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The College Sports Reform Movement: Reframing the “Edutainment” Industry Author(s): Robert D. Benford Source: The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Winter, 2007), pp. 1-28 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 17/09/2014 08:25

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The Sociological Quarterly ISSN 0038-0253

THE COLLEGE SPORTS REFORM MOVEMENT: Refraining the “Edutainment” Industry Robert D. Benford* Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Evidence abounds that college sports are rife with corruption. Over a century of reform efforts have failed to bring about lasting structural and cultural changes. Drawing on interview, participant observation, and archival data, the present study examines the diagnostic and prognostic framing of the contemporary college sports reform movement. The faculty-driven wing of the social move- ment has identified several problems with intercollegiate athletics including ( 1 ) commercialization;

(2) university involvement in the entertainment industry; (3) damage to the integrity of higher education; (4) exploitation of athletes; and (5) harm to nonathletes. Reform proposals and strate-

gies of The Drake Group and the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics are summarized and


Observers from a variety of quarters including former athletes, coaches, athletic direc- tors, university presidents, and National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) offi- cials along with sports journalists and sports sociologists have concluded that college sports are in a sorry state in the United States.1 But this is not new. From the advent of intercollegiate athletics in the mid- 19th century to the present day, critics have clamored for and occasionally mobilized to reform college sports (Craughron 2001). What does

appear to be new is the sheer magnitude of today’s college sports reform movement as well as the variety of concerns articulated by the reformers.

The purpose of this article is to examine the contemporary college sports reform movement. Given the movement’s scope and the plethora of problems reformers have identified, I will only skim the surface of the current movement focusing particularly on the faculty-organized academic integrity wing of the movement. This is a work in

progress, a piece of a larger project on sports reformers and the sports reform movement in the United States.

Before discussing how I arrived at this topic, I must admit a few biases, biases that I share with many of the sports reformers I have encountered during the course of my study. First, I love athletics, especially college sports. I share with many of the sports reformers I observed and interviewed a bit of a romanticized notion of sport, an idealized vision of the purity of the game that perhaps never existed beyond our childhood sandlot and celluloid fictions, but a vision worthy of preservation, if, for no other reason, than to allow us to escape for a moment the worries, hassles, and humdrum of everyday life. I am

*Direct all correspondence to Robert D. Benford, Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901-4524; e-mail:

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The College Sports Reform Movement Robert D. Benford

a three-sport athlete: bowling, pool, and poker – any sport you can play while drinking beer.2 1 coached youth sports (girls’ softball and volleyball) and have enjoyed watching my daughters participate in youth and interscholastic athletics. Finally, I am an avid sports fan. I follow a number of men’s and women’s amateur, college, and professional sports. In short, my relationship to sports mirrors that of a significant portion of the U.S. population.


As is often the case with our research projects, I did not set out to study the sports reform movement; rather, I gradually wandered into the topic over a long period of time.3 My ini- tial involvement in intercollegiate athletics emanated from my interactions as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) with athletes and members of the athletic department. Several experiences led me to the not particularly profound conclu- sion that most UNL athletic administrators, coaches, and athletes valued athletics over academics. Two such interactions remain etched in my memory.

In the fall of 1993, my afternoon honors seminar was suffering sustained disruptions from deafening noises coming from Memorial Stadium. We literally could not hear each other because of the intermittent noises. Upon investigation I discovered that Head Foot- ball Coach Tom Osborne4 had ordered an artificial crowd noise piped into the stadium at maximum decibel levels during afternoon practices in order to simulate game-day crowd noise. The sound could be heard from miles away. I mentioned the problem to my depart- ment chair, who suggested that I call the athletic department. When Coach Osborne and Athletic Director Bill Byrne refused to respond to my phone calls, their staff routed me to Al Papik, Senior Associate Athletic Director. While on hold for Papik, replays of the pre- vious week’s gridiron contest, along with the Husker fight song, blared through the phone. Finally, Papik came on and wanted to know what my problem was with the sta- dium noise. When I responded that the racket interfered with the learning environment, he replied that Coach Osborne had ordered the simulated crowd noise (as though invok- ing his eminence should suffice to deter me from pursuing my complaint any further). Papik said he could not do anything about the crowd noise; instead, he offered to move my class to a soundproof room in South Stadium, the bunker area within the bowels of Memorial Stadium. I asked him whether or not he could also accommodate the scores of other classes taught during football practices. He responded that I was the only professor who had complained about the noise. He made it patently clear that my values were askew if I thought that student learning was more important at Nebraska than contending for a national championship in football.

A second incident that led me to conclude that athletics take precedence over academ- ics occurred in the summer of 1995. Over the previous few years, interactions with the academic advising wing of Husker athletics (Hewit Center) demonstrated their propen- sity to treat athletes paternalistically and to expect other members of the faculty and staff to make special accommodations on athletes’ behalf. Academic “advisers” and “tutors” called me on behalf of “student-athletes.” They selected classes for the athletes, helped

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Robert D. Benford The College Sports Reform Movement

resolve problems they encountered with their instructors, and generally ran interference through the university bureaucracy like a fullback clearing a hole for a Husker I-back. They ushered athletes to classes and monitored their attendance, thereby contributing to the athlete’s “learned helplessness” (Seligman and Maier 1995). While I found this pattern of “academic support” problematic and counter to the Athletic Department’s goal of pre- paring athletes for the future, I was not particularly disturbed by the process. It just seemed like it was all part of “the game.” When the process involved covering up academic dishonesty, I grew more concerned.

Two Husker football players submitted identical incorrect answers to a methods class assignment.5 1 confronted them separately and each denied wrongdoing but suggested that the other was to blame. I gave them the choice I give all students who engage in acts of academic dishonesty: Either write a 10-page essay on academic honesty or roll the dice with the student judicial affairs board. I failed to realize that the date I confronted the stu- dents was the last day they could drop the course without consequence. They left my office and dropped the course. I subsequently reported both cases to Dennis Leblanc, Associate Athletic Director for Academic and Support Services, to Tom Osborne, and to

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The College Sports Reform Movement Robert D. Bentord

James Griesen, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. None of them acted on my com-

plaints. I repeatedly contacted Griesen, who promised me he would look into it. Had any of the UNL officials acted on the complaint, they might have saved the university a con- siderable embarrassment, given that both athletes subsequently committed publicized crimes.6 Once again, it was apparent to me that the UNL administration’s actions (or lack

thereof) demonstrated that winning football games took priority over academic



While my observations and interactions with Husker athletics and the UNL’s administra- tion led me to question their commitment to academics, their handling of a spate of cases

involving football players’ violence toward women prompted me and a few colleagues to take action. Between 1991 and 1995, several women reported that Nebraska football play- ers had sexually and/or physically assaulted them. A few of the cases generated consider- able national publicity, casting the UNL in a disgraceful light. Although not as deplorable as the violent acts themselves, the lack of an appropriate institutional response tended to

reproduce the extant rape culture (Benford 2005). In each of the cases, Tom Osborne con- ducted investigations himself. Most anywhere else in the United States, anyone else who

engaged in the activities in which Coach Osborne engaged would have been charged with

tampering with witnesses, evidence tampering, and obstruction of justice (Benedict 1 997) .7 With a few exceptions, the accused perpetrators received no sanctions from Coach Osborne, the Athletic Department, or the UNL. The victims, on the other hand, fre-

quently found it necessary to flee the university, their jobs, and even the state, as rabid Husker fans blamed the victims for their gridiron heroes* violent acts.

