Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog #15: Abstract and Bibliography

This research paper primarily explores the question: How does the presence of big-time athletic programs compromise the intellectual integrity that is the basis of higher education?There is a current controversy surrounding the benefits that Div IA athletic departments bring to the university. In recent history there is evidence that suggests that the integrity of academics in higher education is dwindling on account of the presence of big time athletic programs. College is a place where students share a common goal of academic achievement, but the transition to the business of Division IA athletics shifts the focus of funding from education to athletics in order to ensure the success and prosperity of sports. As institutional funding is redirected to support the the athletics department, academics suffer; they become second class citizens to the sport culture.  There is also the idea that big-time intercollegiate athletics contributes to the party-like atmosphere that exists on campus, further diminishing the focus on academics. With the threat of privatization breathing down the neck of institutions across the nation, there has been an increase in focus on money, which in turn, corresponds to the increase in a focus on sports as an alternate source of revenue; universities have lost sight of the mission of higher education. Although big-time athletics appears to be toxic to the intellectual community of higher education, its presence is a vital aspect of campus culture, and contributes greatly to the social environment. A balance must be met in order to ensure the academic mission of the university is not lost, and athletics is able to flourish without infringing upon education. It is possible that academics and athletics can coexist in the American institution of higher education. 
Works Cited 

Benford, Robert D. "THE COLLEGE SPORTS REFORM MOVEMENT: Reframing the “Edutainment” Industry." Sociological Quarterly 48.1 (2007): 1-28. Print.

Brand, Myles. "The Role and Value of Intercollegiate Athletics in Universities." Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 33.1 (2006): 9-20. Print.

Carey, Jack. "Knight Commission: Athletics Vs. Academic Spending Too Unbalanced." USA TodayPrint.

Dowling, William C. Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007. Print.

Goidel, Robert, and John Maxwell Hamilton. "Strengthening Higher Education through Gridiron Success? Public Perceptions of the Impact of National Football Championships on Academic Quality." Conference Papers -- American Association for Public Opinion Research (2005): 1. Print.

Guarino, Mark. "Penn State Riot: If University can't Fire Joe Paterno, is Something Wrong?" Christian Science Monitor (2011): N.PAG. Print.

Kingsbury, Alex. "The Sports Fallacy." U.S.News & World Report 137.9 (2004): 70-. Print.

Pine, Nathan. "The Role of Athletics in the Academy: An Alternative Approach to Financial Investment." Journal of Sport & Social Issues 34.4 (2010): 475-80. Print.

Sigelman, Lee. "It's Academic-Or is it? Admissions Standards and Big-Time College Football." Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press) 76.2 (1995): 247-61. Print.

Sperber, Murray. Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education. 1st ed. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2000. Print.

Winston, Gordon C., and David J. Zimmerman. "Peer Effect in Higher Education." National Bureau of Economic Research (2003)Print.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I interviewed James Kim, a former football player and student at Rutgers. He supplied me with a lot of information on the perks that the athletic department receives at the expense of the university. He also supplies an athletes perspective on the matter of whether athletics negatively impacted his academic success as well as his view of where athletics stands in the academic institution. Before I started this research project James actually brought me to the Rutgers football stadium, and I was able to see first and the pleasures that the football team endures. The stadium has a state of the art gym where athletes from all school sports programs are able to train. The football locker room is full of several big-screen TV's that are mounted in ever corner, and each player receives their own locker which is made out of some expensive wood. The locker room resembles that of a basketball locker room, where each player has their own cubby to put their equipment; it just seems like there was an awful amount of money spent on something so simple. These lockers seemed nicer than a professional football locker room. There were also rooms with expensive TV's and couches where the player were able to lay back, relax and fool around. My question is, why spend money on things like this when the players have dorms that serve the same purpose. Recently, Rutgers spent a lot of money on renovating the stadium, which now seat a substantially larger crowd, and it now has a huge display screen. Was all of this necessary to ensure the success of the program which is still not even as close to as prestigious as such programs as Notre Dame and USC? Where did all the money come from to fund these things that were essentially unnecessary? James told me that he believes that athletics is extremely valuable to the campus culture of Rutgers, and it is hard to imagine the school without the program. He also stated that there should be a balance between academics and athletics, but how can that balanced be achieved with the athletics department has an open checkbook, and the university is attracting incoming students who are essentially there to be fans? Both James and I were in agreement that the salaries of the coaching staff, as well as other expenses are completely unnecessary and infringe on academic funding. James did state that the University is full of fans and in turn that may hinder the academic success of the institution, but as a student athlete he was unable to see any reflection of that. For James, the party's never ended, but he seems to think that the presence of Div IA athletics had anything to do with that. All in all he stated that he went to college to get a degree, not be an athlete. Coming from an athlete those are pretty strong, rare words; most athletes seem not to have any sense of education.

