Sport+Power+Society+CH+12 (1)

Sport+Power+Society+CH+12 (1) - mUOE, _Zm% $0694 m voémn...

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Unformatted text preview: mUOE, _Zm% $0694 m voémn ma mOQmQ ECjOZm >ZU minujflmm > wmaqmfi <<wmj§mmoj m3 093 533 m @33 >5me mo 9% , Emmafimfi vwmmm > gnwdvfl. om "rm Hanan—E mean» 9.96 t X?“ Chapter l2 THE GAME OF LIFE Taking Stock James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen In this excerpt from The Game oszfe: College Sports and Educational Values, James L. Shnl~ man and William G. Bowen examine the relationship between collegiate and athletic cul— ture in the United States. Using survey data from 90,000 undergraduate students who entered thirty digerent colleges in 1951, 1976, and 1989, the authors were able to assess the changing relationship between sports and academics on various types of college camm puses (especially the differences between Division {A and other NCAA divisions and be— tween large public universities and small liberal arts colleges). Their work is notable for its use of a neowinstitutional perspective, which examines as fully as possible all the major ac— tors (students, alumni, boosters, corporate media, high schools, and the like) that impinge on the educational and athletics organizations as they make decisions. A major unifying theme of this study is that an ever iarger divide has opened up between two worlds. One is an ever more intense athletics enterprise—mwith an emphasis on specialized athletic talent, more commer» cialization, and a set of norms and values that can be seen as constituting a culture of sports. The other is the core teaching—research function of selective colleges and universities, with its own increasing specialization, a charge to promote educational values such as learning for its own sake, and a strong sense of obligation to provide educational opportunity to those who will make the most of it—ali in a time when the good of the society is increasingly dependent on the effective development and deployment of intellectual capital. This widening athletio academic divide—its pervasiveness and subtlety—«is the core of this book’s message. The Changing Face of College Sports Rationing Educational Opportunity Today, . . . many of those who play coilege sports enjoy the experience and benefit WM Iames L. Shulman and William G. Bowen, The Game oszfi': College Sport: and Educational Valuer. Copyright © 2001 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted with the permission of Princeton University Press. 158 from it. But supporting the extensive inter» collegiate programs that exist today also en— tails substantial costs, and the most important may not be the readily apparent dollar outlays required to field teams, build facilities, and (in the case of the Division IA schools) provide athletic scholarships. One of the most valuable resources that the lead« ing colleges and universities must ration is the limited number of places in each enter— ing class. For the most academically selec— tive schools, admissions is a zeroosum game: the more athletes who are recruited, the less room there is for other students. Recruiting athletes for up to 40 intercoh legiate teams at colleges and universities that are vastly oversubscribed by talented applicants has major opportunity costsw» especially at the smaller ivy League univer— sities and the coed liberal arts colleges. In this crucial respect, the consequences of athletic recruitment are far more serious for these schools than for large universities with big—time programs. In the words ofa former president of a distinguished public univerw sity, “Yes, it was embarrassing when there was a scandal of one kind or another, but the number of athletes was so small relative to the size of the student body that whatever they did or didn’t do in the classroom or on the campus didn’t really affect the place as a whole.” Athletics it a mac/9 more serious burr? nest, in term: of its direct“ impact on admis— sions and the composition and err/7‘0: of the student had}; at an Ivy League rc/aool or a coral liberal arts college then it is at a! Division M university. This basic point is often over” looked. Highly publicized incidents at big— time schools get all the press—wand they are very important for what they say to both campus communities and a broad public about the values of the institution—mth the issues of direct educational consequence The Game ofLife l 159 flowing from the recruitment of large numw bers of athletes are much more serious at the schools where athletes constitute anywhere from 15 to 35 percent of the student body. Unlike some situations in big—time sports, in which coaches and players are lit- erally at each other’s throats, highly visible athletes are arrested for beating up their girlfriends, or selfvimportant boosters con~ tribute to the exploitation of athletes with“ out any thought for their well—being, there are no villains associated With this part of the story. in writing about the implications of athletic recruitment for the rationing of educational opportunity, we most emphati— cally do not mean to suggest that the athm letes who are admitted are bad people, that they will not benefit from attending these schools, or that attending one of these instiw tutions will fail to help them achieve their personal goals. The more difficult, and more relevant, question is whether admit— ting other students in their place might not have done even more to fulfill the educa— tional mission of the school. The greatly increased competition for places in the leading schools makes this question far more important today than it used to be. . . . One factor in the increas— ingly competitive college admissions process is that, over the past fifty years, new players have been allowed into the game—~— as women, minority students, and individu- als from all socioeconomic classes have been encouraged to seek places where previously they may not have been welcome. Moreover, as our society has moved increasingly toward a knowledge—driven economy, the pressure to obtain the best possible education and to obtain credentials that will open the right doors has become ever more intense. Many students could further their individual goals by attending great universities like the 160 l James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Columbia, or colleges like Wellesley and Williams, but only so many can attend each year. These schools provide a flexible pool of opportunity that can be utilized in many ways. in addition to the educational advantages that they offer are reputational advantages and the connections that one makes by attending these schools. Having a degree from a leading college or university is helpful in getting a job on Wall Street, geta ting into graduate school, or making con— nections in the art World. Deciding who should have such opportunities is extremely challenging, and the outcomes of the ad~ missions process reveal a great deal about how a college or university truly sees—and pursues—its mission. Taking Full Advantage of Academic , Opportunities Faculty often remark that the most discour— aging aspect of teaching is encountering a student who just does not seem to care, who has to be cajoled into thinking about the reading, who is obviously bored in class, or who resists rewriting a paper that is passable but not very good. Such students are failing to take full advantage of the educational ope portunities that these colleges and universiw ties are there to provide. Uninspired students come in all sizes and shapes, and no one would suggest that athletes are uniformly different from other students in this regard. But the evidence presented in this book does demonstrate a consistent tendency for athletes to do less well academically than their classmates— and, even more troubling, a consistent tendency for athletes to underperform academically not just relative to other stu— dents, but relative to how they themselves might have been