OF ALL THE FORMS of cheating on college campuses today, one of the most outrageous is the way many students themselves are being cheated out of enjoying sports.
Campus sports, in case some have forgotten, were begun for students - to build body as well as mind, to provide delight and release from studies, to teach sportsmanship and the pure satisfaction of participation. But all that has been corrupted at many campuses now, and the villain is none other than sports itself - or at least the obsession with intercollegiate competition and the supposed equation between winning teams and money.
The intercollegiate jockocracy has been depriving many students of sports facilities and then charging them twice for the privilege of not participating . This is in addition to the grostesque abuses of both sports and academics resulting from college sports as show business - the segregating and coddling and special tutoring of players who cannot compete in class, the bloated coaching staffs, the heavy sums and questionable practices surrounding the recruiting of high school players, to name a few.
To take an example close to home, consider the values placed on sports as spectacle and sports as participation at the University of Maryland. Students are charged a $30 annual athletic fee, which provides about three-quarters of a million dollars, or about 35 per cent of the intercollegiate program's funds. In three years, when increased fees are phased in, this portion will rise to 35 per cent of the program's money.
The students also are charged a separate $44 yearly recreational facilities fee that is used for many purposes. From this, about $74,000 makes its way back to the men's intramural sports office. In other words, the entire men's intramural program, serving almost 13,000 participants last year, costs about as much as the education of four to six football players on scholarships.
The athletic fee entitles students to attend home games - if enough seats are available in the student section. On the other hand, the limited availability of intramural facilities clearly discourages extensive use of them by the student body. The result for many students is that they are, in effect, paying twice for the privilege of not participating in sports.
One of the myth behind such spending for intercollegiate sports is that successful football and basketball teams make it possible for non-revenue-producing sports to continue intercollege competition. But only about 3 per cent of the leading intercollegiate programs - 30 out of 1,000 - report that they operate in the black.
Why should students subsidize intercollegiate athletics that take money away from their own sports, charge some twice to by bystanders, and still don't turn a profit for the university? If sports as show business is so important, why can't it pay its own way?
It is true, of course, that many schools get some indirect financial benefits from intercollegiate athletics, particularly from those among their alumni who cherish faded memories of campus sports. Yale disclosed in 1975, for example, that one wealthy benefactor told it that he was writing a $2 million bequest to Yale out of his will because "a certain quarterback didn't get admitted." Possibly the man already was senile. But if some alumni are hot on sports, they are free to earmark some of their tax-deductible contributions directly for sports purposes.
One might assume that those involved in intercollegiate sports would want to encourage athletics among the student body, but that generally isn't so. In many cases, in fact, campus athletic establishments have supported the trend away from physical education requirements. The more phys-ed classes, of course, the more diffficult it is for coaches to control playing fields and gyms for their teams. As P. E. (Pat) Mueller of the University of Minnesota, who is executive secretary of the National College Physical Education Association of Men, remarks, "On almost every campus there is conflict between intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports, because they generally use the same facilities."
And there still are phys-ed courses, they often are used by coaches to circumvent National Collegiate Althletic Association rules forbidding mandatory workouts for football players during winter and early spring. Regular students who sign up for these classes are separated from football players and they worked so hard they frequently quit. According to a fullback at an Eastern university, "The regular students are usually gone after the first week. Then things get tough."
When a pre-med student at this campus neglected these "voluntary" practice sessions to pursue his academic interests, he was threatened with the loss of his football scholarship. Then, during spring practice, he was kept for "special help" after regular sessions. There he would have to run and do grass drills until he dropped, and the coaches would walk off and leave him. In the fall, after refusing to quit and after several more "help" sessions, he was kicked off the team for being "overweight." He had two strikes against him to begin with - he was a serious student and he was not an exceptional player - and strike three was insubordination. His scholarship went to someone "more deserving."
IF MANY regular students are discouraged from developing their bodies and their love of sports, many athletes are protected against developing their minds and characters at college.
Although there long have been complaints about an erosion of academic standards in the recruiting of athletes, this is not the chief problem. If special skills earn ballplayers a chance at a higher education, so much the better. Why should athletes be discriminated against as opposed to musicians or mathematics prodigies? Who is to say our society would be better off by keeping its athletes uneducated?
The chief problems are the distorted values often reflected in recruiting. An offensive lineman who started for three of his five years in college, for example, remarks that when his admission was in doubt, "some people associated with the university on a volunteer basis" offered to pay someone to take the College Boards for him. He says that he never got anything extra during his college career but believes that he was an exception, that many players are "handled" often. He is not bitter, but accepting, grateful in fact for a system that allowed him to earn a degree he would not otherwise have received.
