The world of college athletics today is certainly a far cry from what it was many years ago, and nobody seems to share that sentiment more than former Ohio State University president Brit Kirwan, who currently serves as Chancellor Emeritus for the University System of Maryland.
Speaking to Tom Knox of Columbus Business First, Kirwan stated that the state of such has gotten to the point where universities in the power conferences have started giving athletics priority over academics and having a school that is more than just its sports programs.
“We’ve reached the point where, at least at the highest levels – the Bowl Championship Series – these conferences can generate more revenue than institutions can spend intelligently,” he told the publication. “As a result, we see these outrageous salaries for coaches and facilities that are way beyond what can be built by the institution for other activities.”
University presidents and governing boards “have lost control of intercollegiate athletics and it’s, I fear, compromising the integrity of higher education, at least as it’s played in the top division,” he said.
Now, granted, in his current position, Kirwan is arguably part of the problem, and he owns that. He oversaw Maryland’s move to the Big Ten and applauded it due to Maryland’s academic merits, but also admitted that “sports are “the one area of a university where presidents are not really in control.”
Kirwan elaborated further:
“There’s sort of the façade of their being in control, but can you imagine a president of a big-time football power announcing they were going to de-emphasize intercollegiate athletics and concentrate more resources on academics?” he said. “The board would get upset. The legislature would get upset. Alumni would get upset. They couldn’t handle it.”
I hate to say it, but Kirwan is absolutely right.
The state of college athletics has gotten to the point today where university presidents face mounting pressures from alumni, state government, sponsors and boosters to put a good team out on the field or court, with academics taking a back seat.
Take LSU, for example. The State of Louisiana is trying to figure out where it will find the money to fund its universities for the foreseeable future, and LSU just spent $85 million on a lazy river pool, a sun deck and other recreational luxuries despite the university facing a multimillion dollar budget cut as well as bankruptcy. The reason for building all of that? To attract new recruits and faculty.
Thus, though college athletics have become a big part of everyday life over a certain period of the year and can be entertaining to take in, Kirwan’s words should not be ignored. Though we love college sports, it is hard to argue that they do in fact often come at the expense of something greater.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports