Tuesday, April 10, 2007

University Sports Teams

As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of The Tenured Radicals Blog. Today, she has a post about Don Imus's attack on the Rutgers women's basketball team. In the post, she also compares the Imus/Rutgers situation with the case of the Duke Lacrosse team. I recommend reading this post as it has some very sensible comments on both sexism and racism in the context of University sports. Unfortunately for the Radical, her mention of the Duke issue brought out a swarm of trolls. I hope that I do not get the same here.

However, what I would really like to know is why do Universities need sports teams? The standard answers to this kind of question usually involve vague references to things like recruiting students and prestige. I don't not find these claims too convincing.

Let me make it clear that I am not against sports on a university campus. Intramural sports, for example, are an excellent way for staff and students from different faculties and departments to get some exercise and get to know one another. As this promotes collegiality and good health, this is a good thing. What I have in mind though is things like football teams.

Universities are supposed to be places of education and research. How does a sports team promote these goals? Perhaps if a university has a 'sports studies' program, then having some teams may make some sense, but few institutions have such programs. In fact, student athletes can have a negative impact upon educational goals. Faculty are required to keep special track of their grades. If a star football player is in danger of failing a course, it is not uncommon for coaches to call the faculty members to plead their case. This is just 'grade grubbing' by proxy though.

I have tried many times to figure out the costs of university sports teams, but information is seldom available. It is the case though that coaches almost always earn a good deal more than the average faculty member. Are these sports teams self-supporting? My guess is that they are not, or at least seldom are. If this is correct, then it means that resources that could have been directed to academic goals are being spent elsewhere. Why?

If a university is concerned about recruiting, then they could use the money to offer better scholarships. If a university is concerned about 'prestige', then sports is an odd way to go about gaining this. It seems to me that hiring better faculty, who would publish more would be a better method of improving this.

There is one interesting and illustrative example of what can happen when a sports team is eliminated. On March 3, 1999, Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, elected to drop its University Football program. Apparently, the thinking was that this action would produce an outcry from the alumnae, who could then be persuaded to support the program. Unfortunately, there was no outcry!

So, I am now officially against university sports teams. They do not seem like a good way for an educational and research institutions to spend money. More importantly, such teams are also a potential source of scandals. A Google search for "college sports scandals" yields a vast array of reasons why university sports teams should be abolished.

The CP


Blogger Greg said...

Combat Philosopher,

It is not accurate to label all the posts to the Tenured Radical's blog about Imus/Duke LaCrosse as trolls. While some of the posts are indeed inflamatory, many are not. It is admirable to defend a fellow blogger but to do so with inaccurate pejoratives is not.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, most of the comments are not. Many are thoughtful or direct questionings to statements TR made and assertions that she made that have not been made anywhere else.

This is a statement directly from her post:

"Many players who were under legal drinking age spent the entire day of the incident drinking (illegal); the dancers were, it is clear, physically if perhaps not sexually assaulted; and this behavior was said to be part of a pattern of ingrained, anti-social behavior that repeatedly led to people being targeted by team members for violence, either on the streets or at team parties (and do we think that women have not been raped at Duke lacrosse team parties? that women under the influence of drugs and alcohol have not been coerced to have sex without their explicit consent? Published acounts suggest otherwise.)"

Is it trollish to point out that that statement is almost entirely factually wrong?

Is it trollish to take issue with her characterization of players not talking about the incident "in the misplaced belief that loyalty to one's friends is a higher virtue than treating people who aren't on your team with respect."?

Indeed, what is the definition of troll for Tenured Radical, or you, for that matter? Because from her update and your post, it strikingly suggests as being any dissenting viewpoint.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Joe Bingham said...

Like you, I find anonymous comments distasteful, and inflammatory ones useless.

However, you must not have read most of the comments on TR's post. In fact, her uninformed characterizations of the Duke Lax case and Prof. Johnson in particular are more troll-like than any single comment in response (some of which, I agree, were completely out of order).

I encourage you to learn more about Prof. Johnson and the Duke Lax case. There is indeed a parallel between the DL and Imus cases; both involve offensive stereotyping by the media.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll troll.

Help me understand the moral difference between what Imus said and TR's statement that "(and do we think that women have not been raped at Duke lacrosse team parties? that women under the influence of drugs and alcohol have not been coerced to have sex without their explicit consent? Published acounts suggest otherwise.)"

There are no "published accounts" supporting TR's accusation and TR can't produce any. I'm not sure I see a moral difference between calling one team "hos" and another team "rapists." Which would you rather be called?