Similarly, from a Southern state university where I taught for several years, I treasure the recurrent image of half-time at the basketball games. A carpet would be rolled out a midcourt, and in the center-jump circle the university president would welcome visiting high school football stars. In the recruiting of distinguished faculty or in the welcoming of visiting scholars, artists and Nobel Prize winners, he might be conspicuously absent. Nevertheless, he was hailed as a successful president: He tripled enrollment, built an impressive physical plant and raised unprecedented financial support from grateful alumni and appreciative legislatures. Especially when the football team went to a major bowl.
Once players are admitted, the problem is that athletic departments as a rule discourage them from becoming real students, let alone real people. They are isolated from the campus community at large and protected from intellectual challenge, often under the guise of team discipline. Coaches commonly want their scholarship athletes in courses they choose for them (naturally arranging for priority preregistration at others' expense), and they frequently segregate players in separate dormitories and feed them at separate "training tables" (usually the best food around).
At South Carolina, football coach Paul Dietzel compounded the ghettoization by having a special house for starters, and he moved players in and out during the season as their performances and ranking dictated. At Maryland, part of the income from ticket sales, media fees and other sources provides special tutoring for all athletes who need it.
The irony is that all this and much more - the large and expensive recruiting and coaching staffs, the bidding and buying of players in what might perversely be called an open market, the charge for commercial messages on the scoreboard ($100 for four flashes at Maryland's Cole Field House) grows out of an entirely different tradition.
AT THE END of the last and the beginning of this century, our campuses sustained a legacy of pure sport and amateurism inherited from English models. College men competed in the pursuit of excellence, mostly in loose club arrangements and often without any official sanction, sometimes by associating with off-campus institutions like Ys and athletic clubs. There were baseball and cricket, football and rugby, crew and wrestling, boxing and la-cross, ice hockey and field hockey. Intercollegiate competition emerged as naturally as water and cream seek their own levels, and it is noteworthy that clubs or teams had captains first and then managers, and not for a long time cocahes and not for a longer time paid, professional coaches.
When James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, to provide healthy sporting activity between outdoor seasons of a school for YMCA staffers, he intended the game as the kind of pure recreation in which a ball would be thrown up and people would just play with it. He was gratified at first that it worked just that way, both for men and women. But it could not last.
At the University of Kansas, where he spent most of his late years, it was with an amusement not without irony that Coach Phog Allen used to say that Naismith may have invented basketball but Allen invented basketball coaching. With organized intercollegiate competition came official structuring and a professionalization that begins with salaried coaches. Naismith was dismayed by the developments, but Allen, who for a while coached three college teams at the same time, pioneered the promotional potential of the sport in such directions as Olympic competition, national tournaments and organizational professionalism.
Allen eventually was surpassed as the winningest coach by f former player of his, Adolph Rupp. In Rupp's devotion to basketball at the University of Kentucky may be seen the degree of divergence both from Naismith's idea of a recreational game and from the idea of collegiate sport providing a sound body for a sound mind in the development of an integrated self. It was Rupp who refused to allow pianist Arthur Rubinstein to practice where he was to give a concert on the campus of a great state land-grant institution because it might interfere with his basketball team's practice.
This kind of disintegration of values may be seen even more clearly in the case of the coach who surpassed Rupp as the winner of the most national titles on his way to unprecedented records and a reputation for fineness and wisdom - John Wooden of fUCLA. It was Wooden who could never allow such matters as the politics, legal problems, scholastic difficulties or social principles of fhis players to interfere with his relationships with them as their basketball coach.
In 1970, for example, when the NCAA had imposed sanctions on Yale for allowing Jack Langer to play in the Maccabean Games without NCAA approval, some of his players asked if they could wear Yale jerseys for the NCAA victory ceremonies. Wooden refused, not because he disagreed philosophically with their position - he never confronted the issue - but because he couldn't understand how his student-athletes could concern themselves with any problem but how to beat Jacksonville for the title.
COLLEGE BASKETALL coaches, however egomaniacal a group they may seem to be, can hardly be accused of being the root of the problem. They are more a symptom than a cause of the process by which amateur athletics changes to professionalized entertainment, a process that is not exclusive to the universities. Nor is it a process exclusive to the class of patrician amateurs who won their varsity letters on our campuses two or three generations ago.
Ironically, from the perspective of our major sports today, it was football that maintained the heritage of pure amateurism among the patrician institutions of the Northeast. While recruiting began at least as early as 1901 when Fielding Yost brought Willie Heston with him to Michigan from the West Coast, college football remained remarkably free of professionalism even when the balance of power shifted from the Ivy League to the Big Ten. Though coaches were hired by college presidents and salaried by the universities, they themselves were scholars more often than not, and their charges always were.
