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Should College Sports Get the Ax ? / Wall Street Journal 1 week 6 days ago #394683

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Should College Sports Get the Ax?

As budgets tighten, students debate cutting athletics programs.


Editor’s note: In this Future View, students weigh the merits of college sports in light of several universities’ decisions to cut athletics programs. Next week we’ll ask, “What do you think of your school’s reopening plan?” .

What You Learn—and Don’t Learn—on the Track

There’s a reason so many student athletes call their college careers the most formative period of their lives. Through four years of Division I cross country and track, my teammates and I ran thousands of miles, training day in and day out to compete. A grind like this imparts solidarity, perseverance and personal responsibility, values that serve student athletes long after they graduate. Contrast these with theories peddled in the classroom that teach students they’re powerless victims entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor. Luckily there’s no room for intersectionality in a race, only hard work.

Intercollegiate athletics do much to instill Adm. William McRaven’s celebrated 10 life lessons, including measuring a person by the size of his heart and being your very best in your darkest moment. Student athletes are no Navy SEALs, but is it a coincidence that Mr. McRaven was once a student athlete?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s perennial scandals show it has a lot to atone for. But let’s not give up the game. Rather than cutting sports, schools should hold venal coaches and administrators accountable, compensate football and basketball players who get none of the revenue they generate, and end preferential admissions for athletes. These changes will improve a corrupt system while giving the next generation of student athletes a chance to build character and pursue their dreams. Institutions that continue supporting these men and women won’t be sorry they did.

—Daniel J. Samet, University of Texas at Austin, history (Ph.D.)

Cut Semipro Sports to Cut Tuition

Division I and II athletic programs leech resources from academics and distract real students. Division I athletes, along with many in Division II, are semiprofessional: Paid through scholarships, they train many hours a day and flit across the country for competition. Their athletic commitments make a serious academic regimen difficult and sometimes impossible to maintain. Consequently, they have to be babied in classes. Their experience, so different from that of other students, also encourages them to eat and socialize separately, never mind disappearing on weekends.

Recreational and Division III sports, however, are reasonable additions to campus life. They are a fun way to stay physically fit and they bring people from different social groups together for a shared passion. Club sports are one of the best ways to meet other students. They require nowhere near the funding and resources of Division I programs and tend to be more integrated into the social life of the campus.

Universities shouldn’t be country clubs for elite athletes. There’s no need for a fleet of sailboats, professional maintenance of a golf course, or overpaid coaches and administrators. Junk all that and cut tuition.

—Colin Campbell, Trinity University, mathematics

The Duty to Preserve

More than helping athletes cultivate character, colleges have a broader, moral reason to keep athletics around. While universities are places for research and discovery of knowledge, they are also dedicated to its preservation and transmission. Much of this knowledge is academic, but some is cultural—the arts, for instance. Sports also count among the cultural knowledge and experience that colleges and universities are charged with protecting.

In addition to narrowing the educational opportunities afforded to individual students, cutting an arts program or a varsity sport threatens the health of those disciplines for the rest of society. If we lose collegiate rowing, the sport as a whole will be damaged. As guarantors of a living cultural trust, higher education has a duty to support athletics and continue its rich legacy at the collegiate level.

—Max Willner-Giwerc, Northeastern University, politics, philosophy and economics

Prospering as a Team

At first glance, college sports don’t seem so pragmatic. Very few athletic programs in the U.S. are profitable, and even for the few that are, sports such as football and men’s basketball typically subsidize the rest. But there are other benefits of college sports that are indirect, but no less valuable.

One is name recognition. Take Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. As its men’s basketball team has become a top performer over the past 25 years, the university has received a great deal of attention. Gonzaga’s enrollment has nearly doubled, allowing its endowment and annual budgets to grow substantially, not to mention the improvements to the campus.

Successful sports programs around the country similarly help universities attract attention, applications, donations. Larger endowments then finance scholarships for low-income students, investment in academic research and school growth. Students—not only student athletes—prosper from the success of college sports programs.

—Jeremiah Nguyen, University of Washington, economics

School Spirit

The pandemic has strained university budgets across the U.S., from large public schools to small private colleges. Consequently, money-draining varsity sports programs have become conspicuous. Even some universities on stronger fiscal footing, such as Stanford and Dartmouth, have decided to cut a few sports. This is the right approach: Colleges should evaluate their athletic programs on a sport-by-sport basis, weighing the cost of each program against the revenue generated from ticket sales, broadcasting, donations and higher enrollment. Then schools can maintain the self-sustaining sports and others deemed essential to the culture or strategic vision of the university, while balancing Title IX regulations on gender parity. The option should remain for students to participate in club or intramural sports if theirs isn’t offered at the NCAA level.

Ending many varsity programs may seem draconian or, at the least, detrimental to school spirit. But with public universities facing state budget cuts and scores of private universities on the brink of collapse, the best way to show school spirit is to do what’s necessary to keep the school running.

—Erica Jones-Mollod, Northeastern University, economics and finance

We Love College Sports

You wake up on Saturday morning and the whole town is decked in red. Electricity is in the air. People flock from all around the state and beyond, descending upon the stadium and the surrounding parking lots. That’s what a typical Saturday looks like in Madison, Wis., come the fall, and undoubtedly in hundreds of other college towns across the country, give or take the red.

For many folks, myself included, game days have been the highlight of the college experience, producing some of the fondest memories we’ll ever have. Taking that away from students now and in the future would be doing them a disservice. There’s something special about college athletics and pulling for your school. The sense of pride exceeds what you can feel watching professional sports.

The NCAA is far from perfect. Yet the opportunities that college sports provide for student-athletes are undeniable. They gain access to education—sometimes world-class—and to careers that require it. For many, this is also their last chance to compete in the sports they love.

—J.P. Remijas, University of Wisconsin-Madison, history and political science
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Should College Sports Get the Ax ? / Wall Street Journal 1 week 6 days ago #394693

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The WSJ has really grown as a voice of reason and balance for political and social issues.
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