In the fall of 1995, UNL women’s groups publicly condemned a decision to reinstate one of the perpetrators (Benedict 1997). Several women faculty members and students

engaged in one of the most courageous acts of protest ever undertaken in Lincoln, Nebraska. They gathered in front of Memorial Stadium to protest the UNL’s failure to address the athletic department’s “epidemic of violence” as 76,000 red-clad, Husker fans

poured into the gates. In the face of the Big Red fans’ vicious threats, vulgar insults, and

taunting, they stood firm in their support of the assault victims. Inspired by the women’s

courage and outraged by the lack of an appropriate institutional response to the escalat-

ing violence, I became more vocal in my criticisms of the athletic department and the UNL’s administration. Eventually, my outspokenness contributed to the Faculty Senate

appointing me to the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (IAC). It became apparent immediately that the IAC functioned to provide legitimacy to the

Athletic Department, rubber stamping virtually any decisions in support of the Husker status quo. Growing increasingly frustrated by the charade, at the final meeting of the 1997 to 1998 year, I proposed that we not meet the ensuing academic year, adding, “we could instead just e-mail our rubber stamps in.” I had not intended my sarcastic (albeit sincere) remarks to be taken as a campaign speech. Nevertheless, my colleagues elected me as the IAC chair for the 1998 to 1999 year.

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My service on the UNL’s IAC (1997-2000), particularly the year as chair, provided me a window into big-time college sports that few outsiders are permitted to view. (I often refer to my IAC experience at Nebraska as serving in the “belly of the beast”) It also led to other opportunities and additional fieldwork roles, including attending the 1999 found- ing meeting of the National Alliance for College Athletic Reform, which later became The Drake Group (TDG), serving on its first Executive Council (2000-2001) and being invited as panelist and presenter at the 2003 National Institute for Sports Reform Summit at Lake George, New York.

Soon after moving to Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), I managed to get pulled back into intercollegiate athletics when the Faculty Senate appointed me to serve on the Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Committee (IAAC) (2002-2004). Although the Saluki beast was considerably smaller than the Husker behemoth, the problems were similar. SIUCs gender climate, like that of the UNL, is deplorable.8 And like Nebraska, SIUC administrators, including the majority of the members of its Board of Trustees, place athletics ahead of academics.9 Moreover, shared governance was (and still is) practically nonexistent at SIUC.10 For example, whereas most intercollegiate ath- letics committees are under the auspices of faculty senates, SIUCs serves at the behest of the chancellor. Needless to say, I found my time on the IAAC frustrating but



In addition to the foregoing participant observer roles, I gathered data on the contempo- rary sports reform movement via several qualitative methods. I conducted semistruc- tured, formal interviews with 12 sports reformers as well as engaged several others in informal conversational-style interviews.11 1 participated in and recorded two discussion sessions on college sports reform at the 2005 North American Society for the Sociology of

Sport conference in Winston-Salem in 2005. This project also relies on hundreds of archi- val documents, including internal documents produced by sports reform movement

organizations, e-mail correspondence among reformers, position papers, reports, and

Congressional testimony. Finally, I conducted topical content analyses of various news-

papers, magazines, newsletters, and Web sites related to college sports reform.


The first intercollegiate athletics contest was held in 1852 when Harvard and Yale com-

peted in a rowing race. One remarkable aspect of early college sports is that they were

organized and administered by students. That was short lived. Soon older adults entered the arena, bringing with them their own vested interests, and the long downhill slide

away from amateurism has continued ever since (Sack and Staurowsky 1998; Feinstein 2000). By 1883, concerns regarding commercialization, professionalization, and corrup- tion led to the first interinstitutional attempt to reform and control intercollegiate sports. “Colleges are presenting themselves to the public, educated and uneducated

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alike, as places of mere physical sport and not as educational training institutions,” lamented Harvard University President Charles Eliot (Zimbalist 1999:7). Organized by the Athletics Committee of Harvard University and attended by representatives from eight eastern universities, the group adopted four resolutions that sought, among other things, to limit college sports to amateurs and to contain commercialism. They for- warded their proposed reforms to 21 eastern institutions. But, as with all other reform efforts that would follow, this one failed. Only Harvard and Princeton approved the reforms (Craughron 2001).

Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, faculty associations, administrators, official intercollegiate sports organizations, and private foundations have established commissions to attempt to address problems with college sports. The end product almost always took the form of a report. And while the specific recommendations varied across the reports, they shared a common concern for the commercialization and professional- ization of college sports and the challenges those trends represented to the integrity of higher education. One of the earliest such documents was issued in 1 929 by the Carnegie Foundation. The authors of the report articulated their concerns for the twin problems of college sports commercialization and professionalization, an indictment that still reso- nates among present-day reformers:

[College football] is not a student’s game as it once was. It is a highly organized com- mercial enterprise. The athletes who take part in it have come up through years of training; they are commanded by professional coaches; little if any initiative of ordi- nary play is left to the player. The great matches are highly profitable enterprises. (Savage 1929:ix)

Since the early 1980s, college reformers have focused primarily on academic reform. Table 1 lists organized college sports reform efforts and their corresponding reports.

Despite the cycles of reform activity and a plethora of in-depth reports, the problems seem to have gotten worse over time. Some blame the failure of repeated reform efforts on our runaway sports culture (Gerdy 2002; Svare 2003). Others point the finger at commercialism, commodification, and the political economy of college sports (Sperber 1990; Sack and Staurowsky 1998; Zimbalist 1999). Still, other analysts argue that univer- sity administrators shoulder a significant portion of the blame for the failure of college sports reforms (Duderstadt 2000; Craughron 2001). In the words of one observer,

[throughout the history of the intercollegiate athletics in the United States, corrup- tion and a misalignment with the educational mission of the institution of higher education in which it resides has been quite evident. Institutional presidents, who are charged with the control of the college or university have, historically, not been an effective tool for the control and reform of intercollegiate athletics, especially at the Division I-A football institutions. (Craughron 2001:14)

Although my purpose here is not to evaluate the reformers1 analyses or efforts, it seems reasonable to conclude that there are plenty of blame to go around for the corrupt state of college sports today. It also is apparent that the sheer number of organizational actors involved in this arena makes it particularly complicated for reform-minded citizens and analysts alike.