The change began clearly to be perceived sometime in the 1920s. Overemphasis had always been a threat in the eyes of educators. They often echoed the sentiments of Cornell's president, Andrew White, who in 1883 vetoed a proposed Cornell-Michigan game with the immortal line, "I shall not permit 30 men to traval 400 miles merely to agitate a bag of wind."
Excessive violence was also a threat, with frightening casualty lists of dead and wounded. When Theordore Roosevelt saw a picture of Swarthmore's battered Bob Maxwell after a 1905 game against Penn, he threatened to ban the sport by presidential edict unless rules of order were imposed and enforced. But it was neither the violence nor the significance placed on the game that corrupted it; it was the professionalism born of two kinds of transvaluations.
One was the shifting of emphasis from playing to winning - and then to winning at all costs. When we talk about winning at all costs, we mean both that satisfactory ends justify all means and also that any desired end can be bought at a price.
The other concerns the system of organization, the bureaucracy, the power structure, devised to operate, legislate and facilitate the game. The transvaluation shifts primary motivation to the protection of the system rather then implementation of the system's purposes.
Thus we get professionalism in playing the game and professionalism in managing the game. The result includes such symptons as the proliferation of coaching staffs, the creation of para-athletic offices of sports promotion and sports information, and the development of organized ways to provide for enriched recruitment budgets and grant-in-aid funds. The latter amounts to a buying of fans to make the buying of players easier. Boosterism begets nothing so much as its own perpetunity.
When such institutions as the University of Chicago, which had produced distinguished football teams over four decades under Amos Alonzo Stagg, withdrew from intercollegiate competition, many called it idealism. In truth it was the opposite. The idealist would carry on with organized sport, hoping against the evidence to achieve the integrated, whole person in the pursuit of excellence. But President Robert M. Hutchins was a realist. He concluded that in practice the ideal was unattainable, and he could not conform to the cynical blinking that marked the attitude of most college administrators toward sports programs.
For the majority of American colleges and universities today, the idealism and the cynicism work together in the practice of the profession, the industry, of intercollegiate athletics. In most cases, "director of athletics" is a misnomer, as he is concerned only with intercollegiate athletics and often ignores non-revenue-producing sports. He tends to speak of the importance of participation in sports and the value of discipline, but his primary concerns are with fiscal integrity and winning.
These concerns are compatible; both can be measured absolutely in numbers: win-loss percentages, profit-loss ledgers. Typically, the athletic director seeks winning coaches and is pleased to see these relatively highly paid members of the university staff transcend all non-athletic personnel in income by other means. A basketball coach salaried at $35,000 may easily double that income with a TV show, his name on a restaurant, a car-dealer endorsement and a summer camp. (The camp, in turn, allows him to offer summer employment to players and cooperative prep coaches, thus helping him recruit.)
If colleges supply professional football and basketball with cost-free minor leagues, so much the better for the athletes. They are being given the opportunity to prepare for their chosen professions, surely a proper principle, particularly for public institutions. But this reflects a trade-school notion of higher education that itself is based on a monetary value system, an ends-justify-the-means ethic, a quantification of all values.
CAN COLLEGE SPORTS be legitimately supported today? Whereas the value of participation in sports at every level is honored in theory, the dominant practice is for intercollegiate competition to take precedence at the expense of all other levels. Yet anyone who believes in the value and values of sports, as I do, must recognize that the striving for excellence should be rewarded by a natural process of rising to advanced levels.
A few colleges attempt to implement such a model. At Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., for example, all students are encouraged to take part in a variety of intramural activities. The varsity teams for intercollegiate competition are made up of the best available personnel among those interested in competing at a higher level. Unfortunately, they are limited to competing aagainst a small number of like-minded schools. Serious students who are also "serious" about a sport do not go to Carleton. Yet from this program comes an unusually large number of well-rounded graduates who win Rhodes Scholarships and other postgraduate fellowships.
Some other campuses also are giving increased emphasis to intramural and recreational sports. The University of Illinois, for one, has built extensive recreational sports facilities for its student body. And Pat Mueller of the National College Physical Education Association for Men sees pressures rising from students who "are moe activist and want to participate in sports rather than just watch them."
For the most part, though, instead of participation we still have the surrogate satisfaction of the bystander. And, in one way or another, the non-participants pay both for the very existence of intercollegiate performances on most campuses and also for the privilege of watching them.