Should College Sports Be Banned?

American universities need to reassess their spending on athletics and redress the double standard

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Tami Chappell / Reuters

Students walk past the entrance to Spelman College in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2009

Correction appended: April 29, 2013

Spelman College, a historically black women’s college in Atlanta recently announced that it would eliminate its athletic department, disband all sports teams and withdraw from the NCAA. It plans to reallocate the roughly $900,000 in savings — from an overall operating budget of roughly $100 million — toward a wellness initiative that will emphasize fitness and focus on activities like golf, swimming, tennis, yoga and Pilates. Spelman’s president, Beverly Daniel Tatum, said she believed that it was more important to focus on the health of the entire campus than to use those funds to support Spelman’s 80 student athletes who qualified for NCAA funding.

I applaud the efforts of Spelman, my alma mater, to improve the health of America’s youth and especially black women, many of whom are more prone to diseases that are helped by exercise — such as diabetes and high blood pressure — than are other groups. But I worry that the decision might be used to strengthen calls to reduce — or fully cut — Title IX funding, the 1972 federal legislation mandating equal access for women in education, including sports. Despite overwhelming public support for the policy and volumes of data attesting to its positive impact for women, naysayers still abound.

(MORE: Do Black Women Really Want to Be Fat?)

For example, a 2012 article in the Atlantic blamed Title IX for everything from ACL injuries to eating disorders and sexual abuse by coaches. And last June, a writer for U.S. News and World Report wrote a column titled “Title IX’s Dark Legacy” that argued that the policy was pitting men and women against each other and ultimately ruining men’s sports. But what’s particularly interesting about Spelman’s choice is that the relatively paltry amount it is saving highlights the fact that far more money is consistently spent on collegiate men’s sports than on women’s.

According to a report released earlier this year by Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher for the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research, between 2005 and 2010, spending by colleges and universities on athletics increased at least twice as fast as academic spending at public Division I colleges and universities, and those institutions typically spend three to six times as much on each athlete as they do to educate the average student. The same report found that, depending on the conference, and if the school was public or private, between 7% and a whopping 42% of athletic budgets are directly subsidized with fees charged to all students, regardless of whether they play sports or not.

(MORE: College Sports Spending: The Real March Madness)

Her analysis was based on data collected both from the Education Department and USA Today’s college-spending database, which ranked athletic spending by Division 1 schools and found that men made up 69.5% of intercollegiate athletes and their programs used 70% of the scholarship funds, 77% of the operating budgets and 83% of the recruiting budgets. That lack of balance has consequences. Earlier this month, a staff attorney for an organization called Public Justice wrote about her ultimately successful efforts to have the women’s volleyball team reinstated after Fort Valley State University had informed them that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to fund them, despite the fact that the school had just spent $9 million to build a new football stadium.

Eliminating the athletic department was the right move for Spelman, and few are contesting the decision. But for a moment, let’s just imagine what the response might have been if Spelman had been coed, and both men’s and women’s teams had been affected. Let us hope that, in this era of shrinking budgets and rising tuitions, their forward-thinking move might encourage larger universities to question their disproportionate spending on athletics over academics, and not provide an excuse to widen the gap between men’s and women’s sport and perpetuate a double standard.

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Grand Valley State University had its volleyball team reinstated amid a Title IX dispute. In fact, it was Fort Valley State University. 

44 comments
thxr234
thxr234

Team sports are an essential part of collegiate education and have been for hundreds of years - so it is difficult to understand under which new criteria they are no longer part of the essential mission of educations.  Competing in team sports (or individual sports) is a vibrant part of college life.  It develops school spirit, entertains, and promotes the college reputation regionally.  Some want to develop in a college environment but are ill suited for a purely academic life.  Are these worthwhile goals - they have been for so long that is seems we would need new compelling reasons for making a change.  As the author does not understand why we have college sports they are least in a position to understand why we shouldn't.  In general if someone cannot articulate the reason for why we do something they are not suited to propose why we should stop.

Niham Niham
Niham Niham

Its not be should. Bcoz its entertain the students and thats way students keep study with happiness.

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

No, college sports should not be "banned", if that means forbidden by some external authority. They should be voluntarily abandoned as being too unrelated to the institution's educational mission.


josh.loschen
josh.loschen

She only looks at the costs of men's sports but not the money they bring in. Yeah mens sports cost more, but the money they bring in funds the women's sports.  It's misleading to only look at the costs.  It costs alot more to run Apple than it does to run a small computer company, but which one brings in more money?

Lisa Eichler-Johnson
Lisa Eichler-Johnson

A glimmer of hope in the intelligence of humanity! Sports have no place in schools!

NewsDogReports
NewsDogReports

They need to pay the players for there efforst that generate the billions of dollars for the UNiversities... Pay them after they pass there exams.... but they deserve a piece of the action.

Gemady Algar
Gemady Algar

I think TIMES should straighten out their priorities on what the real issues are :)

Rob Mullin
Rob Mullin

How about banning the banning of things?

Tara St Wood
Tara St Wood

we don't have college sports down under. you usually go through clubs and at your own time.