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TABLE 1. Intercollegiate Athletics Reform Reports, 1883-2005

Year Organization Document

1883 Harvard Committee Harvard Athletics Committee Resolutions 1898 Brown U et al. Brown Conference Report 1906 IAAUS (NCAA) Proceedings of the First Annual Convention 1 922 NCAA 1 0-Point Code 1929 Carnegie Foundation American College Athletics 1 946 NCAA & Conferences Principles for the Conduct of Intercollegiate Athletics

(Sanity Code) 1 974 ACE An Inquiry into the Need for and Feasibility of a National

Study of Intercollegiate Athletics 1 983 NCAA Select Committee on Athletics Problems and Concerns in

Higher Education 1 989 AAUP The Role of Faculty in the Governance of College Athletics 1 99 1 AAUP Statement on Intercollegiate Athletics 1 99 1 Knight Commission Keeping Faith with the Student- Athlete: A New Model for

Intercollegiate Athletics 1 992 Knight Commission A Solid Start: A Report on Reform of Intercollegiate

Athletics 1 993 Knight Commission A New Century: Intercollegiate Athletics in the United

States 200 1 Knight Commission A Call to Action: Reconnecting College Sports & Higher

Education 2002 AAUP The Faculty Role in the Reform of Intercollegiate Athletics 2003 COIA A Framework for Comprehensive Athletics Reform 2003 The Drake Group Reclaiming Academic Primacy in Higher Education 2004 COIA Campus Athletics Governance, the Faculty Role 2004 The Drake Group The Faculty- Driven Movement to Reform Big-Time

College Sports 2004 Knight Commission Challenging the Myth: A Review of the Links among

College Athletic Success, Student Quality, and Donations

2005 COIA Academic Integrity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Principles, Rules, and Best Practices

2005 COIA/NCAA A Report to the NCAA Presidential Task Force

IAAUS, Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States; NCAA, National Collegiate Athlet- ics Association; ACE, American Council on Education; AAUP, American Association of University Professors; COIA, Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.


The contemporary college sports reform movement, like most social movements, must contend with a complex, “multiorganizational field” (Curtis and Zurcher 1973). As

depicted in Figure 1, the field not only encompasses colleges and universities, including their athletic departments, administrative units, governing boards, and booster clubs;

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FIGURE 1. Intercollegiate Athletics’ Multiorganizational Field.

it also includes athletic conferences, the NCAA, sports media organizations, sports medicine, sports merchandising companies, professional associations, and other sports reform movement organizations. While some of these organizations share some selective interests, others coexist in a contentious environment.

The college sports reform movement is part of what McCarthy and Zald (1977) referred to as a social movement industry, the clustering of a set of social movements around a broadly related set of goals and interests. The sports reform movement industry is made of at least a dozen distinctive sports reform movements including academic integrity, athletes’ rights, antiathlete violence, gender equity, racial and ethnic diversity/ rights, steroid use/abuse prevention, youth sports reform, antigambling, ethics in sports, and Olympic reform movements. Each social movement within the industry has spawned several social movement organizations. To date, I have identified 25 sports reform movement organizations, the majority of which focus on intercollegiate athletics. (For a list of these organizations, see Appendix A.) These sports reform movement orga- nizations not only contribute to the complexity of the industry’s multiorganizational field – each also interacts with a distinctive constellation of nonmovement organiza- tional actors within that field. The particular mix of organizational actors involved depends in part on how a given sports reform movement organization’s members define and frame what they see as most problematic.


Social movement organizations devote considerable time and energy to the task of fash- ioning and articulating claims about conditions that their members perceive to be prob- lematic and in need of change (Snow et al. 1986). This framing activity entails not only problem identification, but also attributions of blame and the delineation of solutions (Snow and Benford 1988; Benford and Snow 2000).

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Diagnostic Framing Sports reform activists have identified a plethora of problems associated with college sports. For purposes of the current analysis, I will focus on the five that appear to generate the greatest heat: ( 1 ) commercialization of intercollegiate athletics; (2) university involve- ment in the entertainment industry; (3) damage to the integrity of higher education; (4) exploitation of athletes; and (5) harm to nonathletes. Sports reformers recognize that, sociologically speaking, these are not mutually exclusive problems. The lion’s share of the diagnosed problems is seen as a by-product of the political economy of universities and of our sports culture.

Co mmercializa tion In its 1929 report, the Carnegie Foundation diagnosed commercialism to be the source of the cheating and financial scandals associated with college sports (Zimbalist 1999). The report’s authors elaborated on their diagnosis, concluding that

the heart of the problem facing college sports was commercialization: an interlocking network that included expanded press coverage, public interest, alumni involvement and recruiting abuses. The victim was the student-athlete in particular, the diminish- ing of educational and intellectual values in general. Also, students (including non- athletes) were the losers because they had been denied their rightful involvement in sports. (Thelin 1994:26) Since we are focusing on commercialism, I thought it would be a good idea to draw on

Marx. In the Marx Brothers’ movie Horsefeathers, the following dialogue takes place. President Wagstaff, played by Groucho Marx, asks his faculty at Huxley College: “Where would this college be without football? Have we got a stadium?” When the professors answer affirmatively, Wagstaff inquires, “Have we got a college?” Again the professors reply “yes.” But Wagstaff reminds them of the economic realities of the Depression and

says: “Well we can’t support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college, including the dorms.” When the faculty protests and asks where the students will sleep, the presi- dent retorts, “Where they always sleep; in the classroom!” (Sperber 1998:32). That the Marx Brothers satirized the commercialization of college sports and the distorted values that such commercialism reaps as far back as 1932 is testimony to the fact that this is not a new concern. Viewed 75 years later, the film yields the obvious conclusion that sports reformers have found it difficult to overcome, let alone constrain, the deleterious influ- ences of the free market on academe’s ivy walls. Indeed, commercialization of college sports has grown by leaps and bounds since the Marx Brothers’ parody and since the

Carnegie Foundation’s indictment. Reformers contend that evidence of increasing commercialism in college sports can

be found everywhere from the advertising plastered over sports venues’ institutional

images to the licensing and logo deals universities sign with apparel companies and pro- ducers of various sports trinkets, to the predatory behavior of sports agents, to the hype and sensationalism generated by sports agents, to the bestowal of celebrity status upon select college athletes and coaches, to the pressure to schedule events every night of the week to fill the schedules for the increasing number of sports networks.

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Sports reform activists point out that nowhere is the increasing commercialization of

college sports more evident than in the “college athletics arms race.” If Nebraska builds new sky boxes or adds a new weight room, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas will no doubt follow suit. One sports reformer I interviewed refers to this as an “edifice complex.”12 The

ensuing competition leaves most programs, even many of the richest ones, swimming in a sea of red ink and in search of new sources of revenue. Reformers charge that, in most instances, the revenues for enhancing the athletic infrastructure are generated by hiking student fees and by making sacrifices on the university’s academic side (Sperber 2000; Shulman and Bowen 2001).