expected to perform,i These tendencies have become more pro- nouneeof over time and all—pervasive: deride mic undeipelfirmance is now found among women athletes as well a: men, omeng those, ._ who play the Lower Profile sports as well or K those on flotilla]! and oorketoalf teams, and - among athletes playing or the Division [I] level of competition or well or t/aoreplnyz‘ng in -_j:_' bowl games and competing for national champions/71px. I If we take seriously the notion that stu- dents should take full advantage of What are very scarce educational opportunities, evi- dence of high graduation rates should not end the conversation. It is not good enough, we believe, just to get by. Respect for core academic values and the educational mis» sion of these schools requires more than that. Otherwise, colleges and universities are failing to put their most valuable re— sources—their faculty and their academic offeringsmto their highest and best use. . . . They are not focused on fulfilling their edu» cational missions. Rationing Athletic Opportunity Everyone agrees that opportunities to play on teams can be beneficial (and fun!) for the participants, and in earlier days many col— lege students played several sports, some» times even learned to play sports they had not played before, and were able to enjoy the satisfaction of dramatically improving their skills. One of the many ironies of the ever increasing intensification of college sports, even at the Division III level, is that many of those who might arguably have benefited the most from college athletics now have little or no chance of being on a team. Standards of performance have risen so dramatically, specialization has become so important, and youngsters hone their skills at such a young age that there is less and less opportunity for the true “walk-on” or late«developing athlete to participate. As recruiting intensifies and incoming athletes become more and more proficient, the benw efits of playing on college teams are be— stowed increasingly on those who are already “trained up.” Concurrently, intercollegiate programs demand more and more of those who, as a result of extensive pre—college preparation, can qualify for the team. Swimmers are often in the pool up to four hours per day Monday through Friday, and year-round training, in one form or another, is com— mon in most sports; the notion of a clearly demarcated “season” is becoming an anom— aly. One obvious consequence is the de» creasing number of students who play two or more intercollegiate sports. Another di— rect consequence is that the more broadly interested student who wants to play sports but also to do many other things is con» liicted and may just opt out. We learned a great deal about these conflicts through talking with an Ivy League graduate who had been a star soccer player in high school. He spoke with great regret about his deci— sion to limit his goal—scoring talent to intra« mural contests. “I just didn’t think that i could spend the time that I would have had to in order to play at that [varsity] level, and still be able to cut it academically.” What Was fascinating was that this student saw his decision not to go out for the team to be his failing rather than that of a program that placed such heavy demands on students Who wanted to do more than just play soc— cer. In another scenario, this talented soccer Player might have been able to enjoy the thrill of playing for his college, gotten the education that he wanted, and not blamed himself for failing to be able to do both at what the sports marketing brochures speak _. of as “the highest level of excellence.” The Athlete Culture: Campus Ethos In part because of the increased degree of high—intensity “professionalization” that discourages ordinary students from corn— peting, intercollegiate athletes have become a less and less central part of the main cam— pus scene. This reality is of course attribut— able not only tochanges in intercollegiate athletics. The broader changes in faculty cultures . . . (perhaps especially the greater emphasis on academic disciplines and spe— cialized research accomplishments) have al— most certainly made it harder for the highly focused athlete to feel truly welcome on many campuses. As we pointed out in the introduction to this chapter, it is the combi— nation of greater intensity athletics and greater academic intensity that has led to the growing divide between athletes and much of the rest of the campus community at many of the schools in this study. The separateness of many athletes is most evident in the case of those playing High Profile sports at universities with bigwtime programs. Such students may be housed in athletic dorms, have their own tutors, and in large measure exist in their own world. But our research and the work of others suggesrs that an athlete culture has spread quite widely and can now be found in small coed liberal arts colleges and Ivy League universities as well as in Division IA univeri sities offering athletic scholarships and other amenities. Social psychologists have documented these self-«isolating tendencies in the norms and values of Ivy League ath— letes as well as in the ways that they spend 162 l James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen their time, and we have tracked how male and female athletes are increasingly “bandw ing together” in certain fields of study. The declining tendency for athletes and espew cially High Profile athletes, to demonstrate their general interest in the school through financial contributions may be another har— binger of where current trends in athletics are leading us. We have little direct evidence as to the ef— fects of this culture on the rest of the cam— pus community, and it would be a mistake to exaggerate them. At the same time, it would also be a mistake to be too sanguine, especially since differences in values and in— terests between athletes and other students continue to widen, women’s athletic pro— grams look more and more like those of the men, and athletes are increasingly being re— cruited on the basis of talent that differenti— ates them from other students. , Campus interest in attending sports events still serves as one way of bringing stu« dents, faculty, alumni/ae, and townspeople together under the school’s banner. The long«term decline in student attendance at college sporting events reminds us, how— ever, that this contribution of intercollegiate competition to the campus ethos has be— come less and less important. There is no denying the appeal of other activities, from playing recreational sports to spending time online, at the same time that aggressively marketed professional sports events are now available on too many television channels to count. Looking ahead, it would be a serious error to expect any resurgence of campus— ba'sed attendance at college sports events. The Athletic Culture: Life after College Including in the class a large number of highly recruited athletes has a number of other, less direct, effects on the rationing of opportunity since, as a colleague oncg put it, “people come in packages.” In the case of men, in particular, we haVe seen that there is a strong correlation between being an athlete, having a strong interest in achieving financial success, seeing college as a means to this end, and pursuing careers in, fields such as finance. The strong tendency for athletes to concentrate in the social sci— ences and to opt for business and commu» nications majors (where they are offered) is clearly related to these goals, as is their sub- sequent tendency to enroll in MBA pro grams. More generally, the “athlete culture” has a set of norms, values, and goals that are coherent, largely independent of socioeco- nomic status, and different from those of other groups of students attending the same institutions. This culture has natural affini— ties with what University of Chicago econov mist Frank Knight has called the “business game.” Games with clear goals and