Sunday, March 31, 2019

Risking prosperity in college athletics



The quote "The more prosperous a sport becomes, the more likely it is to destroy the reasons for its prosperity" is displayed prominently in my office.  And while you may not be familiar with it, you're likely aware of the worn-out metaphor about athletics being the "front porch" of the university.

Other societal institutions could use the same "front porch" metaphor.  Ornate churches are an attractive invitation to God and salvation.  Washington DC and governments around the world have incredible architecture and monuments that memorialize promises of freedom, benefits, protection and security.

Yet church attendance and donations are waning, and faith in government is at historic lows.  Beautiful entryways and attractive architecture can only do so much.

College athletics is facing the same challenge.  Each day's news cycle brings another troubling headline in higher education and college athletics.  Think back fewer than three years ago.  Could you have envisioned the following?
  • the FBI investigation into men's basketball recruiting, 
  • a multi-million dollar bribery scheme facilitating admission to elite colleges across the country using coaches and athletics administrators as a point of access,
  • ongoing legal actions seeking economic justice for student-athletes, and 
  • significant concerns regarding student-athlete safety and well-being.  
Systemic pressure to win, life-changing wealth, status, social media and institutional brand consciousness are powerful dynamics contributing to the current state of affairs.  Yet each negative story erodes the prosperity of college athletics.  It's time to use our prosperity to fix the front porch and rebuild the core of college athletics - holistically educating and developing student-athletes without exploitation.