Collegiate sports and the dark side of the university Collegiate sports and the dark side of the university

The infamous college basketball coach Bob Knight once quipped “if [college sports]isn’t a business, then General Motors is a charity.”Some college teams in America have become so synonymous with their sports, programslike Duke Basketball and Notre Dame Football that you tend to forget that they are indeed colleges.Copious amounts of dollars each year are being spent on building new arenas and stadiums for college sports teams, purchasing new equipment, hiring assistant coaches for assistant coaches and sparing no expense jet-setting teams across the country.Those millions end up being paid by taxpayers, students or parents.The reality is that the majority of people in this country cannot afford higher education.For middle to lower class families, college is a frightening financial reality, and consciously or not, the majority of parentsdo not want to pay for their child’s college education.Essentially, a student has to have rich parents or earn a scholarship to be able to afford tuition costs.According to the Global Education Report in 2005, out of the 16 leading industrializednations, America had the highest average tuition cost after government subsidization.Am I the only sane person left who finds it absurd that so many people are excluded from higher education due to its impossible price?America will never be able to claim itself again as a leader of research, development and commerce unless it can make higher education the norm rather then the burden.The August 2006 U.S Census Bureau report found that the average tuition and room and board costs at the nation’s four-year private and public colleges and universities for one complete academic yearis more than double the corresponding 1990 figure.Why is higher education so important?Because graduates with advanced degrees earn an average of $74,000 per year aftergraduation while students with only a high school diploma earn only $27,000 per year after graduation according to the Census Bureau.Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy playing ball as much as the next person. But, collegesare not minor leagues; they are academic institutions. There is no reason why private or city owned teams couldn’t fill the void if college sports teams ceased to exist.The culture of collegiate sports is draining the financial resources that could restore American academics. Money for stadiums, staff, and athletes would be better spent on grants, scholarships, and tuition cuts.Are European, or Asian, colleges spending the same amount of resources on highereducation sports teams that we are? The answer is a resounding no.Take the United Kingdom for example. Did you know that universities in Englanddon’t charge tuition? Sure, they require students to pay university fees, but the maximum fee a university can charge is capped at $5,500 per year (dependingon the conversion rate that day).I’d bet that if English schools had 50,000 capacity soccer stadiums, and a plethora of full time, fully funded sports teams,those universities would start charging tuition. What needs to happen is a re-evaluation of the University’s purpose. To what ends satisfy the profiteers of the new higher education industry? The University of Vermont is by no means one of the culprit institutions in the trend toward big sport schools, but itdoes have the symptoms of the disease.Last year a large part of the education department was cut. It’s probably no coincidence that it coincided with the parking lot renovation for the gym, or the administration’s quiet plans on building a new sports stadium to replace the simpler,and smaller Patrick Gymnasium and Gutterson Field house.Every year America is losing ground to foreign countries in business, finance, medicine, technology and respected leadership due to its poorly fundededucational system, if that means sports have to go, then so be it.So, call me what you will for saying I’d rather see more of my high school peers in college, than watch another Catamount run during March Madness.Just don’t complain when you end up losing your whitecollar position at General Motors because it was outsourced to a worker that doesn’t need a $45,000 a year base-payjobjust to cover their basic living expenses after school loan payments.But hey, at least the baseball team gets to spend spring training in Florida like theirMajor League heroes.