rules, where competitive instincts, team play, and discipline are rewarded, provide a link be— tween the culture of sports and marketplaCe pursuits. There is certainly nothing wrong with this confluence of the values of sports and those of the business world. Colleges and universities are surely right to take pride in the accomplishments of their graduates who succeed in the “business game.” There are, however, two questions that give us pause and deserve consideration. First, is there a risk that the focused career interests of many athletes will cause them to neglect the broader educational oppor* tunities offered by schools that describe themselves as liberal arts colleges and uni— versities? These schools want to educate business leaders, but they want to educate business leaders who will understand the complexities of the world in which they are working and the importance of participatw ing effectively in shaping that world in pos~ itive ways. The utility of the strong competitive drives associated with athletics depends on the values and the ends to which these drives are directed. As Knight put it, “if . . . one adopts the view that the end of life is to get things done, the case for competition becomes much stronger; but even here misgivings arise. It is hard to avoid asking, what things. If it is thought to be important which things are done, comp petition may be entirely indifferent and un— selective, equally effective as a drive toward worthy and unworthy ends.”2 One of the great advantages of attending colleges that emphasize the liberal arts, as their catalogues properly proclaim, is that the breadth of the educational experience, and the emphasis on values and first princi» ples, can help students harness their learn— ing and their energies in ways that serve the broader goals of the society. This is, in fact, a core educational mission of these schoois. it is not, however, a “treatment” that “takes” without the willing participation of those given the opportunity of learning in Such an environment; in this regard, the decidedly weaker interest in gaining a broad liberal education expressed by the athletes is problematic. . . . The second question focuses on the ef— fects of athletic recruitment on the mix of ' students in the school. When recruited ath— letes make up such a substantial fraction of the entering class in at least some colleges and universities, is there a risk that there Will be too few places for others who want to become poets, scientists, and leaders of Civic causes? is there a possibility that, with» out realizing what is leading to what, the Schools themselves will become unbalanced in various ways? For example, will they feel 1'16 U“fflrfl vJ m—Jv I —.., a need to devote more and more of their teaching resources to fields such as business and economics that are disproportionately elected by athletes, in lieu of investing more heavily in less “practical” fields such as clas— sics, physics, and language study? Similarly, as one commentator put the question, what are the effects on those students interested in fields like philosophy? Could they feel at risk of being devalued? in an ideal world, we would suppose, schools would like to see a diversity of ma— jors, values, and career choices among all subgroups of students. In our view, society is best served when the financial services sector “inherits” some students who have a deep commitment to understanding history and culture (rather than mainly those with a more narrow focus on earning a great'deal of money as an end in and of itself). in the same way, academia benefits when some of those who pursue Ph.D.s also have learned some of the lessons about life that one gains on the playing fields (rather than just those with a more narrow focus on an arcane, if not obscure, realm of academic research). In short, the heavy concentration of male atha letes, in particular, in certain fields of study raises real questions of institutional priori— ties and balance. Allocating Financial Resources If intercollegiate sports was self—financing and raised no resource allocation questions for colleges and universities, the issues disw cussed thus far would still be consequential. Unmeasured “costs,” including especially the opportunity costs associated with admit— ting Smith but not Jones, matter enor- mously at academically selective institutions. But it is also true that intercollegiate athlet— ics programs involve the expenditure of a great deal of money. We were surpriSed to 164 I James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen learn how high the net costs are (after taking account of revenue offsets) at the vast ma« jority of the schools in our study. An obvi— ous question is whether so much money really needs to be spent to achieve the bene» fits of wellwconceived athletic programs. This is an issue for colleges and universities of all kinds, not just for those that are aca— demically selective. Here We note only that students who might be interested in other extracurricular pursuits—«putting out the school paper or acting on stage, for examplemhave no com— parable, equally expensive, infrastructure supporting them. Each assistant football coach takes the place of the nonexistent journalism coach who would indubitably make the campus paper even better than it is absent such coaching. Disproportionate funding follows disproportionate athletic recruiting and succeeds in enabling a level of professionalismwbut only in one partic— ular area. it is useful to remember that per‘ student expenditures on all student services combined (including core functions such as the admissions office) are in the range of $2,000 to $3,000 at these institutions, as compared with athletic outlays of $8,000 per individual athlete in the Ivies, to take that one point of comparison. As he altered the university’s funding structure to provide more resources for the athletic program at Vanderbilt, Chancellor Joe Wyatt acknowledged the reality of com— peting claims on scarce funds. As long as unrestriCted university funds are being used to subsidize athletics, he noted, “the long— term effect may be to seriously impair Van- derbilt’s ability to invest in some critical educational and research programs. And there is little doubt that such an outcome could jeopardize Vanderbilt’s standing among the best universities in the nation.” Wyatt also drew attention to the findings of a survey of parents of current students that found that they placed the highest priority on the quality of teaching, the quality of the faculty, the emphasis on undergraduate ed- ucation, and preparation for future em— ployment; Parents were pleased with Vanderbilt’s performance on these scales, but they were split on the question of whether Vanderbilt was doing a good enough job controlling costs. Although they were Willing to pay more to improve educational quality, Wyatt observed, “It seems safe to conclude that real or perceived increases in cost that do not contribute di- rectly to the priorities related to educational quality would not be well received by Vana‘ , derbilt parents.”5 Commercialization One way of iimiting the expenditure of general funds on athletics is to attract rev~« enues from commercial sponsors, and this is an approach that has proved increasingly attractive to schools. At the schools with I. big—time athletic programs, winning COflSlS',‘ -' " L'- tently in the High Profile sports has very; large financial consequences. There is no? denying the attendant incentives and pres sures: on coaches, the admissions proces academic programs followed by athlete who must stay eligible, scheduling o games, housing and training athletes, ' on and on. Controlling these pressures not easy, and there is an obvious danger til? the academic integrity of the institution. be corrupted. ' These risks are greatest at private public universities that both competea Division IA level and have demanding] demic programs. As President EH} Arnold Weber of Northwestern has st'r t