Today, more than ever before, it is increasingly becoming clear that big-time college sports are adversely affecting the quality of education provided by American universities. Many of the students enrolling into these institutions seem motivated by other concerns outside the scope of achieving quality education. This trend is not new, but it has gained a lot of momentum in recent years, hence the need to interrogate the situation in much more depth while reflecting on the works of Murray Sperber in his book “Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education.”
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Following a commentary done on the book by George Leef, it is evident that American institutions of high learning have lost the direction in terms of providing an enabling environment for quality education to be impacted on students. Sperber argues that different types of motivations have led to this situation by impacting differently on “the triangle of athletic directors, starry-eyed administrators, and faculty members.” For instance, university administrators are motivated by the achievement of “prestige” at all costs and often at the expense of providing quality education. Many university directors are also motivated by having a retinue of graduate schools and research programs, with the view to achieving the level of prestige associated with these capacities and hence increasing enrollment rates.
Athletic directors are definitely motivated by the desire to produce the best collegiate athletic teams in the United States. As has been demonstrated by Sperber, being the best football or basketball team at the university level can guarantee increments in enrollment rates, though academic levels may actually be on a downward trend. These directors are also motivated by the desire to sustain high enrollment rates through sporting activities rather than academic endeavors. Lastly, it seems that the desire for more money to fund university activities acts as a motivating force for athletic directors.
On their part, faculty members seem very keen on progressing their own research projects, thus their motivation is fueled by the desire to publish scholarly works to gain popularity and credibility at the expense of providing quality teaching services to undergraduates. It is also tenable to suggest that faculty members are motivated by the funding that is intrinsically tied to research activities. The money factor is also important for the teaching fraternity as most of them want to continually engage in research activities with the view to requesting for huge emoluments upon recruitment. However, the high emoluments and excellent qualification standards of faculty members are unable to justify why the quality of undergraduate education in most American universities is on a downward spiral.
The impacts of these motivations are clear at the Texas A&M University. On the part of university directors, for example, it is now evident that undergraduate programs are not being modified to meet current market needs despite the fact that enrollment rates keep increasing. This clearly demonstrates that undergraduate education is not a priority for university directors at the institution, who may be targeting graduate programs and research activities in an attempt to gain prestige. The impact of the discussed motivations on athletic directors at the university is well illuminated by the fact collegiate athletic programs are taken with much seriousness than what is normally seen in academic circles.
For example, it has been demonstrated that coaches under the various athletic directors are stricter on student-athletes than how faculty members are to students. The motivations affecting the teaching fraternity have been well illuminated by the way members miss to attend to the needs of their respective undergraduate classes. Indeed, it is common practice for some lecturers to miss giving lecturers due to their unavailability when needed in classroom settings. In most occasions, these lecturers are engaged in research activities at the expense of providing quality undergraduate education.
Lastly, at a personal level, I totally agree with Sperber’s assertions, particularly in the context of how big-time sports have continued to lower the quality of undergraduate education in American universities. My argument is firmly grounded on the fact that education comes second to sports in most universities, hence many of the students attend classes for the sake of graduating and some don’t graduate at all. From the reading, I believe I am justified to suggest that administrators and athletic directors are using sports as a pawn in the game of getting more dollars from increases in enrollment rates. This point has already been advanced by Sperber, but I believe the situation is getting worse by the day as we continue witnessing markedly unfocussed and unmotivated students at institutions of higher learning.
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The situation is further aggravated by faculty members, who supposedly enter into agreements with students to maintain the status quo involving the provision of low-quality education provided that students don’t complain and are given the freedom they desire. As Sperber rightly points out, students graduate at the end of their studies but with half-baked capabilities that are unsustainable in the current job market. It is my considered opinion that this situation needs to be addressed before it goes out of hand. I suggest a reformulation and restructuring of American undergraduate degree programs to ensure that students are decisively assessed on their academic capacities rather than on their ability to be sporty or willingness to pay huge sums of the money just to be in possession of a degree certificate.