Too Much Focus On Football?

So, okay. In case you were completely unaware (a.k.a. probably don’t give a flying flip), this season of college football has been… dramatic. It’s something I’ve touched on before when last I talked about the BCS and how it’s kind of a dumb system.

Well, today, it got crazier, with No. 1 LSU getting to play a rematch with No. 2 Alabama for the BCS National Championship, Alabama just squeezing past Oklahoma State.

You know, since the BCS’s creation in 1998, and including this year, the SEC has been the conference with the National Champions 8 times? Tennessee in 1998/99, LSU in 2003/04, and LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Florida have all grabbed it at least once in the past 6 years (this year included). And the SEC is the conference that was suggesting a sort of playoff system?

Ah, well. Interesting stuff.

But, as interesting as all that is, that’s not really my point. (Though I’m contractually obligated to say Roll Tide and trash talk LSU now. Um, our state’s tiger could beat up your state’s tiger. Yeah. Betcha feel that burn.)

With all this football hubbub, and with Alabama having a mighty strong beginning in basketball this year (a 7-1 record and a standing at No. 12), I’ve been hearing a whole heck of a lot of sports talk. Heck, as my previously linked post and at least one other (which apparently made a rather erroneous presumption) have maybe keyed you in on, I’ve even joined in on the sports talk. I usually reserve it for my chats about my predictions for the World Cup, but hey. Going to UA can kind of get to you.

In fact, I was attempting earlier tonight to explain to my mother exactly why the BCS is a faulty, rather moronic system, designed to create pools of money out of smaller pools of money and not really bothering to represent any sort of accuracy of competition. At which point my mother got kind of annoyed, said she really didn’t care about football in the slightest, and then proceeded to mumble in a loud, not really mumbling voice about how schools focus way too much on football and other sports.

But, we’re in the South, so, football.

Now, back when I worked for The Crimson White, I remember the discussion of money made off of sports programs coming up. Apparently, as I recall, the University of Alabama is one of the few schools that actually earns money from its athletic department. The money UA makes off of football pays off the huge amount of money UA spends on football, covers all the other money pit sports like women’s basketball, and then has some left over, likely for Nick Saban to swim in.

Or something.

But when I say a few… I think the number was something like 14 or 16. 14 or 16 schools in the nation that are members of the NCAA do not lost money from their athletics departments and actually gain some money.

If that’s accurate, that’s a little shocking.

And so, as always, I wonder if the anti-sports lobby (my mother) has a point. Do schools pour too much money into athletics and sacrifice too much from other areas the school needs to focus on? Like… education?

But, really, we can ignore the schools that lose money for this argument. It’s actually better to point at the schools that make the money. If it is in fact true that the University of Alabama earns more money from the athletics department than it spends… where exactly is that extra money going?

It’s something I’ve wanted to know for years but never heard an answer for. Meanwhile, the price of going to school climbed higher and higher each year, the school got more and more crowded, the food options became more and more limited (and ridiculous), and many educational departments (such as the ever disdained liberal arts) simply twisted in the economic wind.

Of course, the greek system got more land and houses and the athletic department never wanted for anything. Likely, all of this is still quite true.


Alabama continues to grow as a school. And there are some amazing educational opportunities to be found there. Our MBA program, our law school, our astrophysics program… really, a large chunk of our graduate programs host a bevy of praise. The school has many high-ranking, highly awarded scholars and scholarship recipients. It also hosts a program with Cuba that created the first major arts endeavor by a group of Cubans since, like, 2001 or something (back in 2009, I believe, with the production of “Un sueño de una noche de verano”).

Lots of opportunities. The fact that it was in state wasn’t the ONLY reason I went there.

But, still… it has its problems, too. Openness from the administration is certainly one of them. A greek-run political machine that has waaaay too much real world power is another. But a nearly fanatical focus on the Crimson Tide athletics (especially football) that may come at the sacrifice of a more well-rounded education in every department? That may be the biggest problem of all.

And it isn’t just UA with this problem, I’m certain. Maybe schools are focused far too much on trying to garner money and fame through athletics and are not focusing enough attention on what they should be doing: educating students.

The fact that a college student who is good at football can make it through to his junior year and be illiterate (which a professor friend of mine told me happened to her when she was teaching in Louisiana) is a sign of misplaced priorities.

Maybe a playoff system isn’t the only thing we should lobby when it comes to sports. Maybe we should also lobby for a more balanced application of funds to favor all students int their educational endeavors.

Or maybe I’m just a crazy lib arts double major that hated being stuck in buildings constantly on the verge of collapse. You pick.

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