such issues are qualitatively different. , 1‘3 vision IA than elsewhere. But these tempta— tions and pressures are by no means confined to the Division IA level of play or to athletic programs that generate large amounts of revenue. . . . “Self~funded” teams, in the language used by the NCAA, can all too easily move outside the control of the insti— tution. To Whom will the coach paid by the “friends” group feel the most loyalty? No revenues come without costs, some of which are less a threat to the budget than to the institution’s mission. Selling students” uniforms as billboards to sneaker compa» nies becomes tricky when an athlete de— cides that he or she objects to the labor practices of the company and refuses to wear the symbol. Letting boosters have an important say in the admissions process (sometimes subtly, through their relatiom ships with coaches) represents another kind of infringement of material interests on the practices of the schools. These dangers are akin to similar dilemmas elsewhere on cam— pus; one common example can be seen in how uniVersities manage medical, scientific, "or technological research with major com— mercial potential that is funded by external sponsors. It would be native to believe that fi— nancial inducements affect only the conduct of the athletic department; commercializa— tion of athletics does, however, serve as a prism through which broader issues of insti~ tutional mission can be seen in clear relief. In need of funds to carry out their mis— sion, schools (and museums and zoos and orchestras) go into the marketplace. Some» times, the revenue found there becomes habit forming, leading orchestras to per— form Beethoven’s Ninth night after night, magazines to resist commissioning inves— tigative stories about companies that adver» rise in their pages, and colleges to offer just one more accounting class in place of one The Game aszfi' l 165 more course in philosophy. It is unrealistic to deny . . . a piace in the museum for mu— seum shops or to ignore entirely What prospective students want to study when designing a curriculum. Nevertheless, maintaining an appropriate balance be— tween the pulls of the marketplace and the core educational values of colleges and uni~ versities produces a very real predicament: the more that colleges tell students and their parents that their $120,000 “investment” is the best one they will ever make, the greater the temptation to define the purposes of ed- ucation in the currency of the marketplace. it is abundantly clear that colleges and universities today face an array of market rer alities that are only partly—and in some schools, only in relatively small measurem— the result of the increasing commercializa— tion of athletics. In pursuing a Wider and wider range of opportunities to earn income (the burgeoning interest in making lectures available over the Internet is a recent exam~ ple), schools and other notwforwprofits may be required to act like businesses: examples range from the fancy marketing brochures that schools distribute in their search for ap— plicants to the highly professionalized firndraising machinery that now exists at alw most all private and public institutions. More complex, and ultimately as impor— tant, are the financing and marketing of patented inventions and other forms of in— tellectual property. Done correctly, all of these activities can benefit the educational purposes of the host institution. But there is also the risk of what has been called “min sion drift.” As always, the hard question is how to garner the resources needed to mount a scholarly exhibition or provide a good lib~ era] education Without subverting the mis— sion of the institution in the process. An 166 I James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen unavoidable question is whether the norms and values assooiated with an athlete cul— ture end up having an overly commercial— ized impact on the campus ethos, and eventually, on how an institution interprets its mission. Sending Signals High school students, their parents, and their schools watch attentively for the sig~ nals that colleges and universities send. The more that leading colleges and universities signal throng/9 their actions how much they value athletic prowess, the greater the em» phasis that potential applicants will place on these activities. The issuing of rewards based on sports accomplishments supports (and in fact makes real) the message that sports is the road to opportunity4 Young people in schools of all kinds—from prep schools to inner—city schools_are less likely to get a Henry Louis Gates, WEB. DuBois Profés sor at Harvard University, on just now clearly the signals are read among young African Americans: The blind pursuit of attainment in sports is having a devastating effect on our people. imbued with a belietr that our principal avenue to fame and profit is through sports and seduced by a win—at—any-cost system that corrupts even elementary school students. far too many black kids treat basketball courts and football fields as ifthey were ciassrooms in an alternative school system. “OK, i “Hooked English,” a young athlete will say."But i got an A plus in slate—dunking.’’S message that the way upward is to learn to‘ write computer code or take chemistry seri— ously when it is not only the pros and the big—time schools, but also the Ivies and the most selective liberal arts colleges, that place a large premium on athletic prowess, focus, and Specialization. Athletic scholarships and tickets of admission to nomscholarship schools provide a more powerful incentive than the promises contained in high— minded proclamations. ' Some of the clearest signals are those sent to secondary schools that rate themselves by their success in getting their students ad mitted to the most selective colleges and universities. The admission of talented atly letes to these highly selective and academi— cally oriented colleges and universities sends signals to many parties, as Peter Philip, former dean of admission and fi» nancial aid at the Hotchkiss School and now headmaster of the Tower School, ex“ plained in an interview: Look first at the message sent to the athlete. She or he may well be confused as to the true reason for the offer of admission. Even if she had an excellent academic record, she might rightly conclude that she was admit— ted because she is an outstanding athlete. This cheapens her academic accomplish— ments and suggests that her athletic achievements in college will be more highly regarded than anything she accomplishes academically. Look next: at the message sent to a school community when a disproportion— ate number of admissions to the most se— lective colleges go to prominent athletes. Again, Whatever the academic accomplish‘ merits ofthe admitted athlete, the commuw nity will read a mixed message. Needless to say, there are occasions when the admitted athlete is not a particularly successful stu— dent. This admission sends a very clear message. As Students who have assembled virtually perfect academic records are de— nied by the most selective colleges while their peers whose athletic accomplish— ments have earned recognition are ac— cepted, the perceived value of the academic program is diluted. Finally, loolt at the message sent to the [secondary] school’s administration. Espe— cially if it is an independent school, it will naturally be concerned with its “college list.” Like it or not, the fancier the college list, the more attractive the school will be to many families. When the school sees that many of its “most successful” college appliw cants are recruited athletes, it will . . . begin its own recruitment of athletes. Taken together, this signaling process has a powerful impact. We were told of one spe— cific situation in which almost half the stu— dents frorn a leading prep school admitted to an Ivy League university were either out« standing hockey or lacrosse playersw—and not particularly noteworthy students. When asked at a