Sunday, April 24, 2011

Big-Time Sports

During my college days at Mankato State University (now Minnesota State at Mankato), the school was known more as the location of the Vikings training camp than our local student athletes.


So low was my interest in college sports then (and now), I think there were only two or three events I attended, including one football game (dragged there as a freshman), one hockey game (as part of an SID work study assignment) and, all lumped together as one complete match, a collection of women's tennis events (my beat for the sports section of The Reporter).


Even Tom Wolfe's college sports fiction "I Am Charlotte Simmons" could not hold my interest a few years back. And I usually love Tom Wolfe texts (check out "Hooking Up" if you have not yet read it).


But recently, thanks to publicists at Cambridge University Press, I gave it another shot by scanning a review copy of Charles T. Clotfelter's new book "Big-Time Sports In American Universities."


The verdict: Still not a college sports fan here, but the book was interesting (affirming many of my longstanding hangups with university athletics), and I think the die-hard college sports fans around me should read it, particularly those in sports marketing.


Clotfelter examines four key roles fulfilled by college sports, as a consumer packaged good, business enterprise (which tees up conflicts of interest for academic institutions),as an instrument to forge relationships, and as role in education. The author's research delves into the positive, neutral or negative outcomes of commercial sports at universities, and provides detail for discussion by those who are critics or fans of the college sports machine.


Not one page of the book delves into Olympic athletic endeavors -- mostly NCAA basketball, college football and other larger sports are explored through Clotfelter's research -- so the book was not as relevant for my interests. But I'll cheerfully loan my copy to those who are interested.


Photo via Amazon.com

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