Category Archives: Sports Studies

IAPS @ Pacific APA 2022

IAPS is hosting a session at this year’s Pacific APA. The Pacific APA is being held in Vancouver, BC Canada , April 13-16, 2022.

The session is Friday April 15, 2022, 7-9 pm

Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)

Speakers:

Christopher C. Yorke (Langara College)
“Bernard Suits and the Paradox of the Perfectly Played Game”

Comments by: Jack Bowen (Independent Scholar)

Jeff Fry (Ball State University)
“Is Anyone on First? Sport, Agency, and the Divided Self”

Comments by: Nathanael Pierce (Arizona State University)

More Information about the Pacific APA 2022.

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Sport as Humanity

Two story lines getting attention in the sporting world are Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia prior to the Australian Open and the recent legal changes to COVID vaccine requirements in France that seem likely to impact the Champions League.

I’ve resisted writing about sport and vaccine mandates or related topics. Partly this is because I am always reticent to step into (overly) politicized topics (see my An Argument against Athletes as Political Role Models for more on why). But mainly it’s because it is not really about sport. It’s about health, it’s about policy, it’s about the limit and role of government. It is not about sport as such.

But there is an angle I think worth looking at. COVID-19 has affected all of us, throughout the globe. Certainly, some much more significantly than others, but everyone has been touched by it. And from very early on in the pandemic, sport has been a focal point (and a flashpoint).

It was the cancellation of sporting events in March 2020 that signaled to the wider public the seriousness of this new illness. It was the return to play that offered a mix of hope and trepidation. As sports came back, there were questions about testing: who should be tested? How often? What do the test means? Then as the vaccines become available: who should get vaccinated? When? And how should an athlete’s vaccination status affect testing, playing, quarantining, etc. And now we see many sport leagues revising their COVID related polices to reflect the shift to the impending endemic nature of the virus. Some view this as some kind of surrender and a path towards greater illness, while many others see the need to adapt the norms and rules that we live by to reflect the reality that the virus is here to stay.

Each of these questions raised in regard to sport are the very same questions and concerns throughout society. Should we cancel schools? How should we deal with testing in schools?  Should vaccines be mandated in school children, college students? And how do schools adapt (should schools adapt) to a future with endemic COVID? Or switch to any industry. Or to religious institutions. To restaurants and movie theaters. And so on throughout society. These same questions and concerns are raised in each and ever one of these domains.

But sport is not just another domain, one among thousands, that is dealing with all these issues. Sport is the closest thing we have to something universal. Not everyone has a kid in school or attends religious services. Almost no one pays attention to what is going in industries beyond their own. Few people pay attention to policy fights on the municipal level. But almost everyone, everywhere in the world, cares about sport in some fashion. It could be as fans. It could be as parents with children in youth sports. It could be as a player at any level, from pick-up games to the pros. Our (near) universal interest in sport makes it impossible to ignore these questions.

To be clear: I’m not at all suggesting that sport is leading the way or that we should take the policies of sport and apply them writ large or use them as guidance in our lives. My point is that sport carries with it, exposes and reflects all the major trends, issues, topics, concerns, etc. of society. The pandemic has highlighted that to a degree I am not sure we have seen before. However, we can see the same thing in race relations, in gender issues, in drug policies, in parenting, in governance, in questions of access and opportunity, and so many other areas.  It is hard to come up with some societal issue that doesn’t find its way into a sporting context.

Why and how is sport so interwoven with our lives? There are many philosophical, psychological, and sociological reasons why this might be.

Let me just suggest one path. Sport is fundamentally about the pursuit of goals and the development of personal and social excellences to strive for and achieve those goals. And since sport is embodied, it requires, more or less, our whole being: our mental, physical, emotional processes and skills are united in sport. Sport does this in a repeatable, yet limited, context such that we can focus in on, analyze, and thoroughly examine each aspect of these skills and means towards the goals. In this way, it essentializes and concretizes what is so central to being human: we are goal-directed beings who have to develop habits, characters, relationships, and norms of conduct to achieve our goals and flourish. We only have one life to do this in: and hopefully it takes many, many decades to pan out. Sport, though, allows us to experience, in a stylized way, the whole of life in 90 minutes; and to then do it again the next day.

This is in part what makes philosophy of sport (and the study of sport more generally) so important. Sport shows us humanity. To study sport is to study human beings; how we live and interact with each other: what we strive for, what we love, what we hate, and what we are.