recruiting session in a large city about the success of his prep school in placing its students in the most prestigious colleges, the school’s representative gave the absolute number of students admitted to this Ivy League school, hoped that no one would ask him how many of the admittees has been athletes, and went home with mixed feelings about his presentation. The real issue, however, is not about how forth— coming the prep school representative was in explaining his school’s success in placing students than the nature of the reality that underlies that “success.” The Game osz'fe I 167 Forces at Work Shaping the Face of Athletics The present—day face of intercollegiate ath— letics at academically selective colleges and universities is seen most clearly when it is juxraposed with a corresponding snapshot taken in the i950s. Much has changed, and it is important that those who grew up in those days understand how profound the changes have been. In 1955, the offensive linemen at Denison University averaged 196 pounds; in 1999, they averaged 251 pounds. in 1955, the 50wyard freestyle swimming record at Denison was 22.8 sec— onds; by 1999, it had dropped to 19.9 sec- onds. Much has changed, throughout the system. How has this happened? - Specialization, Athletic Recruitment, and Admissions One of the most powerful forces driving these changes has been the increasing profiw ciency of high school athletes and the atten— dant increase in sports specialization by athletes at younger and younger ages. Out— standing goalies, lacrosse players, field hockey stars, squash and tennis players, golfers, swimmers, and runners (never mind punters and point guards) are identified much earlier than used to be the case. Sto— ries abound about parents pushing children to excel in soccer or softball in the hope they will thereby gain admission to a good col~ lege and maybe even earn an athletic schol~ arship. The extent of the problem is illustrated vividly by a recent account of an effort by one thoughtful community leader to discourage a zealous basketball coach from starting a secondwgmde traveling team.6 This world of highly proficient and highly specialized young athletes calls out 168 I james L. Shulman and William G. Bowen for a different kind of athletic recruiting than what sufficed before. Coaches must be sure that they enroll the right position playn ers, that the prospective athletes they are re— cruiting can fit within the system they use, and that the right mix of talents is assem— bled. Lists of desired recruits drawn up by coaches are much more closely tailored to specific needs than they used to be. it is eas— ier than in earlier years to know who is the most talented point guard or high school tennis player (thanks to camps, regional tournaments, and other structured ways of ranking individuals), and since the team’s success now depends much more than be— fore on the athletic skills that recruited ath~ letes bring with them to campus, the pressure to admit the top-ranked athletes is strong indeed. ‘ The most obvious consequence of this evolution in standards of performance and specialization of skills is that the coaches play a far more important role in determin— ing which athletically talented applicants gain admission. It will not do to rely on the admissions office to look at a longish list of athletically talented candidates and then choose, say, half of them on the basis of cri-- teria related marginally; if at all, to the very specific needs of the basketball or softball team. Assuming that the candidates on a coach’s'list are above‘the required academic threshold (defined by SAT scores, Academic Index requirements in the Ivy League, NCAA standards in the Division IA, pro— grams, and so on), admissions staff are un» derstandably reluctant to override (“usurp”) the coach’s judgment as to which individual candidates will be the most valuable addi- tions to the tearn.7 , We infer that this changing model of ath« letic recruitment and admissions goes a long way toward explaining the changes that have occurred in the characteristics and per— formance of athletes over the time period covered by our study. Consider the women athletes in the ’76 cohort. The mid— to late 19703 were still relatively early days for women’s intercollegiate sports, and it is noteworthy that only a tiny number of women athletes in this cohort said that they had been recruited. We also know, however, that these women athletes enjoyed a considu erable admissions advantage. Presumably the admissions offices identified fine ath» letes who were also attractive candidates for the school on other grounds, and it was the comhinanan of qualifications that gave such candidates an edge in the admissions com— petition. We do not think it is coincidental that the women athletes in the ’76 cohort ranked well in their class academically, did not underperforrn academically, and went on to earn advanced degrees in above—aver» age numbers. in sharp contrast, large num— bers of the women athletes in the ’89 cohort reported having been recruited (especially in the Division IA programs and in the lvies), and we surmise that coaches were playing more of a role, relative to the admis» sions stall, in deciding who made the final cut. This cohort of women athletes did not do as well in class, underperformed academ— ically, and no longer enjoyed an edge in ad— vanced degree attainment. This same point can be made by compar— ing the male athletes in the ’51 cohort with the male athletes in the ’76 and ’89 cohorts. The men in the ’51 cohort were not nearly as actively recruited as their counterparts in the ’76 and '89 cohorts, and their highly credible records in school and after college mirror those of the women athletes in the ’76 cohort. Athletic recruitment for men in— tensified further between the ’76 and :89 cohorts, and the differences in outcomes achieved by athletes in these three cohorts are consistent with what one would have ex~ pected to find, given the line of argument being developed here. However the data are analyzed (by gender, by sport, by level of competition, by cohort), there is at least a crude correlation between the degree to which athletes report having been recruited and the degree of academic underperforw mance. All of these effects are magnified in the Ivy League and the coed liberal arts col~ leges by an inescapable need to over—recruit. Because there are no athletic scholarships that bind recruited athletes to playing, a considerable number of firstwyear students may not continue with their teams. In order to allow for this attrition, larger numbers of athletes must be recruited initially. The Well-Rounded Individual versus the Welln'Rounded Class We believe that the changes in the face of athletics between the 19503 and today can be related to a still broader shift in admis— sions philosophies. In the 19505, much was said about the desirability of enrolling “wellwrounded students.” One consequence (among many others) was that athletes needed to have other attributes—to be ready to take advantage of the broad range 017 the school's academic offerings, to be in— terested in being part of the larger campus community (many of them were class offi-v cers, not just team captains), and so on. We suspect that the subsequent success of a number of the athletes of this era in gaining leadership positions, including positions as CEOs, owes something to their having had a strong combination of attributes. Without being able to date the change precisely, we believe that, sometime in the late 1960s or the 1970s,, this admissions philOSOphy was altered in major ways. At Tbe'Game ofLife I 169 some of the schools with which we are fan miiiar, the attack on the philosophy of the wellwrounded individual came from faculty. For example, one group of mathematicians objected vehemently to the rejection of canw didates who had extremely high math apti— tude scores but were not impressive in other respects.8 A new admissions mantra was coined: the