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Jeff Gravley

College $ports: #MissionorMoney was a learning experience for me

Posted September 24, 2013
Updated September 25, 2013

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Our goal in the documentary College $ports: #MissionorMoney was to show how complex college athletics can be.

It’s a near-impossible balancing act to field competitive sports teams that generate millions of dollars in an academic setting.

“Our athletic programs are basically running a sports business in an educational setting,” explained ACC commissioner John Swofford. "And those two things need to be balanced appropriately.”

We tried to get insight from all angles of the story. We talked to those with academic priority like Duke professor Orin Starn. “The reality right now is that Division I universities across the country are running this billion-dollar sports entertainment complex,” Starn said. “And I don’t think that sounds very good to put up front in your mission statement.” 

We interviewed those who make a career out of college athletics including athletic directors, broadcasters and coaches. “You worship at the altar of your program,” former ECU, Boston College and NFL coach Steve Logan said. “You do what it takes to win the football game, to do the best you can to do it the right way, but don’t tell me you’ve never broken a rule. Don’t tell me that.”

Programs have cheated to win and bent the rules to keep players academically above ground. Players have accepted money and impermissible benefits but also feel they should be getting more than the value of their scholarship.

The mission statement of college athletics is incredibly murky, but fans continue to pour their hearts, souls and money into the schools they cheer for. 

“As a scholar who’s worked and written about the history of sports,” Starn said, “I can say that I don’t think there’s ever been a society in human history that has been as obsessed and as crazy enthusiastic about sports as America in 2013.”

UNC system President Tom Ross agrees. “The American public is really where the control of all this is, because it is the American public that has become very devoted to college athletics.”

Charles Clotfelter is a professor of public policy, economics and law at Duke. He also wrote the book, Big Time Sports in American Universities. “The conclusion I came up with is that the trustees want to have competitive teams, period. End of story,” he said.

Working on the documentary gave me this perspective on college athletics: It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. Some see it as impossible to solve, but it’s entertainment that people keep spending money on.

19 Comments

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  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Sep 27, 4:38 p.m.

    WRAL did an excellent job with this documentary, with experts on many different levels presenting the facts. Solving the Rubik's cube is probably easier than coming to an agreement on how student/athletes should be rewarded.

  • NCSU84 Sep 25, 2:27 p.m.

    During the telecast, did Gravely, say "everybody does it.." If that is the case, please showcase the UNC type scandals at the other instate universities!

  • DEVILS1 Sep 25, 12:54 p.m.

    a small clothing allowance and insurance policies in case of life altering injuries for the student athlete, but not base salaries; there are going to be SO many problems that comes with that. These schools and conferences have more than enough money to make ALL of the base necessities be provided. I stated it before, it is time for Triple-A football for those needing a year or two before the NFL to home in their skills, bulk up and prepare overall, don’t use school to do it. There are too many people trying too hard academically in high school to be denied admission when many (not all) of theses knuckle heads we see on TV are accepted. The coaches’ salaries can be reduced, the schools can take care of all the needs and people would be able to afford it more. Also, the NCAA needs to also get their head out of their asss with a lot of the rules, if a player wants to work in the off season; I see no harm in that.

    Maybe I'll stop spending time watching the games and get a second job to help pay off mine and... View More

    — Posted by DEVILS1

  • DEVILS1 Sep 25, 12:51 p.m.

    Maybe I'll stop spending time watching the games and get a second job to help pay off mine and my wife's student loans. She and I both worked while we were in school, with a family and did not have time to do a lot of other things, including extra study time; we managed...we were stressed, making ends meet paying bills, like mortgage payments, food, utilities, TAXES, insurance, medical/dental, child care expenses, home and vehicle maintenance…you know, the things MOST of us have. If they start getting paid, are they going to be treated like other employees at the School? When a player steps out of line are they going to be written up, or even fired? I doubt it-‘cannot fire Billy, got a big game coming up this weekend….’ What about taxes? I believe that if college athletes are to be paid at some point, maybe it would be OK if we as a society agree that the men and women that protect our freedom, dodge bullets in our own streets, rush into burning buildings, EMT personnel keeping someone alive on their way to the ER and teachers that educate our children start getting paid a hell of a lot more than they do; fine. I have played or been involved with sports my entire life, but I am simply ‘grossed out’ with what pro athletes and Pro/College coaches get paid, NONE of them are worth the money they get paid. I’ve heard discussions about low attendance in the stands; well no schit! The economy has been down and tickets are already too expensive for the average person/family to attend them. It sounds to me like pro sports needs to let people come in and play when they are old enough to vote and fight; if they are good enough. The ones not good enough, accept a scholarship in exchange for your talents and obtain a degree or two like I did and move forward. There are so many people without anything that still watch these people play a game…I feel the schools, conferences and NCAA should provide tuition, room/board, meals for seven days, a small clothing allowance a

  • Wheelman Sep 25, 11:43 a.m.

    I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill. Universities and colleges have "used" students for decades. The schools make hundreds of millions on government and private grant funding for research in lots of fields. New products and materials etc. are discovered every year. Who do you think does most of the grunt work in these labs? Students, of course. How much do they benefit financially from all this work? Zero. A professor at Univ. of Florida invented Gatorade and he and/or the university went on to make millions off of it. Do you think any students who helped do the lab work shared in those profits? Allow the student athletes to receive a couple of thousand a year from some approved sources such as booster clubs, apparel sales etc. with all of it being reported to the NCAA. As for graduation rates, they are not that different from the general student population. Stop allowing those who are not capable of doing college wok to start with and you pretty much fix that. And if you really want to see it fixed, make the programs keep those who have used up their eligibility on scholarship for an additional year so they can finish their education. Tell a coach that he will not have as many scholarship players because of this and you will see the emphasis on getting those capable of graduating and getting them graduated increase immediately. It becomes a self-imposed penalty.

  • rush Sep 25, 11:35 a.m.

    Here is a start...let boosters and agents pay the players they want to pay. Universities... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    So T Boone Pickens and Phil Knight can pay any player they want? Yeah, that won't decrease parity at all.

  • DEVILS1 Sep 25, 11:18 a.m.

    They get free food -free room and board-free books and get to travel around the United States... View More

    When I first heard of this doc, these were the first people I thought of!

  • jmcdow2792 Sep 25, 11:03 a.m.

    Students on scholarship can have a paid job as a lab or research assistant. Furthermore, they can go to work at the local McDonald's or at IBM in the Triangle if they want to. Athletes are not allowed to by NCAA rules. Fair? No.

  • Ken D. Sep 25, 10:32 a.m.

    Should a school pay an athlete? Nope. SHould they be able to get paid doing ads and selling... View More

    — Posted by unclegrits

    Are you suggesting athletes shouldn't get scholarships? I'm not saying I don't agree with that, but athletes are already being paid by schools. They aren't being paid very much, and many of them aren't being paid commensurate with their contribution to the success of their team/school. But they are being paid. Scholarship athletes are professionals who are subject to an unrealistic salary cap.

  • 4tarheels Sep 25, 10:32 a.m.

    Here is a start...let boosters and agents pay the players they want to pay. Universities provide education, room/board, maybe a minimal stipend for other expenses.

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