When Quincy Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) takes over as the new president of Huxley College in the Horse Feathers, he complains that the administration had allowed “education to interfere with football.” This is one problem that modern higher education seems to have licked, as witness the recent $2 million raise to University of Texas coach Mack Brown, undertaken simultaneously with an $8 million reduction in the budget of the College of Liberal Arts. UT students may lose the opportunity to acquire a second language, as non-tenured instructors suffer massive layoffs, but they won’t lose the opportunity to continue to enjoy a nationally ranked football team. Longhorn Football is an impressively successful business, generated over $80 million in revenue last year. The football program is regularly described by the UT administration as an autonomous, money-making enterprise, and it is in those terms that the generous salaries of athletic CEOs like Brown are justified. This underscores the Alice in Wonderland quality of the modern university: if the athletic programs are autonomous businesses, then the NCAA is nothing other than an illegal cartel designed to suppress the pay of athletic workers (aka “college athletes”). If, alternatively, college athletics are an integral part of the university’s mission, to be justified solely in terms of their contribution to the education of students, then there can be no rationale for paying coaches and trainers more than full professors -- indeed, more than the president of the University. The only ethical solution: require the coaching and training of intercollegiate athletes to be performed by amateurs, on a volunteer basis.
- January 06, 2010