When Spelman College President Beverly Tatum attended 10-year reunions on campus, she saw women lighting candles in honor of other alumnae who had died.
That observation was part of what led her last year to get rid of the school's athletics program and replace it with a campus-wide wellness program. Another factor was a financial one: With only 80 student athletes, Spelman — a traditionally African-American women's college — was spending $900,000 on its sports program.
"I was startled," Tatum told the New York Times. "It seemed like a lot of money for 80 students."
The decision was not immediately popular on campus, and it has generated controversy off campus as well. Spelman had been a Division III school in the NCAA, from which it has now withdrawn. But even among Division I and II schools, athletics are criticized as diversions from the main purpose of colleges and universities — and as thinly veiled pro-sports enterprises that exploit student athletes at the expense of their educations.
LEARN MORE ABOUT COLLEGE ATHLETICS:
• Room for Debate: Dropping the Ball
Six educators and observers of college sports debate the role of competitive athletics on campus. (New York Times)
• Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins?
At public colleges and universities, Division I athletic programs were a $6 billion enterprise in fiscal year (FY) 2010, with costs rapidly spiraling upward in recent years. At the root of these rising athletic costs are the multimillion dollar coaching contracts, a demand for more staff and better facilities, and increased scholarship commitments needed to keep pace with rising tuitions (Kirwan & Turner, 2010). At the same time, colleges and universities have struggled to control cost escalation elsewhere on campus due to declining state support and endowment income as well tuition prices that have continued to rise (Desrochers & Kirshstein, 2012). (Delta Cost Project)
• The Shame of College Sports
A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves. Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes--and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA. (The Atlantic)