Monday, January 30, 2012

How Big-Time Sports Ate College Life

Yet another reason other countries are kicking out butt academically – what a total disgrace!

There is nothing recreational about Division I football today, points out Dr. Sack, who played for Notre Dame in the 1960s. Since then, athletic departments have kicked the roof off their budgets, looking more like independent franchises than university departments.

It is that point — "this commercial thing" in the middle of academia, as Charles T. Clotfelter, a public policy professor at Duke, put it — that some believe has thrown the system out of kilter. In his recent book "Big-Time Sports in American Universities," Dr. Clotfelter notes that between 1985 and 2010, average salaries at public universities rose 32 percent for full professors, 90 percent for presidents and 650 percent for football coaches.

The same trend is apparent in a 2010 Knight Commission report that found the 10 highest-spending athletic departments spent a median of $98 million in 2009, compared with $69 million just four years earlier. Spending on high-profile sports grew at double to triple the pace of that on academics. For example, Big Ten colleges, including Penn State, spent a median of $111,620 per athlete on athletics and $18,406 per student on academics.

… "Here is evidence that suggests that when your football team does well, grades suffer," said Dr. Waddell, who compared transcripts of over 29,700 students from 1999 to 2007 against Oregon's win-loss record. For every three games won, grade-point average for men dropped 0.02, widening the G.P.A. gender gap by 9 percent. Women's grades didn't suffer. In a separate survey of 183 students, the success of the Ducks also seemed to cause slacking off: students reported studying less (24 percent of men, 9 percent of women), consuming more alcohol (28 percent, 20 percent) and partying more (47 percent, 28 percent).

While acknowledging a need for more research, Dr. Waddell believes the results should give campus leaders pause: fandom can carry an academic price. "No longer can it be the case where we skip right over that inconvenience," he said.

Dr. Clotfelter, too, wanted to examine study habits. He tracked articles downloaded from campus libraries during March Madness, the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament. Library patrons at universities with teams in the tournament viewed 6 percent fewer articles a day as long as their team was in contention. When a team won an upset or close game, article access fell 19 percent the day after the victory. Neither dip was made up later with increased downloads.

"Big-time sports," Dr. Clotfelter said, "have a real effect on the way people in universities behave."

AT Duke, one of the country's top universities, men's basketball sets the rhythms of campus life. Of 600 students who study abroad each year, only 100 do it in the spring. It probably doesn't need to be said, but you don't schedule anything opposite a basketball game. Ever. "If there's a basketball game, you don't hold the meeting, you don't hold the event," said Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs.


How Big-Time Sports Ate College Life

Published: January 20, 2012

IT was a great day to be a Buckeye. Josh Samuels, a junior from Cincinnati, dates his decision to attend Ohio State to Nov. 10, 2007, and the chill he felt when the band took the field during a football game against Illinois. "I looked over at my brother and I said, 'I'm going here. There is nowhere else I'd rather be.' " (Even though Illinois won, 28-21.)

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