11 June 2010

NCAA punishes USC football and basketball

The University of Southern California, my alma mater (for my useless Ph.D.), has, according to an article in today's Inside Higher Ed, been "severely punished....for improper commercial dealings involving Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush and basketball standout O.J. Mayo." It all sounds pretty slimy, if unfortunately par for the course. I won't summarize the case here; read the IHE report, which is concise and clear.

The deep institutional integration of sports (and its adjuncts, such as marching bands, cheerleaders, expensive stadiums, and so on) into higher education in the United States is certainly one of the more bizarre aspects of the system here.  Growing up in the United States, you take this entirely for granted, until, perhaps, you realize that no other university system in the world seems to do this (at least so far as I know).  And then you begin to wonder why the budget for your school's marching band is bigger than the budget for its School of Music, or why the salary of the football coach is, oh (let's be conservative here) say, thirty times your salary as a classroom teacher and even though you are (of course you are, because the job description required it!) a world-class scholar in your field.

The traditional justification for college sports is that they are crucial to money-raising from alumni, but I have read (I don't have references to hand) that this rationale is dubious at best, and quite likely simply untrue, at least when it comes to raising money for a university's educational function.

Personally, I always silently chuckle whenever USC (or LSU, for that matter, where I briefly worked for a laughably low salary) loses a big game.  Or even a small one.

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