So far this is pretty much the history of the paradigm shift I’ve chosen (I have about 3.5 pages so far). I’m planning on going into more detail about the USC and Penn State scandals. I’m having trouble defining the significance of the shift as well so any advice would be much appreciated!
The Increasing Intensity of College Athletics
Headlines across newspapers and the Internet have been filled with scandals regarding college sports. Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired after it was revealed that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually harassed young boys who attended football camps at the university. USC was penalized for giving gifts to Reggie Bush and his family while he attended the university. During the mid-twentieth century, there was a shift in the nature of scandals in college athletics from being related to violence and cheating to being the result of corruption, business investments, and the desire to win to bring in more money for the program.
College athletics were instituted in the mid-nineteenth century. Colleges competed in sports like crew, baseball, and football. Scandals in college athletics were first evident in football programs. The sport was excessively violent due to the lack of protective equipment, so violent that college football was the cause of eighteen deaths in 1905. President Theodore warned the universities that unless they came up with a way to make football safer for the athletes, they would have to get rid of the sport entirely. After a few meetings of select schools to discuss potential reforms for the sport, sixty-two universities formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States in 1906. In 1910, the association was renamed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The goal of the NCAA was to ensure that college athletics were run in accordance with the ethical and educational standards held by the institutions themselves. The violence in football was curtailed by rules still in place today, like the ten yards needed for a first down. Later in the twentieth century, scandals in gambling arose during which college athletes, particularly basketball players, were paid by gamblers to perform poorly in important games.
Scandals in the college athletic recruitment process were inevitable. Coaches went out of their ways to find the best possible athletes to fill the needed positions on their squads. When questions of amateurism came into play culminating in 1948, the NCAA stepped in with new regulations. Athletic scholarships were forbidden, athletes had to be as academically strong as the students not on a varsity team, and athletes were required to be amateurs in their respective sports. Violation of any of these regulations resulted in the university’s ejection from the NCAA, a rule that did not stand for long.
The real shift in the nature of college sports scandals coincided with the broadcasting of college athletics on television. Up until the 1980s, the NCAA had control over what football games were broadcasted. Originally in the early 1950s, college sports were not permitted to be shown on television with the exception of case study games to determine how broadcasting affected the nature of college sports.
“In 1952, the NCAA decided to sell a TV package covering all member schools. Bought by NBC for $1.1 million in 1952, it allowed a game to be televised nationally on 12 Saturday afternoons. No school could appear more than once, and the games had to involve schools from all parts of the country. Small-college games of regional interest could also be televised, and additional games could be televised if approved by the television committee. Sponsors had to be ‘organizations of high standards that meet traditional college requirements of dignified presentation.’”
However, in 1984, the Supreme Court declared that the NCAA’s control over what football games were broadcasted was in violation of antitrust laws. Broadcasting companies now dealt directly with the schools and offered them money to televise their games.
With the introduction of new business investments came corruption. The leaders of college athletic programs took advantage of the billion dollar television industry. Being on television brought money to the universities, and the better the team, the more likely their games were to be broadcasted. To strengthen their teams, coaches had to be more aggressive in the recruitment of high school athletes. That aggression led to a rise in recruitment scandals. One such scandal took place at Southern Methodist University when both the governor of Texas and the university’s Board of Directors were aware of athletes being illegally paid to play their particular sports. Other scandals involved the lessening of the standards needed for entrance into the university for athletes. They were not held to the same academic standards as the other students vying for acceptance. Attempts were made at forming committees to resolve such issues, but none succeeded as the graduation rate of student athletes began to rapidly decline.
College athletics have been heavily commercialized since the NCAA lost control over television broadcasts of football in 1984. It has become a billion dollar industry; as of 2010, the Southeastern Conference made over $1 billion and the Big Ten was not far behind. Coaches of big-time college sports teams make million dollar salaries. It can be argued that the scandals of recent years – i.e. the Reggie Bush scandal, Ohio State scandal, and Penn State scandal – are related to greed associated with the commercialization of college athletics. Coaches and staff want to bring in more money for their university, and the best way to do so is to have a winning team that is well-publicized. In recent years, winning has been the priority of college sports, and academic standards have been left behind. Athletes dedicate countless hours each week to their respective sports with little time to dedicate to schoolwork compared to their fellow students. The commercial aspect of college athletics also impedes on their academic performance because team schedules are influenced by the television networks on which they are broadcast. Late night away games especially make it difficult for student athletes to attend early morning classes. These athletes are the heart of college sports, yet, unless they have been given athletic scholarships, they receive no cut of the profits of the billion dollar industry. The coaches, on the other hand, do make a large cut of the profit. In the scandals mentioned previously, winning was more important than the integrity of the athletic program.