FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What If American Colleges Abolished Football?

Hard as it may be to believe, in 1939, the University of Chicago abruptly dropped its football program, citing as its reason the astonishing fact that (according to school president, the uber-intellectual Robert Maynard Hutchins) the sport had evolved to the point where it was becoming a distraction to both students and faculty.  In Hutchins’ view, the game of football was now detracting from the noble ideals the university had set for itself.

And this was no empty, purely symbolic gesture made by an otherwise ignored and lackluster football school.  This was not the case of some homely, unpopular high school student meaninglessly announcing to the world their intention to boycott the senior prom.  Far from it.

In 1939, the University of Chicago was a Big Ten Conference football power, formerly coached (until 1932) by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, and the school’s decision to abandon its football program sent shock waves reverberating across the country.  Indeed, the very first winner of the prestigious Heisman Trophy, in 1935, was Jay Berwanger, the University of Chicago’s star running back.

Take a moment and imagine this happening today at, say, the University of Alabama, or the University of Texas, or USC.  Of course, such a thought is beyond ludicrous; it’s insane.  Not only would any university president suggesting such a thing be instantly canned, but these big-time football schools would make it abundantly clear that they would willingly set fire to the Physics Lab (and, if need be, to the Physics faculty) rather than see their beloved football program eliminated.

But as farfetched as this hypothesis is, what might the fallout be?  What would be the ramifications?  Well, for one thing, you would rarely see any no-neck, 6’ 4”, 320-pound men walking around campus.  Those guys would more or less vanish.  For another, you might notice a slight increase in on-campus interest in other fall sports, such as volleyball and cross-country.  Most significantly, you’d see a staggering drop in the school’s treasury.   It’s a fact.  TV revenue at big-time football schools (and big-time football conferences) is monstrous.

Take Notre Dame for example.  It is, unquestionably, a good college, a highly respected academic school.  It’s a religious school as well, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.  Most importantly, it’s a big-time football program.  Notre Dame has been a football powerhouse since way back in the 1920s, when Knute Rockne was its head coach. (Fun fact:  The Norwegian-born Rockne graduated from Notre Dame in 1914, with a degree in pharmacy).

How much revenue has football brought the University of Notre Dame?  While no one can answer that question with certainty, the figure has to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The Fighting Irish have made a fortune from football.  On April 13, 2013, ESPN announced that Notre Dame and NBC had agreed to a 10-contract extension, running from 2016 to 2025, at a reported $15 million per season.

But there would be another ramification to this, one that is both startling and sobering.  If America’s colleges and universities—for whatever reason—decided to abandon football, the National Football League (NFL) would find itself shit out of luck.  Think about that.  Without college football, the NFL would have no players from which to choose.

Unlike major league baseball, which spends a great amount of money maintaining its minor leagues, the NFL, relying on college football for its sustenance, has been getting a free ride.  Arguably, if this constant and reliable supply of college players were cut off, the League would have to invent some sort of semi-pro developmental league, which could be logistical nightmare.

That’s why the NFL should be required to donate to college football.  Subsidize it the way major league baseball subsidizes the minor leagues.  No more free rides.  Not only should the NFL be required to subsidize college football, but those colleges should be required to apply that money to lowering the tuition of its “regular” students—the 99.9-percent who don’t play football.  It’s only fair.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail