The unrivaled amount of cash poured into the college athletic
system has made sports programs breeding grounds for corruption
while diverting crucial resources from the academic mission of
universities. Like money in Washington politics, the influence
bought by a complex set of self-interested actors seriously
undermines movement toward reform while trapping universities in a
cycle of escalating competition. Longtime sport sociologist Howard
L. Nixon II approaches the issue from the perspective of college
presidents--how they are seduced by prestige or pressured by
economics into building programs that move schools toward a
commercial model of athletics.
Nixon situates his analysis in the context of what he calls "the
intercollegiate golden triangle," a powerful social network of
athletic, media, and private corporate commercial interests. This
network lures presidents and other university leaders into an
athletic arms race with promises of institutional enhancements,
increased enrollments, better student morale, improved alumni
loyalty, more financial contributions, and higher prestige.
These promises can cloud the judgment of college presidents and
governing boards, entangling them in an athletic trap that
restricts their influence. Unable to control spending,
inequalities, and deviance within commercialized athletic programs,
universities are ensnared in financial, political, and social
obligations that are difficult to sustain--or escape. Nixon
clarifies the structure of this trap, describes how higher
education institutions fall into it, and explores what it means for
institutions and presidents caught in it.
This timely analysis also has relevance to the debates about the
role of the NCAA and ongoing reform efforts in college sports. "The
Athletic Trap" will be of interest to university presidents, board
members, and administrators, sport sociologists concerned with the
balance of power between academics and athletics, and anyone else
with a serious interest in college sports and its future.
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