search was on to enroll the “well—rounded class,” rather than the well” rounded individual. The idea was that the superwmathematician should definitely be admitted, along with the super-musician and maybe even the superwgyrnnast. It was argued that, taken together, this array of tal— ented individuals would create an attrac— tively diverse community of learners. For some years now, most admissions officers at academically selective schools have talked in terms of the well—rounded class. The former dean of admissions and fi— nancial aid at Hotchkiss, whom we quoted earlier, provides a sharp insight into how this new way of thinking about admissions has evolved: For years now, parents have heard college admission officers espousing the virtues of a well—rounded class over well—rounded stu» dents. Colleges believe that they can build a wellwrounded class by assembling a group of students with particular talents in spe» cific areas. These talents are often referred to as “hooks” and the students who possess them are called “spiky.” The most visible evidence of this for many families is the ad— mission of talented athletes to highly selec» rive academically oriented colleges and uniVersiries. . . . Altogether the impact of the college ad» mission office’s search for “spiky” kids has become enormously significant. From the beginning of a child’s high school career 170 I James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen (and often much earlier) an increasing number of parents and children are con— cerned With building a ‘hook” rather than with getting the most out of the totality of the high school experience. As a result, there are more and more students concentrating their efforts in a particular field rather than experimenting with the broader range of available options. More and more students play only one sport in a given year, for ex» ample, instead of three. And more and more students concentrate immediately and pre» cisely on theater or music instead of experi— encing the full range of artistic disciplines. Of course, this early concentration is com— pletely antithetical to the notion of a liberal arts education. The fact that liberal arts colv leges are those most likely to be sending these messages to high schools, therefore, is particularly unfortunate. In our View, the mathematicians who lobbied for the admission of high school students with off—the—scale mathematical potential were absolutely right. “Spilty” students of that kind belong in a great uni~ versity that has a great mathematics depart— ment. We are much more skeptical that “spiltiness” can be used to justify the admis— sion of a bone—crushing fullwbaclt whose high school grades were over the academic threshold but who otherwise does not seem a particularly good fit for the academic vala ues that colleges and universities espouse. There are many types of spliciness, and the objective, we believe, should be to assemble a well—rounded class with a range of attrib— are: that resonate wit/7 the academic and ser— vice minim: of the college or university Looked at from this perspective, the argu— ments for spiky mathematicians and spiky golfers seem quite different. We also wonder how well some of the increasingly spiky athd letes of the ’89 (and later) cohorts will do in the long run. Nor as Well, we suspect, as their male predecessors in the ’51 cohort and the women athletes from the ’76 co- hort, who appear to have had, as the saying goes, “more arrows in their quivers.” Competitiveness, Emulation, and “Fairness” The forces described thus far_,operate pri- marily at the level of the individual athletics program Within the individual school. But the broad changes in the intercollegiate landscape that have occurred at academi— cally selective colleges and universities over the past 40 to 50 years (and especially over the past 20 years) have also been driven by system—wide forces. First among them is competitiveness. Although colleges and universities compete for faculty, for grants, and for talented (and tuition~payingl stun dents, athletics can come to represent an arms race Without end. Even Winning is never enough, since there are always more levels to aspire to, more ways to excel, and, if all else fails, future seasons to think about. Part of the reason that sports is so alluring as a field for competition is that it is so results driven and so quantifiable. Everyone knovvs (or can find out) who won the Rose Bowl, which women’s basketball team is the na« tional champion, and which Division Ill coliege Was the swimming champion at its level. It is much harder to avoid endless are guments as to whether this program of study is superior to that one (although in recent years magazines such as US. News and World Report have sought to resolve those debates, too). There is also something about competition in sports that reminds people of courage and even victory in war. (it is not coincidental that the image of the arms race keeps reappearing in stories about intercollegiate sports.) Seeking any- thing but the top of the sports rankings may seem like surrender. Resisting these pressures is made even more difficult by the frequent failure to dis tinguish between levels ofplay (which de— pend on how talented the athletes are, how much time and how many resources are de— voted to preparing for a contest, and so on) and vigorous competition (which can occur, or fail to occur, at any level of play). A come petitive cluster of iikeaninded schools “gets the competitive juices flowing” and con— tributes to the community spirit of a cam~ pus whatever the level of play—Mfrom Hamilton College field hockey to Penn' State football. Heroes in uniforms help to build identity, and they help campus and alumni constituencies to coalesce under a common banner. That is clear. What is more difficult to understand is why it is so hard to convince people that, within the closed ecosystem of the conference, healthy competition and the concomitant benefits for school spirit do not depend on how exw pert the play is. A DenisonwKenyon swim meet from 1955 presumably inspired pas» sion even though the times were seconds (or even dozens of seconds) slower than they are today. ' Healthy competition requires a rough parity that makes the game worth playing, and sustaining such competition is anything but easy. Even among seemingly like institu« tions, differences that from a distance would be difficult to detect provide profound com— petitive advantages (or disadvantages). For example, within the ivy League, student bodies of different sizes mean that it is much easier to absorb a few more athletes with lower qualifications in a relatively large school than in a smaller peer group. Profesw sional teams recognize that such persistent The Game othfi? ] 171 advantages are detrimental to all and employ revenue sharing, salary caps, and draft pick systems to redress imbalances systemically. Since the college equivalents of these measures (NCAA regulations and confer- ence rules) never really end the race, an in~ dividual school will inevitably continue to act in ways that may make it 5 percent bet» ter off, although the whole system may end up 10 percent worse off. Building a new are tifrcial turf field may help your team recruit, but only until the other schools in your league catch up. Then everyone has paid for a new field and its subsequent maintenance, but no one is any better off competitively. The classic example of this sort of behavior occurs when someone viewing a parade stands on his tiptoes and no one will see any better. No one wants to miss the parade, and the competitive dynamic in sports has unquestionably fueled the increases in ex~ penditures on coaching and facilities at all levels of play. it has also put tremendous pressure on the admissions process. With the unimpeded flow of more and more in~ formation about the pre-college achievew ments of athletes, and the mobility of coaches between institutions, there seems to be no limit to the contagion of