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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/23/15

The real problem with college sports - Part 3 of 3 parts

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The real problem with college sports-- Part 3 of a series of 3 parts

In his excellent Aug.17, 2015 article in The Nation, "The absurd, cowardly and morally bankrupt NLRB decision against the Northwestern football union", Dave Zirin points out many of the reasons the NLRB decision is irrational, partial and unjust. This article focuses on the negative implications of the decision to the integrity and quality of higher education in the US.

Warrior Games athletes honored at Navy-Air Force football game 141004-D-DB155-022
Warrior Games athletes honored at Navy-Air Force football game 141004-D-DB155-022
(Image by (From Wikimedia) EJ Hersom, Author: EJ Hersom)
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The present non-union, commercialized college sports system teaches students that spectator sports, money, power and glory trump education. The creative writing courses supervised by college presidents teach students that to "tell" (to attempt persuasion by telling) is to "blow smoke into the wind." In order to teach or persuade, writers must write of behaviors that model positive values and negative values and their different consequences. This is known as "showing."

The same principle applies when university presidents, boards of regents and chancellors of education attempt to teach values to their students. If they would like students to place a high value on education, for example, they should show by their actions that they place a high value on it themselves.

Allowing commercialized sports to dominate universities is not placing a high value on education. Paying coaches 60-70 times the average salary of full professors is not placing a high value on education. In order to model behavior that is respectful of education, presidents and boards of regents should hold coaching staffs to the same standards of behavior applied to the academic faculty. If faculty members are, as we hope they are, required to fly economy class on business trips, coaches should also be required to fly "in the back of the plane." More importantly, coaches should be paid salaries no higher than those paid instructors, assistant professors, associate professors and full professors in the academic departments.

Universities, we assume, would like their students to value the teaching of courses in philosophy and the classics. However, when they pay their football and basketball coaches millions of dollars a year [1] and the average salary of a full professor hovers around one hundred and thirty thousand,[2] they "show" both students and faculty what and who they value. The efforts of coaches to recruit strong, coordinated and quick athletes are "shown" beyond question, to be considered by university presidents and boards of regents as far more "worthy" than the efforts of professors to stimulate the minds and inspire the aspirations of students. University presidents would be well advised to listen to their professors of creative writing. They should "show" students that they value learning more than commercialized college sports.

The following quote illustrates a specious argument sometimes used to justify commercialized college sports

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Neal Herrick is author of the award-wining After Patrick Henry (2009). His most recent book is (2014) Reversing America’s Decline. He is a former sailor, soldier, auto worker, railroad worker, assistant college football coach, (more...)

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