This question was prompted by another post. Is there any other nation in the world that spends as much money on intercollegiate sports programs as the U. S.? (I am not talking about spending on intramural sports.) Is the money well spent, especially during a time of ever-increasing tuition costs? Do colleges in other nations even have intercollegiate athletic programs? Are Cambridge and Oxford inferior to American universities because they apparently lack such programs?
They call the major sports "revenue sports" for a reason. They not only pay for themselves, they bring in more money for other, smaller sports. And there is something to the NCAA's campaign about student-athletes, where they emphasize the "student" side of the equation. And, like it or not, athletics programs are big recruiting tools. On the other hand, many institutions put the cart before the horse when it comes to athletics, compromising their academic and even ethical standards to pursue athletic success, precisely because of the money involved.
I also tend to side with the arguments that show the business of sports. It is a little sickening, the way the US society has placed too much emphasis and money on sports. The salaries of professional athletes is pretty sickening. The way we raise athletes to almost god-like status, again, sickening.
But I'm not sure we can blame colleges for any of this. In fact, I think it would financially imprudent of a college to take significant sums of money away from a successful sports program. Like post #5 stated, colleges are likely already spending only percentages of the money that the sporting programs bring in back on that individual sport (football, men's basketball).
I would like to see priorities shifted, with much more funding being devoted to academics.
I sympathize with the previous post and agree that there are student-athletes who would not be able to obtain further education without the support of athletic scholarships, but I am concerned about how many of those individuals actually obtain a valid, usable-after-graduation education with the support of that funding.
I guess that I am going to be taking the other side on this discussion. Many students would not be able to attend college without the support and scholarship money provided by the athletics departments of colleges and universities. So, I think that the sports programs are important and the money they spend (while not all of it) is appropriate.
I have never liked the idea of colleges sponsoring sports as an academic option. Colleges should be for learning, not for athletics, although I am not opposed to a general athletics program in itself. Instead, I think there should be colleges that are specifically designated for sports, instead of academic topics. However, the logistics of that plan could be impossible; perhaps sports leagues could sponsor training camps and/or other programs outside the educational field?
Many American colleges absolutely put too much emphasis on their sports programs. Much of the money raised comes from outside funding, however, so it often has little effect on scholastic spending. My alma mater, the University of Florida, spent nearly $25 million on its football program alone last year; of course, profits (primarily from ticket sales and donations) reached $44+ million.
I would agree with your idea that the US does devote too much money on sports programmes. This is something that, in my opinion, could be much more wisely devoted to research or scholarships to give people from less well-off backgrounds greater opportunities through gaining a degree. The way in which so many universities devote so much money and resources to their sports teams seems to be somewhat frivolous, as you can still have sports teams without the kind of money that the average university spends on them.
For the most part, colleges in other countries don't have much in the way of intercollegiate sports. There's nowhere else in the world that does it like we do.
As far as whether ours is well-spent... It hardly seems like it could be. It seems to me that we spend horrendous amounts of money essentially creating semi-pro teams that "represent" a given university. Then we have the "nonrevenue" sports that no one really bothers to watch. So who is really gaining from this?
Anyway, here's an NYT article on the subject, in case you didn't see it...