Peter Tuann
Peter Tuann

Since when did colleges get into the professional sports/entertainment sector? College athletes are one thing but most basketball and football players are not really students, and everyone knows this, do we want gladiators to represent our college? College basketball is your inner-city blacks versus our inner-city blacks

Miles Lacey
Miles Lacey

College sports don't need to be banned but it is important to remember that the primary purpose of a college is to provide an academic education, not to provide football and other sporting boofheads with a free ride through academia at post-high school level. If cuts have to be made college sports should be the first thing to get the chop.

Justin Spector
Justin Spector

Sports bring in money.... through sponsorship and revenue. ..

Adria Lewis
Adria Lewis

Your mother apparently didn't think so. You're here today to comment on FB, are you not?

Jen-nee Bouchier
Jen-nee Bouchier

A woman's health is more important than an unborn child.

Lisa Graham
Lisa Graham

Crazy people should be banned from sports.

James Benjamin Lanier
James Benjamin Lanier

ban college sports, might as well get rid of high school and pro sports. stupid. life without competition is boring.

Simon Peake
Simon Peake

Hell, high school sports should be banned. We go to school to learn and get an education.

Shannon Barker
Shannon Barker

Oh Time, your opinion pieces make the huffington post look good.

Angel Gonzales
Angel Gonzales

not ban because some sports teams are the identity of a university

Robert Schiele
Robert Schiele

Banning college sports would be a preposterous overreaction to perceived problems. Overfunding of college sports should be addressed, and certainly no double standard such as exists today should be applied to college athletes. The NCAA also badly needs to be cleaned up, and I would like to see pro leagues banned from drafting college athletes who have not completed a minimum of four years of higher education. All of that, however, is a far cry from saying that college sports should be done away with entirely.

Domenico Palmitessa
Domenico Palmitessa

yes?no?Maybe? I am sorry I have troubles expressing my opinions,usually when I do there are always a bunch of people ready to jump on me and try to forcefully get me to change my mind. It gets kind of traumatizing over time. So......... I don't know tell me what you think and I might agree with you. like:sure.I agree. As long as yu don't try to manipulate me or trick me or threaten me or use any other strategy I know you would use to get me to change my mind, which I am sure you would do,I agree. o.O

Gerald Tan
Gerald Tan

I don't recall reading Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison or Wright Brothers participated in any such. They focused their time, finance and energies on their dreams that changed the world. I believe universities should focus on realizing students' dreams. For their students' successes are the universities' successes. By the way, university sports...? For most, they are extra-curricular activitties. For Olympic inspirers, that are their gateways to Olympic dreams...:)

Chey Tor
Chey Tor

If college athletics are banned, some universities will cease to exist as much of their funding is derived from private donations generated through the athletic department. For example, USC is a strong academic institution today because of their football dominance during the Pete Carroll era.

Mazahir Ali
Mazahir Ali

Have those endorsement deals pay off those insane student tuitions! That way we don't have to hear about irresponsible student loans and debts.

Sheryl Lopez Escoto
Sheryl Lopez Escoto

Mr. Wormsley is correct probably proper handling and allocation of funds is great suggestion..

Jack Vict
Jack Vict

just hold athletes to same academic standards

Shane Cetanubondh
Shane Cetanubondh

Education should be a college's top priority, but athletics are a huge money maker.

Sheryl Lopez Escoto
Sheryl Lopez Escoto

I dont think so.. I believe I learned a lot from my college sports.. May I know the reason why do they need to banned the college sports?

Marcel Wormsley
Marcel Wormsley

Not banned, but some of their insane funding should be spread to to other departments that need it.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@josh.loschen Colleges aren't supposed to be "for profit".  It's not about the money.  It's about the quality of education.  Sports revenue doesn't usually go toward improving educational quality.  It goes toward promoting the sporting programs and facilities, and toward promoting the college.

Let's face it, as an employer, I'm going to be a hell of a lot more impressed by having a graduate of MIT apply for a position than I am a graduate of any leading NCAA college because MIT focuses on education.  A person who can write a well structured recursive call and implement whiles is a lot more valuable to me than a person whose college focused on sports and they only know how to do while's.

Sports may make impressionable alumni donate to colleges, but I don't see MIT having any problems attracting the best of the best in science and engineering.  Making educational quality a top priority is what's lacking in our colleges today.  So I applaud any effort to change the "sports program" focus from the glorification of a team, to the teaching of health and fitness for every student.  I know that  99.999% of the students going to a college will never have their "sports team" help them in life after college.  But a good physical education department will.

Maybe the college won't draw in as much money as it used to.  But, then, it likely won't NEED to, either.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Justin Spector Money for what?  Academic excellence?  Not hardly.  The money almost always goes toward TV broadcast fees, sports arenas, better courts, new sports equipment and scholarships for "star athletes".  How often does sports revenue go toward building a new library, or a new computer lab?  How often does it subsidize educations for NON-athletes?

Colleges are supposed to be about preparation and education for LIFE. Sports don't help the majority of students nearly as much as health and fitness classes do.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Jen-nee Bouchier You are entitled to your opinion.  Other people are entitled to theirs.  You are not entitled to force your opinion on other people, just as they are not entitled to force theirs on you.  So you tend to your knitting and let others tend to theirs.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

@Adria Lewis How about banning the posting of off-topic  comments?