Why have College Athletics?

Yes, I know that it is an important part of the college experience, but that just begs the question. Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about pay for play in college athletics and it seems to me that we need to start by understanding why we have them in the first place.

I accept that participation in sports helps teach teamwork and leadership. I concede that it helps promote self respect, that participants learn to take calculated risk and to handle failure as well as success. But how does that provide a justification for intercollegiate athletics? A strong intramural program would be more cost effective and apply to more people.

It seems to me that the purpose of college athletics is to build community. What other event can draw thousands of students together in a common cause? What else can bind alumni to their schools decades after they have left?

And that is why I am a starry-eyed idealist when it comes to college sports, and that is why I object to pay for play. The current state of big time athletics has already strained that community by introducing a separate class within the student body. There are already too many athletes who ignore academics and think they’re better than their fellow students. Introducing paid athletes into the mix would be too great a stress on the community.


If you’re coming from the BallBlog, I’ve added a follow up here.