Big-Time Sports in American Universities

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Cambridge University Press, Mar 7, 2011 - Business & Economics
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For almost a century, big-time college sport has been a wildly popular but consistently problematic part of American higher education. The challenges it poses to traditional academic values have been recognized from the start, but they have grown more ominous in recent decades, as cable television has become ubiquitous, commercial opportunities have proliferated and athletic budgets have ballooned. Drawing on new research findings, this book takes a fresh look at the role of commercial sports in American universities. It shows that, rather than being the inconsequential student activity that universities often imply that it is, big-time sport has become a core function of the universities that engage in it. For this reason, the book takes this function seriously and presents evidence necessary for a constructive perspective about its value. Although big-time sport surely creates worrying conflicts in values, it also brings with it some surprising positive consequences.

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**** A long time follower of Clotfelter and a positive fan of his 2004 After Brown on tax payer retreat from public school tax bases after desegregation in the United States, I had put off reading Big Time Sports in American Universities for some time because as a feminist thinker, I had strongly advised him to include a chapter on the gender and violence factors in combative sports and referred him to a much earlier study at Yale that studied many cultures world-wide, correlating a relationship between war and the combative sports. As an economist, and not a sociologist, anthrolopologist, or pscyhiatrist as is my husband and research partner, he thoughtfully declined! Nevertheless, with American women now fleeing to the combative sports themselves, where they will hopefully learn something about team play and sportsmanship instead of (the more likely) male preponderance for aggression, game-playing, and "winning" at all costs, I couldn't read it!
However, a subsequent move to Toronto, Canada, ensued and an early Spring walk around University of Toronto's campus this year caused me to reconsider. The Toronto football stadium was positively miniscule! It only has bleachers on one side, like my old high school stadium in Corinth, Mississippi, and is about the same size! After this I started eavesdropping in the elevators of my condo just across the campus to university students from China, Korea,and the Phillipines primarily. I never once heard a team sport mentioned! I worked out with these same students daily in our building's gym and quite a few looked to me as if they might aspire to compete in the Olympics, but in terms of sports, a hot game of squash was the sport of choice.
So I started reading Clotfelter's book from another angle, as a careful analysis of the U.S. culture I had chosen to leave along with its obsession with market capital, its newly religious faith in the bottom line, and the true smallness of its "big time" in terms of the richness of world history and civilization's bounty.


The Bigness of Big Time
Consumer Good Mass Obsession
Commercial Enterprise
Institution Builder
Beacon for Campus Culture
Ends and Means
Prospects for Reform
Bigtime college football then and now
Fans by gender and age
Changes in academic ranking 19952010
Estimated media event and partisan fan effects on number


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About the author (2011)

Charles Clotfelter is Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics and Law at Duke University and a research associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research has covered the economics of education, public finance and state lotteries; tax policy and charitable behavior; and policies related to the nonprofit sector. His previous books on higher education are Buying the Best: Cost Escalation in Elite Higher Education (1996) and (with Ronald Ehrenberg, Malcolm Getz and John Siegfried) Economic Challenges in Higher Education (1991). His most recent book is After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation (2004) and he is the editor of the volumes American Universities in a Global Market (2010) and (with Michael Rothschild) Studies of Supply and Demand in Higher Education (1993). He is also the author of Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving (1985) and (with Philip Cook) Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America (1989). Professor Clotfelter has taught at the University of Maryland and spent one year at the US Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis. At Duke he has been a faculty member in the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs, now the Sanford School of Public Policy; the economics department; and the law school. He has served as Vice Provost for Academic Policy and Planning, Vice Chancellor and Vice Provost for Academic Programs.