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CFP: College Sports and Ethics

This is an open call for College Sports and Ethics, an edited collection to be published as part of Lexington Books’ Studies in the Philosophy of Sport series.

This new anthology, edited by Chad Carlson and Shawn E. Klein, focuses on foundational ethical issues in college sports, including the fit of intercollegiate sports with the university and the question of professionalism. It will also tackle several important ethical topics that pertain particularly to college sports, such as athletes’ rights and recruitment. This edited collection brings together top scholars of sport to examine college sports and analyze the important ethical issues in college sport. We invite you to submit a proposal to contribute as well.

There are many possible topics to focus on and we are open to almost any topic so long as it directly addresses a normative issue within intercollegiate athletics. We are looking for papers that focus on the particular ways an issue affects or arises in college sports specifically.

Topics of particular interest or need:

  • Athlete mental health
  • Academic concerns in connection to athletics
  • Recruitment of athletes
  • Religious issues impacting college athletics
  • Team names/mascots
  • Spectatorship/fandom

These suggestions are not exhaustive and we welcome proposals on many other topics as well. Feel free to reach out to us before abstract submission to discuss a possible topic.

To contribute, please email the following:

  • An abstract (300-500 words)
  • A CV
  • Submit as a PDF
  • Email by Nov 1, 2021
  • Email: sklein@asu.edu and/or ccarlson@hope.edu

We will notify contributors of acceptance no later than January 2022, and look for manuscripts to be submitted by May 1, 2022. All contributions will go through peer-review. We are expecting publication in early 2023.

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CFP: Studies in Philosophy of Sport

This is an active and ongoing call for proposals for the Studies in Philosophy of Sport series from Lexington Books.

This series encourages scholars from all disciplines to inquire into the nature, importance, and qualities of sport and related activities. The series aims to encourage new voices and methods for the philosophic study of sport while also inspiring established scholars to consider new questions and approaches.

The series encourages scholars new to the philosophy of sport to bring their expertise to this growing field. These new voices bring innovative methods and different questions to the standard issues in the philosophy of sport. Well-trodden topics in the literature will be reexamined with fresh takes and new questions and issues will be explored to advance the field beyond traditional positions.

A few possible topic ideas:

  • A deep analysis of one of the central concepts or theories in philosophy of sport.
    • Internalism, conventionalism, mutualism, etc.
    • Fouls and rules
    • Technology and its philosophical implications
    • Competition
    • Sportsmanship
  • Epistemological issues in sport: can sport teach us anything about how and what we know?
  • Metaphysical issues in sport: mind/body, personal identity, time, etc.
  • Application of contemporary approaches to philosophy to sport.
  • Look at a specific sport (rugby, tennis, gymnastics, etc.) and examine what philosophy can tell us about that sport and/or what that sport can teach us about philosophy.
  • Philosophical/ethical issues in the Olympics, college athletics, or youth sports.
  • Adaption of dissertation to a monograph.

Proposal Information

Review the proposal guidelines.

The series publishes both monographs and edited volumes. The “philosophy of sport” should be construed broadly to include many different methodological approaches, historical traditions, and academic disciplines.

I am happy to discuss topics before a formal proposal is submitted. Just email me and we’ll get the ball rolling.

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McNamee Student Essay Prize in the Philosophy of Sport

Reposting from: http://philosophyofsport.org.uk/mcnamee-student-essay-prize-in-the-philosophy-of-sport/

For questions or inquires please contact BPSA (contact info below)


McNamee Student Essay Prize in the Philosophy of Sport

Sponsored by Routledge / Taylor & Francis

The British Philosophy of Sport Association (BPSA) invites submissions for the McNamee Student Essay Prize in the Philosophy of Sport. The Prize is named in honour of Prof. Mike McNamee (Swansea and KU Leuven), founder of the BPSA, and it is kindly sponsored by Routledge / Taylor & Francis.

Prizes

Winner – £500 cash + £50 Routledge voucher

Runner-up – £200 cash + £50 Routledge voucher

Commendations x 3 – each of the three commended essays will receive £100 cash + £50 Routledge voucher

The Winner and Runner-up will be invited to present their essays at a BPSA online work-in-progress seminar in November ’21.

Essay Format

2500 words (including footnotes / endnotes but excluding works cited) on any topic in the Philosophy of Sport.

