College football erases racial, political divides and thrives despite poor management in some places

Ban football? Sure, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) should end its moneypit of a football program. However, it doesn’t follow that every school’s athletic program is a waste of time, resources or fails to deliver important benefits to the college campus and atmosphere.

However, that is the precise argument used by Buzz Bissinger in a piece for the May 5 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Bissinger writes, “In more than 20 years I’ve spent studying the issue, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that college football has anything do with what is presumably the primary purpose of higher education: academics. That’s because college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned.”

No academic purpose? Well, colleges have many activities for students with little to do with academics. Colleges small and large hold pizza parties, support special interest clubs, and allow religious or political organizations to function on campus. Oh, and don’t forget the ubiquitous presence of fraternities and sororities on every major university campus in the United States. These extracurricular activities build on the underlying academic function of the college environment.

These could all be distractions. But, so what?

Life is about more than work, and so too is college. Leisure has an important place. Why shouldn’t students and alumni enjoy a leisure activity that unites everyone—regardless of race, class or politics—behind the university? How often do you see people of different political parties cheer together? How often do you see race truly ignored in this country? Yet, at football games, we see all of this. Why get rid of something with such a salutary effect?

Bissinger’s answer is the demands of the global marketplace spurred by the pressures of globalization. He writes, “Football only provides the thickest layer of distraction in an atmosphere in which colleges and universities these days are all about distraction, nursing an obsession with the social well-being of students as opposed to the obsession that they are there for the vital and single purpose of learning as much as they can to compete in the brutal realities of the global economy.”

Last time I checked, American universities are the best in the world. Even Fareed Zakaria in The Post-American World noted that U.S. universities remain the best in the globalized marketplace for turning out Ph.D.s. The world’s brightest students want to study here, and many end up living here because our universities reflect the values of American society.

Zakaria described why American universities are so different from the rest of the world, “While the American system is too lax on rigor and memorization—whether in math or poetry—it is much better at developing the critical faculties of the mind, which is what you need to succeed in life. Other educational systems teach you to take tests; the American system teaches you to think. It is surely this quality that goes some way to explaining why America produces so many entrepreneurs, inventors, and risk takers…It is America, not Japan, that produces the most Noble Prize winners.” (p. 193).

Bissinger’s also advances two additional arguments against college football, which center on the facts that too many programs lose money and that some people cheat.

These same arguments could be made against starting a new business—too many fail—or making students write research papers—it is too easy to buy one off the Internet. However, these reasons are not sufficient to end entrepreneurship or to eliminate research papers since both these efforts produce colossal gains in wealth and learning.

Just because idiots run some football programs, it does not follow that all football programs should be shuttered. Instead, focus on fixing the programs beset with poor planning and faulty funding schemes. Football thrives in the Southeastern Conference because of how proper management and passionate fans.

Bissinger takes issue with donations to athletic programs as a sign of misplaced American priorities. Bizzinger attacks Nike founder Phil Knight for giving money to build a $41.7 million academic center for the Oregon Ducks while the state deals with tuition hikes and budget cuts.

Memo to Bissinger, you give your money where you want and let the rest of America do what it wants with its own money. Phil Knight worked hard to build a business and I’m sure he knows better how to spend it than you or anyone else.

Bissinger’s arguments against football are unpersuasive. His arguments ignore the dynamic American system of higher education—that is the greatest in the world—and assumes that bad management in some places should be punished in every place. What a horrible leap to take.

For another take on Bissinger’s comments check out this post at Bama Hammer.

9 Comments

Add Yours
  1. 1
    deerheadmcgee

    Regarding Phil Knight, I’d like to add that this is a man who made a huge fortune by creating an athletic company.

    In fact, I suspect a big reason why Knight gives so much to the Oregon Athletic Department has to do with the fact that the Oregon Athletic Department gave him so much.

    The author of the Wall Street Journal article should also keep in mind that Knight donates a lot of money to academic endeavors at schools all over the country, including Stanford.

    • 4
      BamaBrando

      yeah, that guy having to pay a lot of money for doing something stupid is going to teach us all. That will show us! Thanks for teaching us about class Idiot Vol. You should really get paid to teach it, since you are so good at it. ‘Cause you know, when I think about class, I think Idiot Vol.

        • 6
          BamaBrando

          Actually you are the one who keeps talking about class, yet you expose your idiot self here, on a Bama site, on a regular basis. You showing up here and running your goober smoocher shows how much class you have. An Idiot Vol on his hated rivals website talking about class, Now that is funny! MORON! What a classy word. Is that the best your uneducated inbred little mind can throw at me?

          But you keep coming here, exposing your jealousy and hatred. It is pretty funny, and we just love seeing you cry and whine year after year. Please don’t stop proving it every day.

          But you, talking about class, now not only are you hateful and jealous, but a hypocrite as well. But thanks for reminding me how much it would suck to be you, If having class means I act like you, then I don’t want none.

  2. 8
    Hoopie

    Ol’ Buzz totally gives little credence to the concept that football revenues pay for all other sports and MOST IMORTANTLY …the schollys for those student athletes. For many kids, these schollys help get them an education that might otherwise not be possible. This helps to break poverty cycles.

    I no longer follow any pro sports. For me, following the success of student athletes is what makes the difference.

    Now …wait for it. RC will probably find some illogical and inane way to call me a racist.

  3. 9
    RC

    The fact that Hoopie is always thinking of me shows that I am 1) always on his mind and 2) I am always right. Why else would he be thinking of a counter attack?

    You and FBJ know what you have said in the past. Stop trying to deny it, it’s public record!

Comments are closed.