The athletics arms race not only involves competition for who has the best stadium; it has also spread to college coaches’ salaries. Activists frequently cite the astronomical com-

pensation packages for college football and men’s basketball coaches as yet another indi- cator of commercialism’s distortion of academic values. It goes without saying that coaches make more than the faculty. But at big-time programs, the head coaches are often

paid substantially more than the university presidents and chancellors. Football and basketball coaches’ salaries continue to escalate unabated. The Univer-

sity of Texas (UT) football coach’s increase in his base salary following the Longhorns’

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Robert D. Benford The College Sports Reform Movement

2005 national championship is reported to be $400,000. That’s just the raise. According to the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) activist and distinguished UT Professor Michael Granof,

We always say that the expenditures are driven by market forces and … my response is look, I’m in the business school, I don’t need to be lectured about market forces, I know about market forces. It’s not an issue of market forces, it’s an issue of values Of course, if you want to compete for the number one football coach, you’re gonna have to pay the big bucks, and that’s what happens. On the other hand, I say, why don’t you compete for the number one physicist? . . . Why aren’t they com- peting for the number one English department or sociology department? That’s a matter of values.

Coaches’ compensation packages not only include substantial base salaries, typically the highest in the university, but also revenues from summer camps, media shows, and shoe and apparel contracts. As James Duderstadt (2000), former president of the University of Michigan, observed, “It is ironic, indeed, that among all the members of the university community, athletics’ coaches are the only ones allowed to profit personally from the rep- utation and activities of the university” (p. 157). Friday and Hesburgh (1993), coauthors of the 1993 Knight Foundation Commission report, made a similar point: “Coaches are selling something they don’t own, the university’s name and image. If a purchasing agent did the same thing, he would be led off in handcuffs” (p. 6).

According to sports reformers, coaches are not the only ones exploiting intercolle- giate athletics. They often point out that college football and basketball programs are essentially the minor leagues for the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Drake cofounder and sports reform author Andrew Zimbalist (1999) observes that

[n] either the NBA nor the NFL has player development systems, and their teams do not have substantial player development expenses. Practically all their player develop- ment occurs at the college level Yet neither the NBA nor the NFL contributes a

penny to college basketball or football, (p. 197) Should universities, the reformers ask, be in the business of professional sports? How is

propping up professional sports consistent with the university’s educational mission?

Sports reform activists point out that the distortion of values as a result of the com- mercialization of college sports extends beyond college campuses to permeate our entire culture. Former college basketball superstar and current Executive Director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Amy Perko explained how NCAA product licensing in the form of video games provides one avenue for the diffusion of the corrupt values of commercialized college sports.

EA Sports is a big industry leader; they make revenue close to 3. 1 billion dollars. They also produce NCAA Football, NCAA March Madness, and NCAA Baseball. . . . The 2005 version of the EA Sports March Madness

featured a recruiting phase where the game player is the coach and you’re recruiting a player to the team So anyway, the new feature in the 2005 game was to allow different things that you could do to make you unethical and to call an NCAA investigation. And an

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example of a method that came up was a booster that came up and said, “I’d like to get involved in the recruiting process” and the game player could say yes or no … but if

you let the booster get involved in the recruiting process and then that player comes to your team, what could happen within the game is that the NCAA comes to

investigate We [Knight Commission] had a young player cheat throughout the entire process, and encouraged him to do so, and he played at the University of

Washington and he won the entire NCAA championship. Reformers question whether or not these are the types of values universities should be

reinforcing, let alone marketing, within the wider culture. Such critical analyses have led some reformers to question whether or not universities should be in the entertainment business.

“Edutainment” For many sports reformers, the university’s increasing involvement in the entertainment

industry, or as many in the movement sardonically refer to as “edutainment,” is yet another way college sports undermine academe’s lofty values. The college sports enter- tainment industry has grown exponentially over the past several decades (Sperber 1990,

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Robert D. Benford The College Sports Reform Movement

2000; Zimbalist 1999; Shulman and Bowen 2001). Each new technological advancement (from radio to television to cable to the Internet) has expanded the market, revenues, and reach of college sports. But from the perspective of sports reformers, the academy’s increasing involvement in the entertainment business has not come without substantial costs.

Duderstadt (2000:12) raises the most fundamental question when he asks “why this particular form of public entertainment should be the responsibility of the university.” He offers a trenchant analysis:

To be sure, big-time college sports has entertained the American public, but it has all too frequently done so at the expense of our colleges and universities, their students, faculty, and staff, and the communities they were created to serve. They have infected our academic culture with the commercial values of the entertainment industry. They have distorted our priorities through the disproportionate resources and atten- tion given to intercollegiate athletics. They have also distracted and in some cases destabilized the leadership of our academic institutions. They have exploited and, on occasion, even victimized players and coaches while creating a sense of cynicism on the part of the faculty and broader student body. Most significantly, big-time college sports have threatened the integrity and reputation of our universities, exposing us to hypocrisy, corruption, and scandal that all too frequently accompany activities driven primarily by commercial value and public visibility, (p. 1 1 )

Many frame academe’s increasing involvement in edutainment as spoiling the reputation of institutions for higher learning and as running counter to its fundamental educational mission.

Integrity of Higher Education Institutions At the core of sports reformers’ misgivings about sports commercialism, the academy’s relationship with professional sports and its increasing involvement in the entertainment business are their profound concerns regarding erosions to the very integrity of higher education institutions. William C. Dowling (2000), Rutgers Professor of English and cofounder of TDG, cogently articulated this concern:

. . . when big-time college sports is the issue . . . commercial culture . . . represents a

symbolic form of “ownership,” a powerful reassuring sign that one’s university … is not an outpost or citadel controlled by an alien “higher” culture of ideas or knowl-

edge. The fans who view the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on television are watching not only a football game but a demonstration that the same culture that generated the Jerry Springer Show and cable-TV wrestling has been able to perpetuate, and to hollow out from within, the university as an institution, (p. 33)

Academic scandals within athletic departments have become commonplace. Minnesota, Tennessee, LSU, Texas Tech, Drake, Georgia, Marshall, Ohio State, St. Bonaventure, Alabama, and most recently Auburn, to name but a few, have had their institutional

images tarnished by blatant cases of cheating by athletes with the assistance of tutors, academic support services, and faculty. One University of Minnesota tutor admitted to

having written 400 papers in the 1990s for 20 men’s basketball players. Echoing Goffman’s

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(1963:4) classification of individuals as either “discredited” or “discreditable” sports reformers contend that for every institution that gets caught cheating there are scores more that have yet to be caught. They further point out that universities provide “Mickey Mouse classes,” “shadow curricula,” and surrogate paper writers for athletes and, in extreme cases, engage in transcript fraud to keep an athlete eligible.

Faculty and administrators who have had the courage to blow the whistle on aca- demic fraud within athletic departments have frequently paid a heavy price for their attempts to protect and preserve their institutions’ integrity. Former University of Ten- nessee English Professor Linda Bensel-Myers incurred substantial personal and profes- sional costs when she blew the whistle on a massive cheating scam there. Subsequently, she endured a constant harassment by administrators, faculty, students, boosters, and coaches. Her office was broken into. And she was the target of numerous death threats, one of which was seen as serious enough to lead her to flee with her children to a moun- tain hideaway for several days. Boosters saw to it that her husband of 22 years was fired from his private-sector job as an environmental auditor. She fought this harassment for years but eventually fled to the University of Denver. The experience led her to become heavily involved in the national college sports reform movement. She cofounded TDG and served three years as its executive director.