Book Review #5

Sperber, Murray. Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education. 1st ed. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2000. Print.

In Sperber's book he discusses the negative effect that big-time college athletics has on undergraduate education. He states that undergraduate education is in deep trouble; universities with big-time sports programs are usually research schools where the professors are paid and praised for being good researchers rather than teaching the students. Students are taught by graduate students who do not get paid, and often don' t teach as effectively as a professor. This fuels the party atmosphere that exists on campus' around the nation; if the professor isn't even focused and committed to the class then why should the students? Universities, in turn, set athletics as the center of attention, thinking that simply if the students have their parties and sports they'll be happy. This mentality takes attention off of the academic shortcomings of the institution and gives the students a way to have fun. An institutions inability to supply the students with quality education is masked by the atmosphere of beer and sports. To conclude, Sperber offers a few possible solutions to the problem; cut big-time sports programs to the level of such academically prestigious institutions as Harvard or Yale, make cuts in graduate education so the focus can be on undergrads, and cut back on research programs so that professors are able to actually teach their students rather than a grad student. 

Murray Sperber is very knowledgeable on the subject of college sports and high education. He is a professor of English at the University of Indiana, and has published several books on the impact of big-time athletics on the academic community of higher education. Sperber was a chair member of the Drake Group, which was a national faculty committee that advocated the reform of college sports. A very academically centered man, Sperber has seen first hand as a professor, the impact that college sports as on a university as well as its undergraduate students. 

Collegiate Culture- consists of students known as collegiate's whose lives consist of sports, partying, and having fun; occasionally studying, but jut enough to get by and graduate. 

Academic Culture- students that have a serious academic mentality, they world hard and get the best grades. These students understand the value of education. 

"School's try to ascend the academic polls by accumulating faculty who possess or will achieve research fame". (75) -Research universities have professors that focus on their research rather than teaching the students. The students are at a loss academically, so the university tries to make up for this deficit by pumping money into the athletic department to attract future students, and keep current students and faculty happy with the athletic atmosphere of fun and partying. 

".....he spent millions of dollars on intercollegiate athletics and proportionally little undergraduate education. As a result the Wildcat football team managed to achieve national fame in the 1990s, and his general undergraduate education programs continued to limp along".(235)- Schools with big-time athletic programs spend increasing amounts of money to fund them, and they are ultimately taking money away from education. To these institutions having a successful athletics program is much more important than having a successful education program, so what is the purpose of paying tuition to just be sports fan?

"The only consistent finical losers are the schools that belong to the NCAA and furnish the stadiums, arenas, and facilities for its operations....the vast majority of colleges and universities do not make money in big-time intercollegiate athletics". (229)- Contrary to popular belief, athletic programs do not make nearly as much money as they consume. So, in the end its the institution in it entirety thats suffering at the expense of the athletics department. The money thats lost has to come from somewhere, and thats money that is being taken away from education. 