So as long as they are white males at a private school you can say anything you want about them?

If TR can produce the "published reports," I will fully retract this post and apologize.

---Troll Hooligan

5:26 PM  
Blogger Joe Bingham said...

Mr. Hooligan is incorrect. Published media reports (especially in the News/Observer and, on a national level, in the NYT) did, in fact, suggest that rape had occurred at a lacrosse team party. Those reports, however, were based on false information and have since been refuted by extensive evidence; the problem is not that such reports did not exist, but that Ms. Potter is still ignorant of their flaws. It is simply a case of her having accepted a false story which fit her worldview.

It may be that TCP's problem is similar: it's not that he is intentionally misrepresenting the posts at TR's blog, but that he's unaware of what a troll is. For a time, I, too, thought that a troll was simly someone who commented on a blog/thread he did not regularly read; in fact, the term is more perjorative than that, and implies being offensive for the sake of being offensive, without offering substantive thought. TCP may not know about this generally accepted use of the term.

Of course, his offensive post at TR's blog, which offers no thoughts except a crudely phrased ad hominem attack on commenters, fits the definition of a troll's comment perfectly.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People on blogs reason and make judgements all the time. However, it is quite often the case that the reasoning is at times defective. Indeed, it is one of the great ironies of blogs that occasionally folks who pontificate about judgement and reasoning are most often guilty of the most elementary logical mistakes."
couldn't agree more.
how would you describe an argument which was premised on "facts" which are either wrong, or offered as facts with reckless disregard to their truth or otherwise ? And surely you would agree that unfounded innuendo is not a great argument ?

Just wondering.

In the meantime, I am interested by your suggestion that hiring faculty to publish more would help with undergraduate recruitment. Equally, your suggestion that college sports are a source of scandals. Are you seriously suggesting that scandals would go away if you banned college sports ?

Looking forward to some supporting arguments on these.


5:54 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

Dear Trolls and others,
1) May I suggest that you take a quick look at what I actually wrote, before trolling. After introducing the two topics at hand, I say,

"I recommend reading this post as it has some very sensible comments on both sexism and racism in the context of University sports."

You will notice I had nothing to say about the facts claimed about either case.

2) It is generally considered polite to comment on the post at hand (mine), not some other post elsewhere. To do otherwise is impolite and is certainly off topic.

3) (For 'greg') My comment over at the TR site was aimed at the trolls, not at all commentators. Thus, even though you claim to be a lawyer, it seems that you are guilty of the fallacy of hasty generalization. You should know that we philosophers care a great deal about quantifiers and know the perils associated with universal quantifiers.

4) (For the first anon) With respect to your final remark, I think that you should review the information available on the Argumentum ad populum fallacy.

Oh well, all this should at the very least produce a nice spike in my blog hits statistics.

The Combat Philosopher

5:59 PM  
Anonymous wayne fontes said...

While I came here to "troll" I'll answer the substance of your post.

Nearly all division one football and basketball programs make money. This money is used to subsidize the rest of the athletic programs. Almost all other college sports lose money. The majority of athletic departments lose money. I didn't research these numbers but am fairly certain they are accurate.

A high profile sports team can help a school recruit better students. Duke basketball did in the past and
Gonzaga's basketball team has done so recently. I would imagine this is a risky endeavor because a sports team's fortunes are fickle while an investment in faculty should return a predictable out come.

While I enjoy college football and basketball and don't wish them to be discontinued I see no logical reason they should exist. Colleges must admit students who otherwise wouldn't qualify. Scandals are always a factor and can involve academic fraud, financial improprieties or the behavior of the athletes.

That being said big time college sports are a fact of life at the colleges they where they are already established. Many of the Alumni would regard it as a betrayal if the teams were disbanded. I believe that college presidents fear it would effect donations from alumni.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't believe that I am incorrect.

TR made her comments today. There are no current "published reports" that would support a current statement of belief that "(and do we think that women have not been raped at Duke lacrosse team parties? that women under the influence of drugs and alcohol have not been coerced to have sex without their explicit consent?"

TR made this accusation on April 10, 2007--not 2006. Whatever the media stories (which one may or may not characterize as a "published report") said in the spring of 2006, I would challenge TR or CP to provide a report that would support making that statement in 2007.

Troll Hooligan

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

combat philosopher wrote:
"Your mouth is too full of shit!"

tell me, CP, what is the latin name for the logical fallacy which involves using foul language, and calling people names ?