David Ridpath, former Assistant Athletic Director at Marshall University, suffered a similar fate. He discovered that a professor at Marshall was distributing tests to the foot- ball players before the test date. His reward for reporting the academic shenanigans was demotion, harassment, and ridicule. He eventually fled to Mississippi State and now serves as TDG’s director.

Some have fared even worse than Professors Bensel-Meyers and Ridpath. Bill Swan, President and Chief Executive Officer of First Niagara Financial Group and Chairman of St. Bonaventure University’s Board of Trustees, committed suicide in August 2003. He had been trying to guide St. Bonaventure through a men’s basketball scandal centered on the late-season determination that the team had an ineligible player – a junior college transferee who had been admitted and allowed to play with a welding certificate rather than an associate’s degree. Swan engineered the departure of the school’s president, ath- letics director, and coaching staff, but some suggested that he could have prevented all this had he become involved earlier (Lieber 2003).

Exploitation of Athletes According to many sports reformers, universities are not the only victims of the college sports/edutainment industry. The athletes themselves are also portrayed as victims. Sports reformer Linda Bensel-Meyers’ framing is illustrative:

… as sickening as it is to see women on campus exploited, academic programs deval- ued, increasingly scarce resources diverted to athletics and the integrity of institutions damaged, the greatest reason for dismantling the intercollegiate athletics industry is to end the abuse of the athletes themselves. They are brought to this educational place to play and then they don’t get equal access to education. They are there purely for business interests. They are the most exploited of all. (Carman 2004: IB)

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Psychologist Bruce Svare (2004), founder and Director of the National Institute for Sports Reform, refers to college athletes as “exploited mercenaries” (p. 179).

Some sports sociologists such as Georgia Professor and former Drake Executive Committee member Billy Hawkins (2000) call the current system of intercollegiate ath- letics the “new plantation.”13 In the high-profile sports such as football and basketball, athletes perform for a relatively small compensation. Stephen Ukeiley’s (1996) Seton Hall Journal of Sport and Law article title says it all: “No Salary, No Union, No Collective Bar- gaining, Scholarship Athletes Are an Employer’s Dream Come True.” David Meggyesy (2000) makes a similar argument, noting that “[t]he primary contradictions within the NCAA and, in particular, its top revenue producing schools is that, on one hand the ama- teur rules apply to the athletes and on the other, the rules of the market apply to the school’s athletic departments with the big exception being their labor costs” (p. 25). Every time an athlete walks out on the playing or practice field/court, he/she risks a serious injury. Meanwhile, college athletes, who have become walking billboards for sports apparel corporations and universities, are prohibited by NCAA rules from having a share in the profits.

Sports reform activists not only express concern for the economic and physical exploitation of athletes; they also point out that the athletes are cheated out of the one

thing they were promised in return for their athletic performance: a college education. Pius Kamau (2004), a surgeon and a commentator on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” frames it this way:

Colleges that recruit young men with the expressed objective of educating them have no such intention. Colleges rob athletes: first, by not educating them; and second, by not sharing with them a portion of the money they bring into college budgets. The substitute is liquor and easy sex. And the ultimate modern intoxicant – a gladiator’s adult adulation, (p. 1C) What is the basis of the reformers’ claims that college athletes are being deprived of an

education? The answer is complicated but consistent. TDG contends that there’s a sys- temic problem of athletes being steered into easy majors and easy courses taught by “jock sniffing” professors, who hide behind the Buckley Amendment (The Family Educational

Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA]) to avoid revealing the clustering of athletes and class

aggregate grade point averages (GPAs). This hidden or “phony jock curriculum” is

designed for the sole purpose of keeping athletes barely eligible.14 A frequently told joke heard within sports reformer circles: “How many college athletes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one, but the athlete receives three credit hours for it.”

Reformers also charge that academic support services for athletes tend to be little more than “eligibility mills” designed and administered to maintain an athlete’s eligibil- ity rather than to provide him/her with the tools to get the most out of available educa- tional opportunities. Reformers claim that athletes are frequently not permitted to

major in some subjects or to take some courses because of conflicts with practices. Moreover, practices, team meetings, conditioning, medical treatments, public appear- ances, interviews, community-service obligations, travel, and contests leave little time for academics. NCAA rules state that an athlete is not permitted to devote more than 20

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hours per week to their sport. However, virtually everyone with whom I spoke – from academic support staff to athletic directors to athletes to sports reformers – agree that the NCAA 20-hour rule is universally ignored. As one interviewee put it, the “twenty hours are. . . burned up by Wednesday afternoon.” Reform leader Jon Ericson summa- rizes the problem:

At the heart of the academic corruption problem in college sports is the lie that a uni- versity can enroll an athlete who is woefully under-prepared for higher education, allow him to miss numerous classes, come tired to many others, work 30 hours a week in a demanding and distracting business, spend millions of dollars to hire graduate assistants to sit in classes and take notes for him, surround him with tutors who select courses, help with research and writing papers, place these helpers in athletic depart- ments because they (the athletes) won’t go to the tutors if they have to walk up to cam- pus, engage in special pleading for him with his professors, and say that we provide this athlete with a college education. (Quoted in Svare 2003:7) Sociological studies of the relationship between academic support systems and col-

lege athletes’ scholarly performances seem to support the reformers’ claims. In their rich, ethnographic examination of role engulfment experienced by basketball players at Tulsa University 20 years ago, Patricia and Peter Adler (1991) observed that athletes “were purposely . . . academically cushioned their first semester by being placed in the classes of professors known as ‘friends of the program’

” (p. 67). Angela Yancik’s (2000)

dissertation reaches similar conclusions. Her ethnography of the academic advising and tutoring of athletes at the University of Arizona also documented that tutors wrote papers for athletes and engaged in other shenanigans to help maintain athletes’ eligibility.

Reformers further point out that the support system provided for athletes does more than deprive them of their opportunities for a quality education. It also impedes their capacity to function in today’s world. According to reformer John Gerdy (2002), “Such a controlled, authoritative environment hinders an athlete’s ability to think and act for himself” (p. 71). To illustrate, Gerdy (2002) tells the story of a student athlete wearing the same clothes three days in a row. The athlete explained that when he returned home from a trip to visit relatives the airline had lost his bags. It turned out that the airline had not really lost his luggage. He simply did not know that he needed to retrieve his own luggage because someone had always taken care of it for him (p. 77).

According to Robert Lipsyte ( 1995), the athlete’s encapsulated environment and priv- ileged status do more than simply contribute to his “trained incapacity” (Veblen 1914) or “learned helplessness.” It hinders their transition to adulthood.

A new American class has emerged, beyond gender, social standing or race. Call it a gladiatorial class. Families, schools, town wave twelve-year-olds through the toll- booths of life. Potential sports stars – who might bring fame and money to everyone around them – are excused from taking out the trash, from learning to read, from having to ask, “May I touch you there?” No wonder so many of them grow into con- fused sometimes self-destructive “role models” whose sexual abuse trials and drug busts have become cliches of the sport pages The truth is that most athletes are

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still conservative and obedient to authority, yet trapped in a perpetual state of adoles- cence. (Lipsyte 1995:55)

Lipsyte’s (1995) lucid analysis suggests that the social structure and culture of athletics not only victimizes athletes but puts nonathletes in harm’s way as well.

