his excellent book, Beer and Circus. Not only do we have "students" in the universities who have no business being there, who would not be there in a sane world, and who -- in nearly all cases -- derive no lasting benefit from their stay ... we also undermine the educational mission to all undergraduates.

All right, so athletic competition does offer some actual benefits to those who participate. There's no need to prostitute the university as a whole to obtain those modest benefits. I'll use myself as an example: I participated in crew (rowing) at Purdue in the mid-'70s. It was a "club sport," which means that it was essentially revenue-neutral: each of us paid for his own racing jersey, betting shirts, sweats, etc. Our coach was an extremely part-time grad student who had been an oarsman himself. We trained in the normal recreational gymnasium, alongside our fellow "normal" (more or less) students, during normal hours. And, it goes without saying, none of us had a scholarship -- not even the one guy who had a decent chance of making the national team.

But no, my old school will stay on the athletic treadmill, and wonder how to handle their Jocks Behaving Badly. They'll probably also continue to send me the occasional letter, asking for money. Well, they obviously have plenty of that as it is ... no need for any of mine.


lemming said...

I agree with you in large part - except that there are the students whose token scholarship was small, but who benefitted from having the same access to tutors as the football players. In exchange for losing study and class time to attend events and practices, they get one-on-one time that they would never get at a large university.

The system is broken, but too many people enjoy cheering sports teams for it to go away.

Grace Nearing said...

The system is broken, but too many people enjoy cheering sports teams for it to go away.

Yep. And the top-tier NCAA schools seem to be nothing more than the minor league teams with (bogus) GPAs attached.