8:19 AM  
Blogger Joe Bingham said...

It's ad hominem. Thus his pseudonym.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The varsity teams exist because they are a business. And like most any business they exploit the workers. OK, exploit is a loaded word. Maybe it would be better stated as 'any business trys to maximize return from personnel resources'. Pushing the students to excell on the field or gym floor only serves to fill the area seats and garner revenue from television. Futher, the varsity teams are just "farm systems" for professional leagues. More explotation.

I agree with CP in that things like intramural teams are excellent for health and community interraction. Good for well-roundedness, (or maybe preventing physical well-roundedness!) etc.

It can be argued that the students enjoy participation at the varsity level and derive their being and worth from it. It supports their world view; one that they were indoctrinated with since they were children. But what of this indoctrination? Consider reports of boorish parental behaviour where children are pushed to excell. For what purpose? Bragging rights? Better chance at banging the prom queen? My guess is that it is an organic need to support the tribal warrior mentality.

Now the question is, how do you get rid of the varsity teams? Universities are addicted to the revenue. Alumni are addicted to the emotional attachment. The only way to do it, and this is what some bloggers have aluded to during the Duke rape hoax, is to exploit scandal when it occurs or to create scandal at other times. Make the existence of the teams so politically untenable that they lose support of the entire community. The Duke men's lacrosse season was cancelled for this reason. Success! If you really want to achieve something, the ends justify the means. No rules.

CP: While you are bitching about the trolls, I would not have found your site otherwise. Sorry, but TR's post was a factual mess, on which she relied to make her argument. You did well to jump-in and get traffic on your site! Another example of the ends justifying the means!

11:56 AM  
Blogger Tenured Radical said...

Dear CP,

Isn't this wild? I actually think these people are going to all the websites on my list looking for others to spam as well. Methinks they haveth no life.
To you I say (because I have felt replying to any of htese people would simply encourage them to keep on writing: I made no claim to fact either, in anything I said. I simply assembled the news reports as information in circulation. But these are folks who are determined to be right, no matter what, even if no one is arguing with them.

They asl rad very poorly.

3:30 PM  
Blogger olddeadmeat said...

Sorry TR, you don't get off that easily.

You are correct, I was curious as to what blogs you attend, as an indicator of the shape of your thinking. You are disappointing.

I had no beef with your comments regarding Imus, but that doesn't justify the rest of your post.

From your blog:
"the dancers were, it is clear, physically if perhaps not sexually assaulted; and this behavior was said to be part of a pattern of ingrained, anti-social behavior that repeatedly led to people being targeted by team members for violence, either on the streets or at team parties (and do we think that women have not been raped at Duke lacrosse team parties?"

For you now to assert on another's blog:
"I simply assembled the news reports as information in circulation."

is breathtakingly deceptive.

Grow up - either take responsibility for your words and back them up or else admit you made a mistake.

You may dislike collegiate sports, but does that justify such a sweeping statement? For clarity, is it because it was at Duke, it was a Lacrosse team or because it was a party attended by males that would justify your insinuation that women have been raped at Duke Lacrosse parties?

Or do you have specific evidence to cite?

CP, I actually find myself in agreement with the bulk of your post - at the very least, it appears that the bulk of the benefit(money) accrues to a very few, relative to the student body of any university as a whole.

9:57 PM  
Blogger The Combat Philosopher said...

If you wish to comment on the TR, please do not do it here. There is another place for that.

Thanks for your comments on my post. However, I am puzzled. Why does your blogger profile list no blog associated with your id?

The CP

11:08 PM  
Blogger olddeadmeat said...


Fair enough.

I consider blogging periodically but prefer discussion. Frankly, my thinking is sharper when there is someone who may challenge it.

Using a blogger profile at least gives folks a tiny bit of background as to the speaker.

Am still perusing your blog, potentially more to come,

Regards, ODM

7:52 AM  
Blogger Horace said...

Another actual response to your post: much belatedly.

While I am no expert on the history of sports at institutions of higher ed, they were in the Victorian era in England considered a crucial part of a young man's education, where the values of teamwork, honestly, integrity, etc. were as important if not more important to the training of a young gentleman than the Classics.

If you really wanted to pursue this history, read Tom Brown's School Days or even Cardinal Newman's The Idea of the University. In the former, a speech by the rugby captain (at Rugby, no less) to his team stands at the pinnacle of the novel, and is often cited as illustrative of Victorian conceptions of the function of the university as a site for moral training.

10:10 PM  

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