Friday, November 18, 2011

What good is college football?

Ben and I wrestle with the Penn State scandal in this week's Scripps column. My take:
College football is a blot upon the landscape.
The sport distorts the educational mission of participating schools, draws disproportionately from their financial resources and institutional energy, and badly exploits the young men who play the game.
All this, so we fans can have our Saturday tailgates. 
The scandal at Penn State isn't uncommon. As a young reporter in the early 2000s, I wrote about how Terry Allen, then-football coach at the University of Kansas, was presented with accusations that two of his players sexually assaulted a woman. He didn't go to police; Allen punished the players by making them run extra laps after practice. 
After the story broke, he stuck around another year before losing his job over a poor record. Anybody who has spent time around a top-level college program can probably tell you a similar story -- usually off-the-record. 
KU's current coach, Turner Gill, is by all accounts a decent man -- devoted to molding decent men. But he has a lousy record, and so at the end of this season will probably be given $6 million to walk away. That's $6 million at an institution that, like other public universities, is fighting for an ever-diminishing pool of resources to educate students and pursue vital research. 
The Atlantic's October cover story, "The Shame of College Sports," demonstrates further inequities. The players are young men who often sacrifice their health and well-being in hope of earning an unlikely berth in the NFL -- and who receive little compensation for their efforts, even while universities reap billions of dollars from the sport. 
Burn down the system. Let alumni pay to field their own football clubs, if they want, but let's get colleges out of the game. Penn State is one example of the corrupting effects of college football; it is far from the only one.


emawkc said...

"Penn State is one example of the corrupting effects of college football…"

I don't think it's necessarily college football that causes the corruption, but rather the money behind it all ("The love of money is the root... etc.,etc.).

At some point, it will probably take a govt committee to step in and declare some kind of anti-trust measure. There needs to be limits set on how much money can be spent and what it can be spent on. The colleges seem to be unable to limit themselves.

namefromthepast said...

Well written Joel.

D-1 sports is out of control. The NCAA seems to answer to no one and the kids participating are taken advantage of big time.