The material presented in Sperber's book directly supports the focus of my research in every way. He touches on the aspect that college athletics contributes to the "animal house" party culture that is now surrounding higher education. This party atmosphere and the fan mentality is toxic to the learning environment in college institutions, and ultimately there is a decline in the academic culture that was once the basis of college. Sperber brings about the idea that if nothing is done the athletic department will soon run the university, and undergraduate education will be destroyed. We must salvage and rebuild on whatever smidgen of academic community still exists. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review #4

Sigelman, Lee. "It's Academic-Or is it? Admissions Standards and Big-Time College Football." Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press) 76.2 (1995): 247-61. Print.

The data explored by Lee Sigelman in this article is that of the relationship between football recruit admissions in institutions of higher education and a schools deviation from standardized test acceptance standards. Sigelman focuses on data from USA Today which depicts the relationship between the average acceptance standards for normal students to that of student athletes at universities with big-time football programs. According to the data in which Sigelman bases his research, the gap between normal students and student athletes SAT scores is pretty substantial. It is true that the more selective a university is the more academically qualified their athletes are, but there is still a hefty gap between mean test scores. Less academically qualified athletes find themselves struggling to match the performance of fellow students; athletes that spend 30+ hours a week preparing and participating in a sport spend 12 hours a week preparing for class and doing school work. Sigelman concludes that a school academic quality and its ability to surround football recruits with students who will be intellectually superior, creates a recruiting advantage. These schools attract more talented athletes because of their high academic quality, which may give the university an edge on the field and court, but not in the classroom. 

Lee Sigelman was a Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He was awarded the Frank J Goodnow distinguished service award and the Walter Beach Pi Sigma Alpha award. What makes Sigelman a credible source on this topic is his knowledge and respect for academics. His research was focused on Political Science involving public opinion, mass communication, and electoral behavior. Sigelman offers an unbiased view of the relationship between academics and athletics, because he research is based solely on facts; his pieces lack opinion, and seek to prove his point based on factual evidence. 

SAT Admissions Standards- Sigelman uses the mean SAT scores of universities with big-time athletic programs as the basis of his article. The average SAT scores of normal students is representative of a universities acceptance standards. 

Schools academic quality vs. gap of entrance scores- there is a wide gap between the acceptance scores of normal students and that of athletes, and the more selective a school is academically (higher quality), the wider the gap is. Sigelman focuses on this gap to depict that higher quality institutions have an advantage in athletic recruiting.

"There appears to be no connection between football players' scores and a team's success in football, but there is a negative correlation between a school's success on the football field and the proximity of football players' mean SAT scores to all students' SAT scores". - It is clear that football players with higher SAT scores are not the best athletes; the more academically inclined athletes a football team has , the less likely they are to be successful on the field. Schools pick athletes with lower scores, but better athletic skills in order to ensure success on the field.

"New scholarship football players have substantially lower entrance scores than all new students at the same school. There is not a single Divison I-A school where the average entrance exam score of football recruits exceeds that of all new students". - The fact is that acceptations are mad for student athletes; schools that hold athletics in high regards, such as Div I-A schools lower their admission standards for good athletes. 

"...a school's academic quality, and more specifically its ability to surround its football recruits with students who will be their intellectual superiors rather than their peers, constitutes a recruiting advantage". - Student athletes that attend universities are not regarded the same as normal students; normal students are perceived as being superior to athletes because athletes lack the academic integrity of the rest of the student body. Schools that are better ranked academically are more successful in recruiting top athletes.

The material that Lee Sigelman bases his research will prove to be extremely helpful in my research. I've been looking for a piece the touches on the average admission SAT scores of student athletes compared to that of normal students. There is a table in the article that I'd like to incorporate into my paper which compares the mean SAT scores of normal students to that of football recruits. The findings of this article show that institutions are willing to lower the bar on academic integrity in order to give them on edge in sports, but the question still remains if whether accepting these essentially non-qualified athletes negatively impacts the intellectual community of higher education? 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Case

The basis of my research paper will be around the concept that the presence of big-time athletic programs  have compromised, and continue to negatively impact the intellectual integrity that is that basis of the higher education. College athletics programs impose on university funding that is supposed to directly benefit academics. There is a ball of corruption that surrounds athletics, and it shifts attention away from education through a focus on having successful sport programs. Athletic programs should be self-sustaining and should not depend on, nor take away from the primary goal of college; education. Although athletics positively contribute to the social and cultural atmosphere of college, intellect should not be simply tossed aside at the expense of athletics. As put in William Dowling's, Confessions of a Spoilsport, "College is not part of football, but rather football is a part of college". People have lost sight of the true value of academics in the modern university.

Research related to my case:

Book Review #3

Pine, Nathan. "The Role of Athletics in the Academy: An Alternative Approach to Financial Investment." Journal of Sport & Social Issues 34.4 (2010): 475-80. Print.

In this piece, Nathan Pine, an assistant athletic director, probes the question of whether institutions of higher education should financially support their athletic programs. The answer to this question, as perceived by Pine, is that athletic programs should be capable of being self-sustaining. A very strong and reasonable proposition if you ask me. Pine suggests that institutions use what is known as tuition waivers for student athletes, and this waiver would serve as the only institutional support given to athletics financially. He uses the example of the Pacific Ten Conference at the University of Arizona, where tuition of waivers for student athletes is currently being used. Trough the use of theses waivers athletics is able to existence and positively contribute to university culture without interfering with the academic achievement of the university. All in all this proposition offers a fair, peaceful solution, and academics and athletics will be able to co-exist.

Nathan Pine is a man of athletics; he has experience in intercollegiate athletic programs, so he basically provides an inside view of how athletics sees itself in the university. Pine is currently the assistant athletics director at the University of California, Berkeley, and currently holds a masters in education. He has served with other athletic programs at Oregon State University and the United States Military Academy. 

Tuition Waiver- tuition and fees will be reduced to little or nothing for student athletes. 

PAC-10 Conference at the University of Arizona- the model described as being successful in adopting tuition waivers for student athletes. 

"A solution exists that can address the athletic program’s number one challenge of tuition and fees and at the same time make an investment in education: the univer- sity’s investment in athletics needs to be made in the form of tuition waivers for the student athletes who represent the institution. This solution will also dictate that an athletic department does not have an open checkbook to spend the institution’s dollars frivolously on areas outside of the educational mission."
- This is a big quote, but I think it says a lot; instead of asking for more funding for athletics, this solution offers something that will decrease athletic funding from the institution and essentially put a leash on athletic spending. 

"The investment by the university in education is a positive step toward ensuring that student-athlete academic performance will be tracked by the university administration and as a result academic achievement will increase."
-This is exactly what needs to happen if athletics and academics are to co-exist in higher education. Academic success will be able to flourish and sports will take a valuable, but backseat position to academics. 

"Intercollegiate athletics improve the campus community through increasing diversity, in providing a unifying cause and through a spectacle that entertains campus constituents."
-In this quote Pine speaks of the positives of the presence of athletics in the university, these things are true and shouldn't be ignored. This tells me that athletics should exist, but not at its current level. 

The material outlines in Nathan Pines' article offer a somewhat open headed perspective of what should be done with intercollegiate athletic programs. Instead of being one sided in his position, Pine's solution will benefit athletics, academics, and campus life. This specific article will benefit my research in that it offers something that all others do not; people either want to abolish college athletics, or they want them to stay at the current level they are now. The fact is that athletics can not remain the way it is now, its toxic to the academic achievement level of the university. So, in this case everyone will be happy; sports still exist, and academic success will be on the rise. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


This visual represents my argument pretty well. Even though the focus of this chart is primarily on student athletes instead of the institution as a whole, it still conveys the issue of a loss of intellectualness in modern higher education. As the chart depicts, there is a significant difference between the GPA of non-athletes to athletes. The difference isn't as bad as one might think, but yet again these are averages that represent a large student body. I find it interesting that females, both athletes and non-athletes, have a much higher average GPA than males do. It makes me think, is gender a factor that contributes to the loss of the academic focus of higher education due to the presence of athletic programs?