More thoughts on college sports.

I sometimes feel sorry for politicians like Mitt Romney or John Kerry who are accused of “flip-flopping”. After all, if you receive new information, or simply think a little longer, it may be that you have no choice but to change your assessment. And sometimes, you don’t always make it clear what brought about the change, so it seems rather abrupt.

If I were a politician, I would probably be getting roasted in the press for the apparent contradiction between my statement on the afternoon of December 27th, 2011:

“There is no mystical force that makes [college students] stupider if the team wins; it’s just that they lack the discipline to prioritize effectively.”

And my statement on the evening of September 17, 2011:

“[M]ajor programs, such as football and basketball, provide revenue for the University to spend on other things related to academic pursuits… however, I believe that in this instance the matter of ideals plays a role…  If a university raises money for itself through football, then by football it is defined. What it does with its money is secondary.

 This may not seem terribly important. But in my opinion, it indicates a shift in attitude which may be unhealthy, a focus upon sport at the expense of scholarship.”

These seem to be pretty obviously opposites. Clearly, in at least one instance, I am quite wrong. But I am still going to try to weasel out of it.

My opinions have altered somewhat since the statement from September, although I still feel a bit uneasy about major collegiate athletics programs. Upon further review, my ruling on the field must be qualified. Sports are only a threat to the universities’ purported aim of higher learning if the students themselves are not dedicated.

In my past post on the subject I made it sound like it was all the fault of the greedy upper-management at universities turning the institutions of higher learning into “football factories”. While this does occur, I should have noted that it is not as if the universities are going and making money off of football and basketball and nobody can do a thing about it. On the contrary, it is only so profitable because it is so popular, both with students and the general public.

So, while you could say that the universities are wrong to tempt their students into shirking their studies to watch sports and enthusiastically support their team, you also must allow that if most students had enough self-discipline to study and not watch sports, there would be no problem with academics taking a backseat to sports. Nobody is making students watch sports–they may be encouraging them to, yes, but not making them.

And just to be clear, I want to stress that I am not advocating for students to commit themselves entirely to studying for classes and doing nothing else. I can’t say it enough; I enjoy watching college sports myself. If students dedicated themselves only to studying they would by no means be better off. I am only saying that if they lack the proper discipline to know what must get priority, it will be a problem. Sports are one distraction which the university itself provides to the students, but if there were no sports, I’m sure these students would find something else.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?