Wednesday Morning Hive Asks Why Do We Have College Sports?

Posted by Charles in Morning Hive |

In the Hive

Good morning and welcome to a new mini-series that the Wednesday Morning Hive hopes will help make your humpday a little easier to get over.  Over the past year sports media has been filled with stories about scandals at college programs, NCAA violations, demands that players get paid, arguments that football is too dangerous, reports of ever growing coaches salaries, conference realignment, and calls for football players.  It is hard to hear all of these stories and not come away feeling that the current system of college athletics is horribly broken.  I am not saying that college athletics is bad and since you are reading this I am guessing you feel the same way, rather I am saying the system that we have in place today does not work all that well and that it needs to be overhauled to produce a system that functions better for everyone involved, from the players, to the coaches, to the universities, to the fans.  Over the next several weeks I will lay out my vision for a new system for college athletics that maintains the integrity and purpose of college athletics while producing a level playing field and treating all those involved as fairly as possible.  The idea for this series had been rattling around in my head for a while and recent events, as well as a recent article by Eric at tBBC making the case for college football, finally inspired me to actually sit down and start writing this series.  Don’t worry loyal readers, the Wednesday Morning Hive will continue to keep you up-to-date about current happenings in OSU sports, especially the status of non-revenue sports that are still in action.

Before I can lay out my new system for college athletics, it is important to look at the purpose of college athletics.  This is important as the reasons for universities to have varsity sports drives the system to run those sports.  If we want to be honest about the reason for college sports today, we would have to say that college sports exist today to make money for the universities, for the coaches and administrators, for the media that covers them, for apparel manufacturers, for bowl games, for Vegas, for pretty much everybody but the players and fans (other than the fans who do well betting on the games at Vegas).  It is this explanation for the reason behind college sports that seems to drive the recent calls for players to get paid, after all college sports exist to make money, then the people actually providing the product that is being purchased should make money as well.

It would be easy for even the non-cynical amongst us to say that I have just explained the reason for having college athletics and that I can move on to talking about other things.  However this should not be the reason for us to have college sports, if it is then college sports is nothing more than a lower-level pro league, similar to minor league baseball teams.  College sports existing to make money also poses an economic problem as only 22 college athletic departments are self-sufficient in that they make more money than they spend, the rest all lose money and require money from the university in order to balance their books.  If college sports are simply about making money, making them a business, then most of these businesses are failing and should be shutdown, leaving only 22 programs left, similar in number to a professional league.

Fortunately college sports should not exist to make money, there is a far nobler purpose for them.  I have always felt that college sports exist for two reasons, to provide educational opportunities to people who would not otherwise have such opportunities and to foster a sense of community amongst the members and alumni of the universities involved.  The first of these reasons covers how college sports help those that play them as the players are given a free education.  While it is true that many college athletes and their families could afford a college education, a very large number of them could not and these student-athletes would not have the opportunity to continue their education without sports.  Thus college sports provide a way for a group of students from financially less-well-off backgrounds to attend college, giving them a chance at an education and eventually a better job whether or not they continue playing sports after graduation.  Along the way these student-athletes get an education outside of the classroom as well as they learn about time management, hard work, dedication to a team, leadership, and a host of other lessons that anyone who has ever played sports has learned.  These student-athletes also provide some extra diversity to the universities they attend by providing another means, besides loans and need-base scholarships, for lower income students to attend college.

While college sports provide benefits to the student-athletes, if they do not provide a benefit to the university and its students, then they probably should not exist.  This is even more true for the majority of schools where the university has to support the athletic department financially, i.e. through student tuition dollars.  If students are going to paying to support college sports, there needs to be a benefit to them.  Fortunately college sports do provide these benefits in the form of the sense of community they help to foster amongst the students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  Even the smallest colleges are still rather large communities with a wide range of things going on, making it easy for people to isolate themselves into just dealing with people in their field of study.  College sports serve as a rallying point, providing a point of commonality for everyone associated with the college.  This extends even beyond graduation with sports serving to help bring alumni together.

While there are many other benefits that come from college sports, such as serving as a way for the university to advertize, the most important reasons for the existence of college sports is that it helps students who would not otherwise be able to go to college get an education and serves to foster a sense of community amongst those associated with the university.  With that in mind, in the upcoming weeks I will lay out my vision for how college sports should be run.

Women’s Golf Going For A National Title

The 20th ranked Ohio State women’s golf team began NCAA Championship play yesterday and true to their ranking the Buckeyes are in 20th place after the first of three rounds.  OSU shot a 303 as a team on the par 72 Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tennessee.  The Buckeyes trail first place Alabama by 17 strokes.  Junior Rachel Rohanna shot a team best 72, good for 18th place overall.  OSU begins second round play today at 1pm.


Written by: Charles Kuehn | full bio

Charles is the Endowed Professor of Women's Basketball Coverage and general Buckeye blogger who tries to avoid the roving bands of Wolverines while living in Michigan.


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