I read with great interest the column by Don Tortorice on rethinking college athletics. As a coach and director of athletics at a small college (Susquehanna University) for 25 years, I share many of his sentiments.
I also feel, however, that the genie is out of the bottle making major college sports a significant part of American culture. Major college sports entertain millions of fans and develop the loyalty of boosters across the university. Would Ohio State be a better university without its athletic program?
The issue of financially compensating student-athletes for their athletic commitment and performance is a complicated issue. Do we rank the worth of each team member? Do we include all sports by both men and women? Do we then negotiate contracts? Unless there is a broad base policy of compensating each athlete similarly, coaching them would become a nightmare.
I agree that most “big-time” coaches are overpaid, even higher than the presidents of the university, but the broader culture determines the value it places on the enterprise. Some major programs aren’t even under the control of the university president. When this happens, there is a major departure from the purposes of the university.
We also must recognize that the income generated by major football and basketball programs provides funding for the function of many other sports and their championships. Thousands of student-athletes benefit greatly from the largess generated at the top. Division III sports receive major funding from the NCAA as a result of this windfall.
I was happy to be in D3 where student-athletes receive financial aid like any other students. Coaching was a real pleasure because students were on your team because of their love of the sport.
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