The college football championship game last Monday night was an exciting contest between two superb teams. The fact that education is the primary mission of the institutions they represent, however, was barely mentioned in the telecast. In fact, it seemed irrelevant. This was an athletic entertainment, pure and simple.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Anyone reading this piece is probably interested in sports, which are a big, successful business. One has to wonder, however, about the priorities of these universities.
Yes, it’s the universities themselves who must explain how this athletic spectacle fits in with the educational mission. Usually the NCAA is the whipping boy for the sins of college sports. The NCAA, however, cannot take the blame for the championship playoff series, which is run by a separate organization. That separate entity, which is controlled by approximately sixty teams from the five so-called power conferences (the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 plus independent Notre Dame), has a contract with ESPN, which reportedly pays in excess of $500,000,000 per year, of which the NCAA gets nothing. What is truly amazing about the $500,000,000 per year paid for this allegedly amateur sport is that it comes to about $166,000,000 per game!
The NCAA’s cash cow is the basketball championship tournament, but at least during that tournament there are numerous reminders about the educational mission of the universities and the worthwhile lives these institutions of higher learning are preparing their students to live. I never thought I’d miss those institutional advertisements, but, without them, the championship football game could just as well have been between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.