Harm to Nonathletes Sports reformers contend that athletic departments help reproduce rape cultures by con- tributing to many male athletes1 sense of entitlement and by shielding them from prose- cution. One three-year study by Crosset, Benedict, and McDonald (1995) of campus police departments and judicial affairs offices found that while male student-athletes comprise 3.3 percent of the population, they represent 19 percent of the sexual perpetra- tors and 35 percent of domestic perpetrators. A subsequent 10-year study found that ath- letes have much lower conviction rates for sexual assaults than is the case for other students (Benedict and Klein 1997).

Reformers say that it is not surprising that athletes in the high-profile sports commit a disproportionate number of sexual assaults. Universities condone and even financially support the sexploitation of women in order to recruit athletes for the edutainment industry (Benford 2005). As recent scandals at Colorado finally made public, athletic departments use women as sexual bait. Little wonder that campus women often subse- quently become the prey (cf. Martin and Hummer 1989). Athletic department recruiters enlist young, scantily dressed women with runway model looks to serve as “hostesses” or “ambassadors” to high-school boys during their recruiting visits to campus.15 The not- so-subtle message to the recruits is that this is what you will get when you come to our

university to play ball, “the idea that sex is part of the package of athletic stardom, and that somehow or another, a right of access to female bodies is just part of the deal” (Kuney 2004:1).

In addition to their concerns regarding athletics’ contributions to sustaining campus rape cultures, sports reform activists have suggested other ways that college sports harm nonathletes. They contend that universities are placing an ever-increasing financial bur- den on students (and their parents) to pay for athletics. They also argue that the quality of education available to students is declining in part because money is siphoned off from classrooms to support athletics. In his book Beer and Circus: How College Sports Is Crip- pling Undergraduate Education, Indiana English Professor Murray Sperber (2000) con- cluded that

[m]any big-time university officials, knowing that their schools cannot provide the vast majority of undergraduates with meaningful educations, try to distract and

please these consumers with ongoing entertainment in the form of big-time college sports. For all its high expenses, an intercollegiate athletics program costs far less than a quality undergraduate education, (p. 224)

Prognostic Framing As with most social movements, the college sports reform movement has developed more elaborate diagnoses than prognoses. According to reform leader Bruce Svare (2004), this

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is not surprising given how formidable the reform task is. He suggests that perhaps “we can reform sports with some concerted changes – a national uprising of sorts. But this could require a cultural revolution comparable to tearing down the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism” (p. 28). Faculty members have recently established two organizations dedicated to the task of developing solutions and fashioning strategies for achieving col- lege sports reforms: TDG and COIA. While the two organizations share many of the con- cerns outlined above regarding the downside of college sports, they have advocated different paths to effecting change.

TDG’s Reforms Efforts In 1999, Jon Ericson, former Provost of Drake University, brought together concerned faculty, sports journalists, and a handful of former coaches and athletic administrators to discuss the “crisis in college sports.” TDG dedicated themselves to “defending academic integrity in the face of commercialized college sport.” TDG seeks to bring about a cultural revolution from within academe’s ivy walls. Sociologist Michael Malec explains Drake’s endogamous reform focus:

. . . it’s not about the behavior of the students; it’s about the behavior of the institu- tions and the behavior of the faculty. The Drake Group calls upon the faculty and the staff of colleges and universities to reform themselves, not to reform the students, not to reform the athletic departments. Those will happen indirectly; but to reform ourselves.

As Ericson is fond of saying, “it’s a family fight.” Over the course of several national meetings, TDG members have honed down their

numerous concerns regarding college sports to a set of seven proposed reforms: 1. Athletes must maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average each semester;16 2. Institute a one-year residency requirement (i.e., no freshman eligibility) in order to participate in intercollegiate athletics; 3. Replace one-year renewable scholarships with need-based financial aid (or) with mul- tiyear athletic scholarships that extend to graduation (five years maximum); 4. Establish university policies that emphasize the importance of class attendance for all students and ensure that the scheduling of athletic contests does not conflict with class attendance; 5. Retire the term “student-athlete”;17 6. Make the location and control of academic counseling and support services for ath- letes the same as for all students; and 7. Ensure that universities provide accountability of trustees, administrators, and faculty by public disclosure of such things as a student’s academic major, academic adviser, courses listed by academic major, general education requirements, and electives, course GPA, and instructor.

From the outset, disclosure has been a cornerstone of TDG’s proposed reforms. Drakes seek to lift the veil of secrecy that allows athletic departments, administrators, and faculty “friends of the program” to conceal academic fraud. Drake founder Ericson argues that “Until we disclose the courses athletes take, all reforms are tinkering. We

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think disclosure by Enron is good and disclosure by the Catholic Church is good. Faculty are great for demanding disclosure for everybody but themselves.” In a recent Wisconsin Law Review article, Salzwedel and Ericson (2003) offer their rationale for changing FERPA:

Without disclosure, allegations of academic impropriety usually consist of rumor, innuendo and gossip directed toward the athlete. With disclosure, the focus will not be on … athletes who are subjected to questions about their academic records. The focus will be on the faculty who taught those courses, and on the

faculty and administrators at every institution who are complicit in the corrup- tion, (p. 1112)

Current Executive Director Ridpath succinctly summed up TDG’s proposed reforms: “We want to bring back academic integrity and actually have college students playing col-

lege sports.” Ironically, TDG has devoted relatively little time working on college campuses and

mobilizing faculty. Instead, TDG devotes the bulk of its efforts in lobbying members of

Congress, in pursuing court cases on behalf of whistle blowers, and in seeking to affect the

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public’s perceptions of college sports. TDG has organized demonstrations at the NCAA Final Four Men’s Basketball Championships. They have also organized annual academic conferences dealing with college sports reform issues. Although TDG seeks to return authority to faculty by implementing and practicing genuine shared governance, early on, it abandoned the strategy of working through faculty senates on campuses. Moreover, from its founding meeting, it has framed the NCAA as the opposition and refuses to work with them. TDG’s primary strategy remains one of edification or, in the words of Ericson, “truth telling.”

