College Sports As Part of the Academic Experience

June 29, 2012  • Brian Reich

It is virtually impossible to have a discussion about college sports without considering the role that athletics plays in the university experience. There are various ways to approach such a question, but during the College Sports At A Crossroads: Education or Entertainment? panel, the focus was on whether college sports offered value to both students and student-athletes.

 Critics argue that college sports are entertainment – a big money distraction that conflicts with, and in many cases undermines, the core mission of a university to provide an education and prepare students for professional and other pursuits. Joe Nocera, an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, noted, “The more you think about how big time basketball and football operate, you’ll see aspects of it are a sham”

RenfroWallace Renfro, the vice president and chief policy advisor for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, disagreed. He believes there is educational value in the execution of intercollegiate athletics. He explained: “I believe intercollegiate athletics are about education – exactly the same way everything else on campus is. Student athletes learn about teamwork, self-sacrifice and resilience. They learn that defeat is a point of time, not a condition of life. Not only do they learn that, they model those values for spectators.”

 Are college sports just another piece of the university experience, to be considered alongside student government, fraternities and sororities, and even academics? If you assume that colleges and universities subsidize programs they believe benefit their students, the same logic would suggest those institutions support college sports because they see sports as having value in the context of the overall academic experience.