Introduction to Sports Law: a broad overview of antitrust law, labor law and contract law, via memorable sports legal battles such as Tarkanian v. NCAA, and Flood v. Kuhn. Textbook: “Sports Law: Cases and Materials” by Michael J. Cozzillio and Mark Levenstein.
The Origins of Sport: A survey of the history of ritual athletics from the Bronze Age to the modern Olympics. Textbooks: “Combat Sports In the Ancient World,” by Michael Poliakoff and “Reading Football” by Michael Oriard.
Making Up the Rules: an ethical-studies examination of moral and philosophical issues from amateurism to performance enhancement. Textbook: “Ethics in Sport,” edited by William Morgan.
Sports and Public Policy: how our sports-entertainment industries intersect with economics, urban planning, public health, and political science. Textbook: “Sport and Public Policy: Social, Political, and Economic Perspectives,” by Charles Santo and Gerard Mildner.
Think about it. Why is an Alabama football player or Tennessee women’s basketball player less worthy than a Yale drama student? According to Yale’s Theater Studies course guide, drama students learn a “complex cultural practice,” and “combine practical training with theory and history, while stressing creative critical thinking.” Now substitute the word sport for theater. Isn’t sport a complex cultural practice with a body of knowledge, history, and theory? Just to be sure I haven’t jumped the shark, I e-mailed the director of the Yale Theater Studies program, Toni Dorfman, to ask whether this is nonsense. “What a wonderful idea,” she replied. “The theory and practice of sport are certainly as ancient as those of theater.”
With a fundamental shift in the way we think about college sports, by designating them intellectually worthwhile exercises instead of mere obsessions, we might gain some clarity. For one thing, the worth of an athletic scholarship would suddenly be clearer. We could stop worrying about “exploiting” athletes and whether to pay them. Yale drama undergraduates don’t get a cut of the box office — their recompense is first-rate training for the stage. They aren’t exploited. They’re privileged.
Too many college presidents harbor the secret conviction that athletics are trivial, if not evil, entertainments that exist merely to please donors. Back in 2004, former NCAA president Myles Brand was scandalized to learn that some schools gave athletes limited academic credits for varsity participation. “We can’t have that,” he said.