Essay, Research Paper: College Sport Commercialization

Sport

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“I’m going to have to let you go,” says coach Tim Koth to another former
player as he adds another notch to his belt. “It’s nothing personal, I like
you,” he says, “but I have to look at this as a business.” Is that what it
is? I always looked at sport as an outlet, or even an opportunity; but sport is
a business, that has become the cruel reality of modern day sport. This paper
will discuss various aspects and show different examples of some ways in which
this fact is apparent. I am a unit, specifically, a mere employee within a
corporation earning just around four thousand dollars per year. Quincy
University (as well as other universities) represents the corporation; it is
because of Quincy University that I will never see my four thousand dollars per
year. The volleyball team, and other teams belonging to the corporation, are the
manufacturers...the moneymakers. So when I, or any other employee, is not
working out efficiently, then the boss needs to “let me go.” As much as they
(meaning, the coaches) might say that they care for the individual, their care
is only skin deep. Every individual on a team is expendable, and every
individual, at one point or another, will be replaced. Coaches will typically
form relationships with their players on an authoritative level. The coaches
will normally develop a method in which they control nearly every aspect of the
player’s life (Sage 149). It can be anything from eating habits, extra
curricular activities, and training for the associated sport, to such things as
dating behaviors and other social characteristics of the normal life of a
college student...it’s a trap. This is the situation: a high school student
with an exceptional athletic background and satisfying grades is recruited to a
division one school with a healthy scholarship to play basketball. He accepts
the offer and signs his National Letter of Intent which declares that if the
student wishes to play for another institution he must first take a full year
off from playing his designated sport. In that effect, the student athlete is
bound to this institution; however, the institution is not bound to the athlete
(Eitzen 111). The student has no qualms about signing this piece of paper; he
feels that this is just a small price to pay in the way of higher education.
After the first year of college, however, the student finds that he is incapable
of competing at such a high level, and what once was a way to pay for the
greater part of his education has become his downfall. His contract is
non-renewable, non-negotiable; the once caring coaching staff has “let him
go.” Since signing his letter of intent, he has no chance at playing
basketball for even a division two or three school, and is left with no way to
pay for his education...it’s a trap. Colleges should, in the future, offer two
to four year scholarships to exemplify their commitment to athletes as student
representatives (Eitzen 118). In college, the athlete considers himself or
herself to be an elite, which is true based on a table of progression within the
National Federation of State High School Associations data, stating that only
five percent of all high school athletes are able to carry their athletic career
into a collegiate level (Sage 52). This is one example of the business aspect of
sport. If this were not true, then anyone that wanted to play in a particular
sport, could. College sport has grown from simple intramural and recreational
facets of life to large-scale commercial entertainment. We have come to an era
in which sports are not only a part of our everyday life, but they almost
control us. The topic arises in nearly every conversation, example: “how
‘bout them Bears?!” The mention of a sporting team is a means of casual
conversation, an icebreaker, and even has certain politics involved as well.
Then you have your schools, the corporations, which have come to rely on sports
as a means of attracting more students and other gratuities (i.e. major
endorsements and other various sponsorships). One can be sure that nobody goes
to Ohio State because of its outstanding fine arts division. Ohio State is first
known as a competitive football producer, it is realized secondly as an
educational institution. Ohio State, because of its past successes, is
enthusiastically endorsed by the Nike Corporation and also has an enrollment of
well over thirty thousand students. There is a buzz that resonates in the air
and the minds of those in “Buckeye Land,” and the state-of-the-art
facilities are directly related to this impact. Another, yet crueler, aspect of
college sport as a business is an example that was made public by the University
of Central Florida football program in 1997. With Heisman Trophy candidate Dante
Culpepper as one of the team’s greater successes, the coach of the UCF Knights
accepted a division 1 schedule, which included powerhouse teams such as Nebraska
and Georgia State for approximately one million dollars in return. The coach
commented by saying that he does not mind getting crushed mentally and
physically, and that one million dollars will more than satisfy any medical
needs. As it was, UCF was nearly obliterated by Nebraska physically, the players
being treated merely as the aforementioned “expendable units.” Is it not
disgusting that universities are becoming so commercialized that student seating
is often raffled off in a lottery (Eitzen 106)? Participating, whether playing
or spectating, in sports was originally meant for the interest and entertainment
of the students. Would it not be more ideal to have a lottery for the community
outside of the university? It is, after all, the university that created the
community. These are but a few examples that have opened my eyes to college
sport in the business perspective. I feel somewhat guilty in that I am a
participant, and will continue to participate, in college sports even after
searching into the background for these facts. Although I do not foresee much,
if any, change in the future of sport, I will be ever more wary when it comes
time for my blood (my children) to enter into the commercialized world of
“higher education.” “Not only is collegiate sport concerned with business,
but its leaders go to great lengths to conceal this fact (Sage 191).”
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