athletic expectations. As important a driver as competition is in shaping the face of athletics, there is an equally (or almost equally) powerful force. It can be referred to simply as envy or emu— lation. It is not news that people tend to want what others have. And it is not sun prising, therefore, that within the Division IA scholarship schools the so—called “minor sports” of another day have sought to share as fully as they can in the attributes of the ambitious, well—funded High Profile pro« grams. Many more specialized coaches have been hired, facilities have been improved, 172 l James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen and scholarships have been provided. Such moves in the direction of equality are often urged in the name of “fairness.” Because men who play football “get something,” men playing other sports are said to “de— serve,” in the name of fairness, equal treat» ment. This same way of thinking is found Within the Ivy League and the Division III coed liberal arts colleges. There is, for exam» ple, the recurring complaint among the foot— ball players in the ivies or in the New England Small College Athletic Conference that, because members of all other teams have the chance to go to a national champi— onship, “fairness” mandates that they be given this opportunity too. Part of the ethos of sport is to “refuse to lose”—to refuse to accept anything less than what anyone else has.9 The most widely publicized—and most consequentialmarena for the application of the fairness doctrine is of course women’s sports. At the present time, Title IX seems to be exporting to the domain of women’s athletics all the salient characteristics of men’s sports. An entirely understandable desireon the part of women to have the same opportunities that men enjoy is basic to this transfer of attitudes, policies, re— sources, and even values. The women athletes of the late 19705 re— semble the male athletes of the 19505 in their inwschool and postwcollege success. it is only in the ’89 cohort that we see the pat— terns for the women athletes that resemble those displayed by the male athletes in the ’76 cohort and, even more strongly, by male athletes in the ’89 cohort. The women swimmers on today’s teams demonstrate the same dramatic gains in performance in the pool that are so evident in the case of the men. There are now many more coaches as» signed to women’s teams, and expenditures on women’s athletics, although they still lag behind expenditures on men’s teams, have grown dramatically. In other words, with determined effort and considerable investment, it has been possible to increase the number of women playing intercollegiate sports and to im» prove the talent level of women athletes. But whether these developments provide access and opportunity to those women who are best able to take advantage of the resources of a selective college or university remains an entirely separate question. This too should be considered an issue of “fair ness.” To follow the men’s approach to ath— letics is to follow historical precedent; but to do so unhesitatingly is to assume that his— tory optimizes. We do not believe that this is necessarily true. i Directional Signposts Comparisons over time, across institutional types, and between men’s and women’s ath— letic programs all lead to a single concluw sion: intercollegiate programs in these academically selective institutions are mov« ing steadily in the direction of greater inten— sification, increased tension with core educational values, and more substantial calls on the tangible and intangible re» sources of their host institutions. We cannot think of a single set of data that contradicts this proposition. Furthermore, the most rev cent cohort for which we have full data en~ tered college in the fall of 1989. The limited data available for a much more recent co— hort (the one that entered in the fall of 1999) suggest that the trends favoring the recruitment of highly specialized athletes have all continued—wand, if anything, gained speed. We are unable to identify any forces inside the systems thatwithout considerable helpw—can be expected to alter these direc— tions. On the contrary, there is an intergener— ational dynamic that seems likely to acceler— ate the pace of the changes we see occurring. The more intensively recruited athletes of today, men and women, will become the next generation of alumni/ac, and in the fashion of their predecessors they can be ex— pected to press for increased emphasis on supporting winning sports programs as they become trustees and assume other leadership positions. Two pieces of evidence that sup— port this conclusion are the data on the pri— orities of former athletes who have become alumni/ac leaders and the data showing the effects of winning teams on the giving be» havior of former athletes from the Division III coed liberal arts colleges. These may be no more than straws in the wind, but we be— lieve that they should be taken seriously lnstitutionafization of Athletics in the Academy Looking back at the history of college sports over the course of the 20th century, one of the most important changes can be seen clearly only with the help of a long~distance lens: intercollegiate sports have become in— stitutionalized in institutions of higher edu~ cation. Whereas athletics programs were once a wild stepchild held at arm’s length from the schools, run mainly by the players themselves and their devotees, they have by now been thoroughly enfolded into the fab- ric of these institutions. In an effort to con trol excess and police the games, schools took charge. in doing so, it was assumed, the strength of the institution’s discipline and sense of purpose would moderate the passions inspired by athletics. There was, however, always the risk that, having gained a solid foorhold inside the walls, the trouv bling aspects of the athletics enterprise would affect the academy at the very time The Game ofLr'fe l 173 that the academy was working to control them. Sports once seen as merely an outlet for passions and energy or as a community- building ritual are now justified as a train“ ing ground for leaders, a school for character, or ‘‘the sweatiest of the liberal arts.” While there are positive sides to rain ing sports so seriously, doing so also legit— imiaes a possible confusion between the dictates of the playing field and the lessons of the classroom.10 For years, people have understood that one can view life as a game. “Play the cards that Fate deals you,” we are often told. But the country’s leading colleges and universi— ties have a special role to play in shaping the game of life, in setting the values (as op~ posed to the rules) of the game. The role of these institutions is not simply to be a facil— itator of what each individual who “wins” the preliminary heats of the competition (the admissions game) sees the game to be. Colleges and universities are taxwfavored, not~for~profit institutions because society agrees that they have a broader role to play in a far more consequential societal game. These institutions are charged to resist the narrow impulses of the marketplace, as well as ideological and political strictures of every kind: they are meant to live, as E. M. Forster once described the poet Cavafy, “at a slight angle to the universe.” Pursuing their academic mission will produce better film— makers, journalisrs, medical researchers, and yes, better bankers and lawyers too. But this will be accomplished by accepting those whom the schools believe will make best use of their educational resources and by insist» ing on the validity of their own missions. In embracing intercollegiate athletics, colleges and universities gambled on their ability to “control the beast”»——to harness the energies and many good qualities of 174 1 James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen sports to their own purposes, rather than to be subverted by them. The open question is whether this gamble was a good one: Whether colleges and universities can rise to the challenge of rebalancing objectives and strengthening what we regard as the purer values of athletic competition. Leaders of these venerable academic institutions have difficult choices to make. Notes 1. There is also evidence of academic underper— formance among minority students {seeWilliam G. Bowen and Derek Bok. 1998. The Shape oft/or River: Long— firm Comaquencer ofComidering Race in College and Universiy Admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), andmwhile some, but by no means all, of the causes are simi_ lar to those that apply to athletes—«the issues in volved in assessing underperformance are quite different. 