FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail