In today's Skull Session, Nicholas reported on Jim Delany's idle threat to move the entire Big Ten to Division III. I agree with Nicholas that it is a ridiculous proposition. He makes several points - bulleted, in fact...
Here are a few other problems with the supposed voluntary transition.
- Big-time college athletics improves a school's visibility and applicant test scores too. Without them, a school's academic reputation suffers.
- Schools with 100,000 seat stadiums are now stuck with them and whatever debt from them, with no way to make up the money.
- There would be just a few livid fans and donors if Ohio State administrators decided to deemphasize athletics. Ditto elsewhere.
- Even if the Big Ten Network isn't hamstrung by cable company charging changes, who's going to watch the equivalent of Oberlin vs. Wisconsin Whitewater each week?
- This would preclude any university that wants to stay Division I from joining the conference.
Four of those points make a lot of sense and generally shared by most college athletic fans. It creates a lot of troubling scenarios for large athletic departments like Ohio State's. These departments have debts to settle and leaving Division I would devastate AD budgets everywhere. Fans and donors would certainly be angry. It's just plain messy to imagine.
However, the first point misses a bit. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but improved visibility and academic reputations suggests a university would also take a big financial and academic hit due to lower admissions if they dropped out of D-I. I've heard this and similar arguments before in regards to Division I athletics - particularly football and men's basketball. These sports supposedly do so much for a university's reputation and income. The trouble is that this isn't true.
Before I continue to develop my thesis that will surely get me down-voted off the site or accused of trolling, you should know that I love Ohio State. I grew up in Ohio and lived for football season until it was over and I could cheer on the basketball Buckeyes. Since moving to Missouri for my wife's academic job, I have only grown into more of a die-hard Buckeye fan - even tattooing the great state of Ohio on my forearm. Although I don't comment as often on 11W these days, I still read it religiously. I'm a Buckeye, just like the rest of you.
Still, it is troubling how much major college athletics cost our beloved universities. In an age when education suffers financially at every turn, university athletic departments continue to grow at astronomical rates. Here in Missouri, the university is trying to keep up with the rest of the SEC and is struggling to find the funds. In the meantime, faculty salaries rank near the bottom of AAU universities while Gary Pinkel gets large raises for making second-rate bowl games and Frank Haith does the same for bowing out of the NCAA in the first round to a 15-seed. Missouri may not even be in the AAU in a year as they just aren't producing as much research or researchers as they used to. Still, the town, state, and university are wrapped up in SEC fever, talking expansion of the stadium instead of the academic programs.
Some will point to the millions of dollars that universities like Ohio State take in from TV deals or the fact that admissions are up everywhere. However, we are ignoring the cost to achieve these milestones and how disproportionate it is to the supposed profits.
Take the case of all those universities that lose money when they go to a bowl game. Consider the ever-increasing ticket prices. Why does tuition have to rise just to keep a university rolling in athletic profits from folding?
The fact is that big-time college athletics do very little for universities in regards to their primary function: educating the populace.
I titled this post "I'll just leave this right here." because I wanted to leave a couple of studies we should all read. I'm not telling anyone how to think. I'm not suggesting we should quit being Ohio State fans. And I really don't want to get into an argument. I just think we should all be aware that there are different perspectives on collegiate athletics that don't match our own. The purpose is to have some dialog with people that actually care about collegiate athletics. I hang with a lot of academics who don't care about sports, particularly collegiate sports. I'd rather have this conversation with people who actually care.
- Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins? http://chronicle.com/blogs/players/files/2013/01/deltacost.pdf
- What Does Intercollegiate Athletics Do To or For Colleges and Universities? http://www.accessecon.com/pubs/VUECON/vu10-w05.pdf
- College Sports 101 http://www.knightcommission.org/collegesports101/table-of-contents
The above are just a few reports and articles on the subject, but you can find many more articles within their references.
Again, I am not trying to start and argument. I just think we should be honest with what collegiate athletics means to universities and to our priorities as a country.