2. Frank Knight, TIM Ethics of Competition (New Brunswick, NJ; Transaction, 1997), p. 60. 3. Joe B. Wyatt, “Chancellor Responds to Ath« letics Committee Report,” Vanderbilt Register i5(30) (1996): 8—9. 4. The controversy over the suspension of St. John’s point guard Erik Barkley for violating NCAA rules on accepting money from “athletic interests” to help cover prep school tuition pro- voked a number of revealing comments. New York limes columnist Harvey Araton has written about how dismuraging it is for innercity students with reasonable grades at schools like Kennedy High School in Paterson, New Jersey, to have to strug— gle constantly to figure out how they can possibly pay for college when athletes with much lower grades “will go to some college, somehow, some way, and free of charge.” At this school, there was not a lot of sympathy for Barkley by college coaches like Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, who preach about society’s obligation to educate stu« dents like Barkleymprovided, as Araton puts it, that "they can rebound and spot up for 3,” Araton concludes: “Coach’s sanctirnony does not add up, or compute.” “An Education Isn’t a Game to Squander,” New Karla Emits, March 2, 2000, p.» D1. Similarly, in controversies over the initial eligi~ bility standards that have been imposed by the NCAA, critics have complained that minority students will lose out on an education. Tulane University School of Law Professor Gary R. Roberts responds with outrage, “The notion that poor black kids are being denied opportuni— ties . . . is nonsense. . . . I only wish that those who are so driven to allow schools to take acade— mically unprepared black athletes would be more concerned about creating educational opportuni— ties for minority students, whether or not they play basketball.” David Goldfield, “Weaker NCAA Standards Won’t Help Black Athletes,” Chronicle oszgber Education, April 9, 1999, on- line edition. 5. “Delusions of Grandeur: Young Blacks Must Be Taught that Sports Are Not the Only Avenue of Opportunity,” Sports Illustrated August 19, 1991, p. 78. 6. Just as this book was going to press, an arti— cle appeared reporting an effort by parents in Wayzata, Minnesota, to resist the trend toward overscheduling of children’s activities. Examples illustrate what is bothering the parents: "At Kristin Bender’s house, where commotion of the ‘I can’t find my cleats’ variety reigns as her three children rush to participate in three different sports simultaneously, she shoehorns in family time by having everyone meet near the sports fields for half an hour. Margaret Roddy’s son, Drew, 17, a basketball player, has been benched for taking a family vacation.” The reporter also points out that “Coaches and program directors are judged on their programs success, creating pressure to schedule more prac— tices and yearmround playing seasons, and discour— age talented children from cutting back.” The tensions parents feel are all too real. mIn theory I support it [the cutback} 100 percent,’ said Greg Rye, who said that because his 9—yearwold son Michael’s soccer takes up four days a week, the boy often ears ‘on the fly.’ But Mr. Rye worries that if Michael misses a season or does not play On the more competitive traveling teams, he may be denied opportunities later.” As always, competitive pressures are a concern. What if other towns do nor ioliow the Wayzata example? “If the quality is going to go down {be cause of fewer practices, for example}, you are going to have difficulty retaining {coaches] who want to excel.” And less competitive programs, one person observed, “can hurt your chance for a coiiege scholarship." Pam Belioclt, “Parents Try to Reclaim Their Chiidren’s Time,” New York Times, }one 13, 2000, p. A18. 7. Coaches are very well aware of the academic thresholds that they must meet. Although, as one admissions director noted, coaches push things as Far as they can, they have no interest in wasting their own time pursuing candidates who will not be admissibie under any circumstances. In this person’s words, “They’re very clear people. if you tell them, ‘this is what you can have,’ they accept it and do it. But I learned that it’s impossible to iet them have any gray area, because that’s when they just can’t stop testing to see how much they can get—«how any a candidate, how many players. I made the mistake at one point of telling them that if they came up with a way to do well with the ad» missions process, I'd, in effect, reward them. But it was too gray, too jutydrigged. Each came up with some plan and then was angry when they didn’t ‘get’ what Coach X had gotten. It only works when there are blacit and white boundaries. Gray they inst push too hard." But within the boundaries, coaches are likeiy to feel that they “owrr” the admissions siots set aside for their teams. ' . 8. In some instances, there were also issues of race, religion, and ethnicity involved. Eior in— stance, a disproportionate number of extremeiy smart students from schools like the Bronx High School of Science were Jewish. The shift from the notion of a well-rounded student to the notion of the well-rounded class also incorporated a gteatiy increased interest in enrolling diverse student hodies. The Game aszfe i 175 9. Another doctrine that has played a role in buiiding the case for higher ieveis of athletic achievement and more generous funding is the idea that excellence for an educational institution carries with it the responsibility to seek excellence in all endeavors. This notion—which we discuss in some detail in the next chaptermleaves endiess space for improvement in athletic programs at any one institution, and the forces of competition and emulation then tend to spread such improve— ments system—wide. 10. This same tension is described vividly in a recent account of a high school basketbail pro— gram. The head of the Montrose Christian School, Ray Rope, is quoted as expecting the big time high school basketball program directed by Stu Vetter to increase the school‘s name recogni— tion, enrollment, and revenue. To some degree, it has achieved these objectives. “Just as important to Hope,” the author writes, “is the basketball team’s toie in helping the church [which operates the school} spread the word of God. As a South— ern Baptist, Hope is unapologetic about his desire to convert people to Christianity, and the arrival of big—time basketball has given him the opportu— nity to preach the Gospel to a whole new group of potential converts. . . . According to some Morin trose students, however, it's the basketball piayers who appear to be converting the school. (Mon— trose used to be really spiritualiy oriented,’ says Rob Gallalee, a senior who has been at Montrose for four years. ‘But when you bring in all of these baitetbali players who aren't Christian, of course that changes the atmosphere of the school. Things are now ignored that didn’t used to be ignored. Like cussing in the hallway. i know that wouldn’t be a big deal at other schools, but it used to be a big deal at Montrose. Now, if a teacher overheats you cussing in the hallway, they'll look the other way.” Jason Zengerle, “The Portable i-Iigh— School Hoops Factory,” New York Timer Magaz— zz'rze, February 6, 2009, p. 56. ...
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