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Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

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Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby kurt_w » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:32 am

The mission of a university is to educate students. All else is secondary.

When a university's football team plays well, the academic performance of male students at the university drops. Not just the athletes -- the male campus population as a whole performs worse, academically, during seasons when the school's football team is winning.

Female students may be immune to this effect. But male students' academic careers are better served by a football team that loses every single game than by a team with a winning record. As a professor who spends way too many hours of my time struggling to get my students to learn, I ought to cheer every time the football team loses a game -- because that loss just made half of my students a little more academically productive.

The existence of football is directly antithetical to the primary objective of the university.

OK, I know that a crusade against college football is pretty much the dictionary definition of "futility" but I have to get this off my chest.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby rabble » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:24 am

I'm looking forward to further study on this. It ought to be easy enough to duplicate elsewhere, it's just grades by gender.

But in my own humble opinion a study based on one and only one campus is grounds for further study, not predictions.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby kurt_w » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:34 am

You're entirely right.

I'm definitely not responding objectively to this. Because of my work, I'm predisposed to believing that football programs have a variety of negative impacts on universities, so this one study happens to fit my biases nicely.

I agree that it would be interesting to follow this up, looking at more campuses and more years.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby fisticuffs » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:49 am

I'm predisposed to believing that football programs have a variety of negative impacts on universities, so this one study happens to fit my biases nicely.

They do have one undeniably huge positive impact on the university: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby kurt_w » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:19 am

Well, we could probably make even more money by blowing up the football complex and building a casino. Or a meth lab.

There seems to be a lot of variation from school to school in terms of how much net revenue the football program contributes. I do know that at many schools, the football program makes a profit and thus subsidizes other (money-losing) athletic programs.

Overall, athletics are generally a loss for universities. This table shows that only 22 out of 218 universities make a profit off of their athletic programs. The rest are basically subsidizing their athletic programs with other revenues.

One caveat is that the figures in that table probably don't include the effects of athletics on alumni donations. So the picture might not be as bleak as that sounds.

Obviously there are arguments to be made that athletics promote healthy students with well-rounded lives, yada yada yada. I find those arguments much more convincing for intramural than intercollegiate athletics, but YMMV.

What's interesting to me about this new study is that it seems to confirm my impression that football, in particular, has some measurable negative effects on the entire campus that directly impact the primary mission of the university: student learning. If this study from Oregon is replicable elsewhere, it raises pretty serious questions for those (ever fewer) of us at the university who are still under the (probably mistaken) impression that the point of this whole enterprise is to help students learn.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby fennel » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:24 am

Yep, UW should divest, and perhaps license the name to some off-campus corporate entity. The stadium could be put to much better use, or at least, the land it sits on.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby Igor » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:16 pm

Certainly collegiate athletics appears somewhat "welded on" to higher education, and may not appear to serve a core purpose. The same is true of student government, fraternities / sororities, and the chess club for that matter. Even the performing aspect of the arts program (a part of education for centuries) seem a bit superfluous to the *study* of the arts. After all, you don't have to put on a bad version of "Hamlet" to study it.

While the assertion may be accurate, it was not compared with other possible remedies. I am betting that many of the following could increase student academic performance far more significantly then eliminating the football team:

- No alcohol on campus.
- Require all undergraduates to live in dorms.
- Curfews
- Single sex dorms
- More difficult grading criteria
- Locate the campus in a smaller town
- Require students to complete their first year studies at another UW system school or MATC

I doubt that any of those are going to happen.

I wonder what the academic performance is of male students in Europe or Latin America after their national soccer team loses a match? This seems like a more general "stupid boys - all they think about is sports" kind of study. Perhaps if opera or the legitimate theater had more hitting, there would be more interest on the part of collegiate men. I have seen a few basses (and altos for that matter) that I am guessing would be excellent linebackers against the run.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby gargantua » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:27 pm

To build on the rant a little bit, I don't necessarily think that football itself is the problem. I think the problem is that it has turned into such a big business over the years.

Money has pretty much fucked up collegiate sports, much as it has fucked up other things, like politics and Christmas.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby ilikebeans » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:29 pm

gargantua wrote:Money has pretty much fucked up collegiate sports, much as it has fucked up other things, like politics and Christmas.

Check out the latest list of coaches' salaries. Brett Bielema is getting $2.5 million in just school pay this year, and he's about half of the top-paid coach (Texas). In 2009 at UW-Madison, the three top-paid staff members were all part of, yes, the athletic department (two of the three specifically in the football program; the third being director Barry Alvarez).

Of course it's obscene, but welcome to the free market. The schools will claim these salaries are necessary to recruit the best coaches (sound familiar?), and the fans are more than willing to pony up ticket prices, TV-viewing stats, and officially-licensed plush badgers to pay for it all.

Think about it this way-- there is no other event that floods the downtown area with 80,000 people a handful of times each autumn. The public isn't attending plays, concerts, recitals, dances, art openings, or really anything else (outside of maybe Rhythm and Booms) in these numbers.
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Re: Football and the university: a rant by Kurt

Postby green union terrace chair » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:50 pm

kurt_w wrote:One caveat is that the figures in that table probably don't include the effects of athletics on alumni donations. So the picture might not be as bleak as that sounds.

This is not some obscure little footnote. Alumni do give money to the school's academic programs because of athletics.

Igor wrote:While the assertion may be accurate, it was not compared with other possible remedies. I am betting that many of the following could increase student academic performance far more significantly then eliminating the football team:

- No alcohol on campus.
- Require all undergraduates to live in dorms.
- Curfews
- Single sex dorms
- More difficult grading criteria
- Locate the campus in a smaller town
- Require students to complete their first year studies at another UW system school or MATC

I doubt that any of those are going to happen.

Eliminate coeducation.

ilikebeans wrote:Brett Bielema is getting $2.5 million in just school pay this year, and he's about half of the top-paid coach.

Most of Bielema's salary is paid from alumni donations.
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