To become acquainted with topics considered in the Philosophy of Sport, please consult the Association’s journal Sport, Ethics and Philosophy:

https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rsep20/current

Eligibility

Candidates must be enrolled in a full-time university undergraduate or graduate level course on 1 September ’21. Submissions must be single-authored and the candidate’s own work, and they must address an issue in the Philosophy of Sport. Each candidate may submit one essay only and submissions must be in English. There is no geographical restriction on eligibility.

Criteria

In assessing submitted papers, the jury will place a strong emphasis on the following considerations:

  • Originality of the essay topic and its treatment;
  • Analytical rigour of the essay’s argument;
  • Critical engagement with relevant philosophical literature, including relevant work in the Philosophy of Sport.

Candidates will not receive feedback on their submission. The jury reserves the right not to award a prize if submissions fail to achieve an appropriate standard. The decision of the jury is final.

To Enter

Submissions should be emailed in Word or PDF format to j.w.devine@swansea.ac.uk with subject line ‘BPSA Essay Prize’
Candidates should submit two separate documents:

  1. Cover sheet that includes the candidate’s information (i.e. name, email address, university, and essay title); and
  2. Essay document that is anonymised so as not to reveal the identity of the candidate.

Deadline

September 1st, 2021

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Examined Sport: Nicholas Dixon, “Boxing, Paternalism, and Legal Moralism”

In this episode of Examined Sport, I discuss Nicholas Dixon’s “Boxing, Paternalism, and Legal Moralism” published in Social Theory and Practice in April 2001. While Dixon is not the first to address moral questions about the sport of boxing, this paper is important because Dixon focuses on what he calls pre-emptive paternalism as the basis for restrictions on boxing. This conception of paternalism has since been influential in the philosophy of sport on a wide range of issues from doping to banning of American football.

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Examined Sport: Scott Kretchmar, “From Test to Contest: An Analysis of Two Kinds of Counterpoint in Sport”

After a long hiatus, Examined Sport is back! Look for new episodes every two weeks.


In this episode of Examined Sport, I discuss Scott Kretchmar’s “From Test to Contest: An Analysis of Two Kinds of Counterpoint in Sport” published in the Journal of Philosophy of Sport in 1975. One of the foundational papers of the discipline, Kretchmar examines the distinction between tests and contests. The paper introduces several ideas that are influential on Kretchmar’s later work and on other thinkers in the field.

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Brief Review: From Ritual to Record

Guttmann’s classic From Ritual to Record is, in many ways, two books. The first “book” fits the title: it explains modern sport as something that comes out of but differs in essential ways from pre-modern sports. He provides a context and theory that attempts to account for the change. This first part of the book is (has been) the more important one for scholars of sport.

The second “book” is an attempt to try to account for the (somewhat) unique popularity of baseball and (American) football in America. Although this discussion is personally interesting, both because I’m a fan of both sports and because Guttmann makes extensive use of literature and film to provide illustrations and support of his ideas, it ultimately is too out of date to be all that relevant. Writing in the late 70s and appealing to data and sources from even earlier decades, Guttmann identifies some of the origins of some of the trends we see today (e.g. the slower growth of baseball relative to the growing popularity of football). But to be useful in a contemporary discussion of how American sports differ from the sports of other nations (and what that might tell us), we’d have to update most of that data.

Guttmann starts the “main” book with an attempt at a definition of sport. Working through the ideas of various thinkers, including Suits, Huizinga, Callois, Sutton-Smith, and others, Guttmann draws distinctions between play, games, and sport; and defines sport as a playful physical contest. I have several quibbles with his topology of play, games, and sport, in particular in the manner in which he treats play. He follows the line of thought (which I think is mistaken) that treats play as purely autotelic, with no room for the instrumental or the purposive. This leads, I think, to several errors in how Guttmann conceptualizes sport and its role in our lives. That aside, the general thrust of his description of sport are sufficient to make sense of his argument about the shift from pre-modern to modern sport. His discussion examines how sports modernized in terms of seven main characteristics:

  • Secularism
  • Equality of opportunity to compete and conditions of competition
  • Specialization of roles
  • Rationalization
  • Bureaucratic organization
  • Quantification
  • Quest for records

While discussing all of these, secularism and quantification seem to be the essential characteristics. These are the ones he focuses on the most, and in many ways they undergird and explain the other characteristics. For example, the quest for records seems to me to be a function of quantification – since the statistics and measures used for the records are things quantified.