COIA Reform Efforts By contrast, COIA was organized in 2002 through faculty senates and works closely with the NCAA and with other college sports establishment groups. COIA cofounder and Indiana University Professor Bob Eno explains the logic behind their strategy: “We thought the best thing to do was to try to make every effort to mobilize the forces that actually control athletics to see whether or not they could actually participate in reform. . . .” Their Web site’s home page elaborates on their reform philosophy and strategy:

The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) is an alliance of 52 Division IA university faculty senates whose aim is to promote comprehensive reform of inter- collegiate sports. The need for reform of intercollegiate athletics is serious and requires immediate and focused action. COIA has emerged as a faculty voice on a variety of issues related to the overall problems facing intercollegiate sports. These issues include but are not limited to academic integrity, athlete welfare, governance of athletics at the school and conference level, finances, and commercialization. Some of these issues may be resolved quickly, but others may require as much as a decade. With a comprehensive plan, however, the ineffectiveness of the piecemeal approach of the past can be avoided. It is our hope that in conversation with other groups and individuals – such as the NCAA, the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Knight Commission, and university presidents – COIA can contribute to a plan of action for the coming decade ( Over the past four years, COIA has issued a set of reports, documents that specify

problems in college sports, and identified solutions. They seek to implement these “best practices,” as they prefer to call them, through faculty senates on their member campuses and by working closely with the NCAA on reforming its policies and procedures. In December 2005, COIA submitted a report to the NCAA Presidential Task Force contain- ing 47 specific reform recommendations encompassing fiscal responsibility, financial issues concerning coaching staffs, presidential leadership, commercialization, confer- ences and national competitions, integration of athletics into the life of the campus, and admissions and diversity. If implemented, the reforms could contribute to reducing the corruption in college sports. But not surprisingly, given the target audience (NCAA), few of the recommendations would threaten the existing structure of relations in the college sport/edutainment industry.

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Revolution or Reform? COIA and TDG members have occasionally collaborated on seeking reforms. Yet a ten- sion exists between the two, in part because of differences in the scope of change advo- cated but more often regarding strategies, particularly with respect to the way the two groups frame sports reform. Professor Steve Estes, who has been active in both COIA and TDG, commented on the strategic differences between the two organizations:

So I think Drake is, by being so far out there on the left, it’s shaping the dialogue, it’s starting to control the terms in the debate. Any issue that comes up Drake group members are contacted. That’s very interesting that that’s happened. So I’m for the Drake group in a lot of these ways, but in terms of what Drake group members say that they want to do to make these changes, I’m much more pragmatic than that. I think that faculty senates, faculty athletic representatives, that’s where the change is actually going to have to occur.

UT Business Professor and COIA member Michael Granof also explained the difference between the two groups, noting that “The Drake Group basically is for far more radical change. Whereas we sort of accept the existence of athletics, as where . . . [The Drake Group is] willing to take more of a protest approach, we’ve been working with the estab- lishment.” He later elaborated on COIA’s strategy:

I mean for better or for worse, we’re working with the NCAA and trying to work within their framework. So we’re not going to revolutionize athletics. I think at best we can, and I think we have been successful you know, at instituting some reforms. At the same time, I think athletics may be going one step forward and two steps back- ward, but at least we’re responsible for the occasional step forward. The two reform groups differ regarding who has, and should have, the power to reform

athletics on campuses. University of Houston sociologist and COIA member Joe Kotarba reiterated Granof ‘s position and added that “[w]e, COIA in general, are very supportive of the presidents trying to wrestle some of their authority from athletic directors. We think the president should be on top of the system.” In contrast, Drake members argue that since 1883, university presidents have failed to institute any “genuine reforms” in college sports and should not be counted on today to stray from maintaining the status quo. Ellen Stau- rowsky, Drake cofounder and Ithaca College Professor of Sport Science, argued that the faculty should neither count on presidents nor the NCAA to reform college sports:

Shared faculty governance happens in faculty bodies, not in athletic associations. There is no power to be had in the NCAA in terms of faculty governance. That’s not where it happens. It happens on individual campuses. It happens within faculty bod- ies. It does not happen within the NCAA. Shared faculty governance is not going to happen in an economic cartel. Cartels do not work that way.

TDG maintains that the faculty, by virtue of the fact that they are in charge of their class- rooms, are the frontline soldiers in the battle to restore academic integrity. Sociologist and Drake cofounder Allen Sack (2004) points out that faculty have more power than we realize:

Although most faculty lack the power and expertise to influence the day-to-day man-

agement of intercollegiate sports, they do have considerable control over terrain that

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is absolutely vital for the success of any athletics program. What they control are their classrooms. It is faculty who develop curricula, establish and enforce academic stan- dards, control grading systems and sign petitions for graduation. These processes can be circumvented by higher-level administrators, but if publicly disclosed, such fraud can have profound negative consequences for the individuals and institutions involved.

Whether or not the sports reform movement will be able to mobilize faculty to exert that power remains to be seen.


What thrills us – the pulsing arenas and the Cinderella upsets, the buzzer beaters and the cheerleaders, and the painted faces and the sheer joy of energy unleashed – comes from the game itself. It does not come from the sewer of greedy colleges, con-man coaches, and college kids who can do everything with a basketball but read its label. (Lipsyte 2004:2)

My mostly descriptive overview of one wing of today’s college sports reform movement begs more questions than it answers. As I contemplate where to go with this project, a plethora of sociological questions comes immediately to mind. One question warranting our attention is what the linkages among the various problems – academic fraud, exploited athletes, violence against women, scapegoating of Title IX – that sports reform- ers have identified are. As the foregoing analysis suggests, these problems are sociologi- cally interconnected and are affected by some of the same social forces including commercialization, commodification, multiple oppressions, and so forth. A second ques- tion worthy of attention is how public problems get constructed and reconstructed within the context of such a complex marketplace. Sports reformers must simultaneously appeal to multiple audiences with uncommon interests. We might also ask what factors have prompted such an active cycle of sports reform. Why now? Why do a majority of the U.S. citizens believe that universities “place too much emphasis on athletics” (Greenberg 2003) and that intercollegiate athletics are “out of control” (Harris 1989)? Finally, why has virtually every sports reform movement failed to elicit the desired changes? Why is this system so impervious to change? Clearly, for those interested in the sociology of college sports reform, the research agenda is immense.


I wish to thank Melissa Hicks for her competent assistance with this research, my col- leagues from the Department of Sociology at SIUC for their helpful comments and sug- gestions, Dave Snow for his mentorship and sustained dialogue regarding social movements, the late Louis A. Zurcher for his early encouragement and inspiration, Michelle Hughes Miller for her guidance, feedback, and support, cartoonist Mark Parisi for pointing out the comedy in the tragedy of college sports, and the sports reformers interviewed and/or cited for their participation in this project as well as for their

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courageous efforts to reform intercollegiate athletics. The cartoons are copyrighted by Mark Parisi and are printed with permission.


