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Volume 20 No. 42
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Well-being of college athletes secondary to spending

The NCAA describes itself as a “member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes,” but it is quite apparent that these goals are secondary to the excessive spending and commercialism spending in many Division I institutions in order to preserve and grow revenue-producing football and basketball, leaving valued Olympic sports fighting for recognition.

Sports like wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball and in some cases, soccer, which serve thousands of true student-athletes, have to keep struggling for funding as universities funnel resources into big-time semi-pro football and basketball programs. College sports should be about actual college students, not millions in TV contracts, shoe companies and boosters, yet the survival of non-revenue sports has been, in many instances, ignored.

Examples abound:

Last spring a seminar on the “future of college sports” held at Arizona State University mainly focused on football and basketball.

The Knight Foundation has never held a conference on the importance of non-revenue sports.

About 15 years ago the NCAA held a one-hour seminar on non-revenue Olympic sports at their national convention.

Big budgets and big rosters dominate. If every possible coaching and support position in football were filled, the number would exceed 25, more than the entire student squad in most other sports. It is “big business,” as I said at a 2001 NCAA Title IX seminar. No one rebutted me as the room got quiet. It appears that money generated by football and basketball is often plowed right back into those sports, sometimes bypassing the rest of campus sports programs. So much for the claimed “well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.”

The future of lifetime sports (and America’s Olympic hopes) may lay in the playing fields and courts of Division III, far from the money and glamour.

Richard M. Aronson
College Gymnastics Association
Contributing: Mike Burns, (CGA); Kathy DeBoer, (VB); Rob Kehoe (Soccer); Mike Bowen (USF)