Guttmann explains secularism as the long term shift from the origins of many sports and games in terms of the sacred towards sports as secular. In most cultures, athletic contests were, like most things, bound up with religion, the sacred. The games honored the gods or the contests were themselves sacred rituals (not recreation). Most know that the ancient Olympics and other Pan-Hellenic games were (at least in part) sacred religious events.

As he argues, part of the development of the modern world is a process of secularization. By this Guttmann doesn’t mean an outright rejection or eschewing of religion. It is that things that were sacred move in to the mundane. Sport modernize by moving from the sacred realm into the ordinary, everyday world.

Guttmann does briefly touch on the idea that sports have become a kind of secular religion, that it involves many rituals and myths of its own (26). After all, what sports fan hasn’t prayed to the “sports gods” at some point! But Guttmann argues that the point and role of sport in our lives is secular: it’s not about the transcendent or the sacred. It’s about fun, play, and profit.

I think this might dismiss the idea of a sacred secular, if such a thing makes sense. It’s not a transcendence that is mystic or other-worldly; it’s of this world and time but still sacred insofar as it is acknowledged and seen as extraordinary and special. A sacred secular just might be an essential aspect of modern sport. We all, I think, have the need for the sacred and sport might be a secular, non-supernatural way to experience the sacred. Towards the end of chapter 2, Guttmann seems to suggest something like a sacred secular: “Once the gods have vanished from Mount Olympus or from Dante’s paradise, we can no longer run to appease them or to save our souls, but we can set a new record. It is a uniquely modern form of immortality” (55).

The other key element of modern sport is the quantification: the desire to measure and quantify each aspect of sports. Again this is a broad modern trend we see in most aspects of modern life. It deeply impacts sport because there is so much to measure! And these measures become a (or maybe even the) means of comparison and evaluation. How many yards? How many baskets? How many strikes? And this is before we even step in to the age of advance metrics!

Another element of the book is Guttmann’s critique of Marxist (and neo-Marxist) analyses of modern sport. Though he takes pains to point to some positive contributions, he rejects these approaches as the nonsense they are. (In the Afterword, added in 2004, he walks this critique back a little bit and is a bit more accommodating, while still nonetheless rejecting these approaches).

Guttmann’s conclusion about the development of modern sport is best summed up by his claim that: “The emergence of modern sports represents neither the triumph of capitalism nor the rise of Protestantism but rather the slow development of an empirical, experimental, mathematical Weltanschauung[a kind of world-view]” (85). The modernization process, in sport and elsewhere, is a function of this world-view: a view that looks to reason and evidence to understand, make sense of, and organize the world in which one lives. Modern sport is an outgrowth of this process. I’m inclined to think that capitalism (understood as the freedom of consenting adults to produce and freely trade goods and services) is equally a result of the same modernization process. But Guttmann’s point still holds that modern sport is not the result of market economies per se; it is rather a parallel, inherently modern development.

Guttmann’s book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of sport and how modern sport is different from early forms of sport. Though I am less convinced that modern sport is different in kind from earlier forms (though that may not be Guttmann’s point), I think Guttmann is right about the slow development of the world view that ultimate brings about what we recognize as modern sport.

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Fall 2021: Sports Ethics (PHI 370) @ ASU

I will be teaching PHI 370: Sports Ethics at ASU in fall 2021.

For ASU students: Check with your academic advisor, but this course may be used to meet your HU general studies requirement and your general upper-division hours requirement. It may also be used as one of your upper-division electives in both the Philosophy and the Morality, Politics and Law majors, as well as the Ethics Certificate.

This course is also one of the required courses for the Sports, Cultures and Ethics Certificate.

 

Course Description:

A study of moral issues in sports, including but not limited to the nature and application of sportsmanship, the prohibition of performance enhancing drugs, ethical issues in the economics of sports, the role of violence, and fandom.

Prerequisite(s): ENG 102, 105, or 108 with C or better; minimum 25 hours; Credit is allowed for only PHI 370 or PHI 394 (Sports Ethics)

The class is scheduled for T/TH 9-10:15 am on the Tempe campus (COOR 199). SLN#: 91210

Tentative Weekly Reading and Unit Schedule
(subject to change)

Module: Course Introduction

Module: Philosophy and Sport: What is ‘sport’ and why study it?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Carson, Chad. “A Three-Pointer: Revisiting Three Crucial Issues in the “Tricky Triad” of Play, Games, and Sport.” Defining Sport. Edited by Shawn E. Klein. Lexington Books: Maryland, 2017, pp 3-21.
    • Reid, Heather, “Socrates at the Ballpark.” Baseball and Philosophy. Edited by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004, pp 273-283.