‘For a few recent treatises on what’s wrong with college sports, see Telander (1989), Sperber (1990, 1998, 2000), Adler and Adler ( 1991 ), Thelin (1994), Byers (1995), Benedict (1997), Sack and Stau- rowsky (1998), Zimbalist (1999), Duderstadt (2000), Feinstein (2000), Hawkins (2000), Shulman and Bowen (2001), Gerdy (2002), Bowen and Levin (2003), and Svare (2004). For a few counter- perspectives suggesting the benefits of the marriage between athletics and academics, see McCormick and Tinsley (1987), Long and Caudill ( 1991 ), Grimes and Chressanthis ( 1994), Toma and Cross (1998), Goff (2000), and Rishe (2003). 2Actually, I earned letters in football and track in 1968 at Tuscaloosa County High School (Northport, Alabama). 3For discussions of “opportunistic research,” see Reimer (1977) and Lofland et al. (2006). 4Tom Osborne served as the UNL’s head football coach from 1973 through 1997. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001 from Nebraska’s third congressional district. 5FERPA precludes me from revealing the identities of the students who cheated. But as Jon Ericson, TDG’s founder and first executive director, frequently points out, FERPA does not protect univer- sity officials who refused to do anything about the reported academic dishonesty. 6Indicating that the students who committed academic dishonesty also committed felonies does not narrow down their identity given that eight Nebraska football players were charged or con- victed of violent crimes during the 1994 and 1995 seasons alone (Benedict 1997). Several others were accused of violent crimes during this period but were not charged for various reasons. 7In one instance, Tom Osborne locked a gun in his drawer for several days – a gun he knew the

police were looking for in connection with a drive-by shooting committed by one of his players (Farber 1995; Benedict 1997). 8In September 2000, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights began investigating a Title IX complaint regarding the lack of facilities for the softball program and athletes. In order to

get the OCR off their backs, SIUC eventually agreed to build a softball facility but claimed that

they had planned to build it all along. Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Nancy Bandy publicly questioned whether or not SIUC ever intended to build the facility, suggesting that the

long-standing neglect of women’s athletics vis-a-vis men’s programs was discriminatory (Cusick 2000). Shortly thereafter, SIUC terminated Ms. Bandy, who had been a strong advocate for women athletes at SIUC for several years. 9At the September 8, 2005 Board of Trustees meeting, SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler introduced a 350-500 million-dollar plan that he dubbed as “Saluki Way.” The plan called for a new football stadium, an indoor practice facility, other athletic department improvements, and a new admin- istrative building (“student support services”). When faculty protested that the initial plan lacked

any upgrades to the academic side of the campus, Wendler added a classroom building to Saluki

Way. A few weeks later, the classroom building was moved to the back of the construction line at the orders of SIU President Glenn Poshard. Poshard told me, in my role as Faculty Senate presi- dent, that the Board of Trustees pressured him to prioritize the other buildings. Students protested the dramatic fee increases instituted to pay for floating bonds to construct Saluki Way.

10My conclusions regarding the lack of shared governance at SIUC are derived from my experiences and observations throughout the six years I served on the Faculty Senate, including a term as vice

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president (2003-2004) and a term as president (2005-2006). They are also based on comparisons of shared governance at other Illinois institutions I gleaned from attending the Council of Illinois University Senates on two occasions.

llSIUC’s Human Subjects Committee approved the project. All formal interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Given the public nature of the reformers’ activities and claims, I informed each interviewee that I would not attempt to disguise her/his identity. All were given the opportunity to speak confidentially on any topics. Only two requested that portions of their interviews be kept out of the record, requests that I, of course, honored.

12Professor Michael Granof credits use of this term in reference to athletic departments’ building aspirations to UT Classics Professor Karl Galinsky.

13Hawkins (2000) work focuses on the “internal colonization of Black student-athletes.” Racial exploitation and discrimination associated with contemporary college sports are not addressed in the current article in part because the sports reform groups analyzed in this project have for the most part neglected this topic.

14For example, consider the following excerpts from the 20-question final exam that former Assis- tant Basketball Coach Jim Harrick, Jr. gave to students in his Coaching Principles & Strategies of Basketball course (PEDS 3912) in the fall of 2001 at the University of Georgia: 1. How many goals are on a basketball court? a. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4 2. How many players are allowed to play at one time on any one team in a regulation game? a. 2 b. 3 c. 4 d. 5 5. How many halves are in a college basketball game? a. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4 8. How many points does a three-point field goal account for in a Basketball Game? a. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d.4 1 7. Diagram the half-court line. When I presented this exam to students in one of my undergraduate classes, three athletes indi- cated that SIUC offers a similar course to all athletes.

15In the early 1990s, the UNL referred to the recruiting bait they employed as “Husker Honeys.” When a few faculty members protested, the athletic department changed the name to “Husker Hostesses” and again later to “Husker Ambassadors.” Of course, their job description did not change. Many universities including Texas (“Texas Angels”), Texas A&M (“Aggie Hostesses”), University of Colorado (“Ambassadors”), University of North Texas (“Eagle Angels”), University of Nevada-Reno (“Hostesses” and “VIPS”), and University of Arizona (“Arizona Angels”) feature photos of their hostesses in their preseason football media guides.

16Under current NCAA regulations, an athlete may maintain less than a 2.0 GPA and still participate in intercollegiate sports in his/her freshman year.

17TDG members contend that the term “student-athlete” was created to deceive and that it contin- ues to deflect attention from the lived experiences and actual status of most college athletes. Walter Byers (1995), who headed the NCAA from 1952 to 1987, explained in his memoir Unsportsman- like Conduct that he coined the term “student-athlete” to deflect attention by state industrial com- missions and courts away from the notion that college athletes should be considered employees, and thus subject to workmen’s compensation.


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The A Game American Association of University Professors (AAUP) American Council on Education (ACE) Association of Governing Boards (AGB) Center for the Study of Sport in Society Citizenship Through Sports Alliance (CTSA) Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) College Athletes Association (CAC) College Sport Project College Sports Council (CSC) The Drake Group (TDG) [Formerly National Alliance for College Athletic Reform (NAFCAR)] Faculty Athletics Representatives Association (FARA) Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Institute for International Sport (IIS) Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine (IPSM) Institute for Study of Youth Sports Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Mendelson Center for Sports, Character and Community National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletes (N4A) National Coalition Against Violent Athletes (NCAVA) National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA)

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The College Sports Reform Movement Robert D. Benford

National Institute for Sports Reform (NISR) National Student-Athletes Rights Movement Paul Robeson Research Center for Academic and Athletic Prowess RE. 4 Life Sports Leadership Institute Positive Coaching Alliance Rutgers 1000 Sports Ethics Institute (SEI) Women’s Sports Foundation

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  • Article Contents
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  • Issue Table of Contents
    • The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Winter, 2007), pp. 1-163
      • Front Matter
      • Presidential Address
        • The College Sports Reform Movement: Reframing the “Edutainment” Industry [pp. 1-28]
      • Gender, Marriage, and Bonding
        • Do Men “Need” a Spouse More than Women?: Perceptions of the Importance of Marriage for Men and Women [pp. 29-46]
        • Folk Models of Dyadic Male Bonds in Israeli Culture [pp. 47-72]
      • Religion: Agency and Negotiation
        • Sociological Explorations: What Is Religious Agency? [pp. 73-92]
        • Negotiating Continuity: Family and Religious Socialization for Second-Generation Asian Americans [pp. 93-118]
      • Capitalism and Organizational Change
        • Internal and External Sources of Organizational Change: Corporate Form and the Banking Industry [pp. 119-140]
        • University Administrators, Agricultural Biotechnology, and Academic Capitalism: Defining the Public Good to Promote University-Industry Relationships [pp. 141-163]
      • Back Matter

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