Monday, September 28, 2009

Political Correctness: College Sports as a Litmus Test

I and most others who use the term "politically correct" probably have different definitions. For me it is a default term that allows me to escape using "left" or liberal because the groups I am referring to are neither. It is more or less a way to capture the anti-intellectualism of some faculty for whom the agenda is more important than truth and legitimate scholarship. The causes are usually about race, gender, sexual orientation and, for a much smaller group,class and poverty.

I have heard little about it lately but when the PCs are looking for a an example of racial injustice they skip right over college football and basketball. The true economic exploitation of mostly African American athletes could not be more clearer. A now-dated survey but the money made by a University from a good to superior athlete at $500,000 and this was before today's TV contracts and mass sales of player related merchandise. The NCAA argues that it cannot pay players because it would endanger parity and the attractiveness of the product. That is a joke. If the NCAA were actually interested in parity, just announce a budget limit for all schools in each division. Let them spend it how they like, including on players.

What worries me most is where the money goes that is made on the back of toiling young men in the middle of summer and into the fall. Here my facts are fuzzy but I think some may go to already wealthy coaches, and some to support sports where the fan interest is so low that the sports could not exist without the forced subsidization from the players. These subsidized sports are probably for men and women but increasingly I wonder if it goes to women's sports. My school has a beautiful softball field and a brand spanking new women's lacrosse field. I go to the games and enjoy them but I seem to notice very few African Americans. I then put women's softball and women's lacrosse into google looking for photos of teams around the US. I was very hard pressed to find a black face among all the smiling faces.

Now I am wondering. Is it possible that the NCAA system of college football and basketball slavery is actually done, in part, so middle and upper class white kids can play in nice stadia with fancy uniforms? If so, how much has really changed?

The exploitation part of this I am sure of. The redistribution part I am not sure of. In any case,where are the PC's on this? If this does not raise their ire, then they are what I have always thought they are.


Anonymous said...

I would agree that money brought in by big ticket sports may go to subsidize sports that couldn't otherwise exist. I also agree that the less popular sports are probably populated largely by individuals of a certain socioeconomic status. Where I'm not sold is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of high school athletes, white, black or purple, that would give up almost anything for a spot on those 'slave-teams.' Additionally, some of the spots on those teams are filled by individuals whom may not have had a chance at a good education were it not for their athletic talents. Many of them go to school for free on athletic scholarship. So there is a bit of a trade-off.

Perhaps the system is at fault, because is does seem obvious that the bread winners in college sports are football and basketball. Maybe a requirement, a quota of sorts, should be enacted to provide a set number of spots on lacrosse or golf teams to minority or otherwise underprivileged groups?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks. Interesting points. I think the average graduation rates of football and basketball players suggests the value of the education is somewhat limited. Still it is a "way out" for some so I see your point. I guess basically I lean toward letting the market work when it comes to labor and the NCAA will not pay what would exist in a free market. As for the racial composition of the people in the "special" sports, it's not the racial composition of the participants that concerns me (tho I find it ironic) but that Black and generally lower socioeconomic class people are exploited in favor of those sports. By exploiting I mean the technical definition which is when people are not paid at a level commensurate with the profit they generate for their employers.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... The point that there is a "little bit" of a trade-off seems to embody what this blog is about - Class Bias. That is, people at the top of the pyrimid giving a little but taking a lot.

What does the University of Florida make through its football program alone per year? Maybe 50 million dollars. Yet it only gives away maybe 500,000 dollars in free education a year - most of which, if not all, could be obtained through financial aid that does not have to be re paid.

What can be said about the fact that many of the players would not otherwise had a chance at a good education if it were not for their athletic ability? First, the players have to maintain a certain gpa to remain on the team. Thus, it is entirely reasonable that had they applied themselves in high school (or junior college) they would have had a chance at good education. Second, even assuming they did not have a chance at a good education, is it still not unconscionable? Are the elites still not being granted a windfall?

Anonymous said...

Are the elites being granted a windfall? The 50 million, or whatever the figure may be, goes to benefit the university as a whole, and many if not all facets of the university share in that benefit. It is not being pocketed by a small group of people.

Ever enjoyed the atmosphere on a college gameday? If the university did not make what it did in football, the program would not be what it is because the resources would not have been there to build it. Additionally, universities will use games as a means to bring in and woo those elite alumni, to encourage donations that help the university above and beyond what it gets from the state.

I think we can agree the system isn't ideal. But what is the remedy? Should players get paid? Should admission to the games be free so as to be commensurate with the uncompensated effort of the athletes?

And let's not forget the players want to play. They don't seem mind not getting compensation other than what they currently have.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

I appreciate the comment but I wonder if you disagree with the more general point that the system is something the PCs should be up in arms about.

And, by the way, does not minding and having no choice mean the same thing? I guess it depends on how you look at it.