Module: What is Sportsmanship?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Keating, James, “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category,” Ethics 75, No 1, 1964, pp 25-35.
    • Feezell, Randolph, “Sportsmanship,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 13, 1986, pp 1-13.

Module: Is it ethical to run up the score?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Dixon, Nicholas, “On Sportsmanship and ‘Running Up the Score”; Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 19, 1992, pp 1-13.
    • Feezell, Randolph, “Sportmanship and Blowouts: Baseball and Beyond” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 26, 1999, pp 68-78.

Module: Is it wrong to foul?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Fraleigh, Warren. “Intentional rules violations — One more time,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 30, No, 2, 2003, pp 166-176.
    • Simon, Robert. The ethics of strategic fouling: A reply to Fraleigh,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 32, No. 1, 2005, pp 87-95.

Module: Is competition moral?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Kretchmar, R. Scott. “In Defense of Winning,” Sports Ethics: An Anthology. Ed. By Jan Boxill. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. pp. 130-135.
    • Simon, Robert. “The Critique of Competition in Sports,” Fair Play: The Ethics of Sport. 2nd Edition. Westview Press: 2004. Pp 19-35.
    • Kohn, Alfie. “Fun and Fitness w/o Competition,” Women’s Sport & Fitness, July/August 1990.

Module: Are playoffs fair?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Torres, Cesar R., and Peter Hager, “The Desirability of the Season Long Tournament: A Response to Finn,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 38, pp 39-54.
    • Harper, Aaron, “’You’re the best around’: an argument for playoffs and tournaments,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 43, no 2, 2016, pp 295-309

 Module: Should fighting in sport by allowed?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Dixon, Nicholas. “A Moral Critique of Mixed Martial Arts,” Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol 29, No 4, 2015, 365-384.
    • Dixon, Nicholas. “A Critique of Violent Retaliation in Sport,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, Vol 37, No. 1, 2010, pp 1-10.
    • Zakhem, Abe. “The Virtues of a Good Fight: Assessing the Ethics of Fighting in the National Hockey League,” Sports, Ethics and Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2015, pp 32-46.

Module: Can playing dangerous sports be justified?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Russell, J.S. “The Value of Dangerous Sport,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, 32, No. 1, 2005, pp 1-19.
    • Findler, Patrick, “Should kids play (American) football?” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 42, No. 3, 2015, pp 443-462.
    • Pam Sailors, “Personal Foul: an evaluation of moral status of football,” Journal of Philosophy of Sport, 42, No. 2, 2015, pp 269-286. (focus on pp 269-76)

Module: Should performance-enhancing drugs be banned?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Savulescu, Julian, Roger Crisp, and John Devine, “Oxford Debate: Performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in sport” University of Oxford, 2014.
    • Simon, Robert. “Good competition and drug-enhanced performance,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 11, 1984, pp 6-13.
    • Hemphill, Dennis. “Performance enhancement and drug control in sport: ethical considerations,” Sport in Society, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2009, pp 313-326.

Module: How should sport deal with sex and gender equality? 

  • Assigned Readings:
    • English, Jane. “Sex Equality in Sports” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol 7, No 3, 1978, pp 269-277
    • Sailors, Pam. “Mixed Competition and Mixed Messages.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2014, pp 65–77.

Module: Where should transgender athletes compete?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Coggon, John; Natasha Hammond; and Søren Holm, “Transsexuals in sport – fairness and freedom, regulation and law,” Sports, Ethics and Philosophy, Vol 2, No. 1, 2008, pp 4-17.
    • Gleaves, John and Tim Lehrbach, “Beyond fairness: the ethics of inclusion for transgender and intersex athletes.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol 43, No. 2, 2016, pp 311-326.

Module: What ought to be the social impact of sport?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Eig, Jonathan, “Some Good Colored Players” Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Simon and Schuster: New York, 2007, pp 26-34.
    • Leavy, Jane, “The King of the Jews,” Sandy Koufax. Perennial: New York, 2002, pp 167- 174, 193-4.
    • Sailors, Pam, “Zola Budd and the Political Pawn.” FairPlay, Revista de Filosofía, Ética y Derecho del Deporte, vol. 10, 2017.

Module: What should the role of money be in sport?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Duncan, Albert. “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? Yes” Baseball and Philosophy. Ed. by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004. pp 297-299.
    • Shuman, Joel. “Does A-Rod Deserve So Much Money? No,” Baseball and Philosophy. Ed. by Eric Bronson. Open Court: Chicago, 2004. pp 300-302.
    • Collins-Cavanaugh, Daniel. “Does the Salary Cap Make the NFL a Fairer League?” Football and Philosophy. Ed. Michael Austin. The University Press of Kentucky, 2008. pp 165-180.
    • Sheehan, Joe. “Salary Cap,” Baseball Prospectus. Feb. 19, 2002.

Module: Is being a fan moral?

  • Assigned Readings:
    • Dixon, Nicholas. “The Ethics of Supporting Sports Teams,” Journal of Applied Philosophy, 18, No. 2, 2001, pp 149-158.
    • Mumford, Stephen, “The Philosophy of Sports Fans,” PhilosophyFile, The University of Nottingham, 2011, video.
    • Aikin, Scott F., “Responsible Sports Spectatorship and the Problem of Fantasy Leagues” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 27, No. 2, 2013, pp 195-206.

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Book Review: Big-Time Sports in American Universities by Charles T. Clotfelter

In his Big-Time Sports in American University, Charles Clotfelter aims to do several things: first, demonstrate that commercial sport is one of the core functions of American universities. Second, explore how big-time college sport figures in the outcomes of the university (both of the negative and positive variety). Third, make use of recent data and statistical studies to support the previous two points. Lastly, Clotfelter makes some recommendations for reforms.

The book starts with an examination of how sports fit into the university. The American system of commercial sport within universities is unique and part of what Clotfelter wants to do is sort out why and how we end up with the system we have. This helps set up some of his main questions: why, given the many problems that seem to come with commercialized college sport, do universities keep these programs and seek to grow them? Where do (and do) these programs fit into the mission of the university? His conclusion is that commercial sport play important and crucial roles in the modern American university and these shouldn’t be ignored or downplayed. Part of his diagnosis for some of the problems of big-time sports is precisely because the centrality of college sports has not been fully and honestly acknowledged.

Clotfelter then turns to teasing out the consequences for the university of having college sports. He explores, using some clever statistical studies, the impact that college sports have on the academic outcomes, social and community outcomes, and financial outcomes of the university. Some of these are concerning (the negative impact on academic standards and progress) and some of these are positive (the entertainment and happiness produced for the broad community of fans). But in the end, not much of what he finds is all that surprising but seeing it connected to data helps sort out the various ways high-level commercialized sport can impact the university and what it does.
Lastly, he looks at some possible reforms. Some of these are likely to happen soon(ish) though with unknown consequences (such a name, likeness, and image reform). Others are more radical and unlikely to move beyond the pages of academic works.

One of the more interesting conclusions Clotfelter suggests is that while money drives a lot of what goes on in college sport, it doesn’t seem to be the ultimate end or purpose. That is, what he finds is that university leaders and stakeholders that support big-time college sports are ultimately doing it because they want to win. Money is essential to building successful programs, but the end goal is not profit, it is wins: “Despite the palpable commercial value of college athletics, however, it bears repeating that the primary objective of athletic departments is not to make for its own sake. Rather, it is to produce winning teams, for which money is virtually an ironclad necessity” (153).

I appreciate that Clotfelter walks a balanced line. He is quite critical of many aspects of big-time college sports, but also notes the value it brings to the university and society more generally. He brings forward data to help figure out both the harm and the value so that we can better evaluate college sport, but also to more helpfully target criticism and reform. Those looking for either a morbid focus on salacious scandals or enthusiastic cheerleading of the wonders of college sport will need to look elsewhere.

This is an important and helpful work for those interested in understanding the context of big-time college sports. It is not overly technical or mathematical, but it does rely on statistics and other tools of the social scientist. It’s not a casual, beach read, but it’s not a difficult read either. I could also see pulling specific chapters out for assignment in a course. With a little context, many of them can stand alone. In the final analysis, I do not think one walks away with a clear path to realistic reform or even definitive answers to the main questions about college sports, but the book, just as the title indicates, provides a solid foundation for understanding the relationship of big-time college sports to American universities.

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