Big-Time College Sports Is Simply an Entertainment Industry

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Gary Crum

In last week's sports section, one article details that the Pac-10 is likely to soon be the Pac-16, the next recounts the NCAA punishments the University of Southern California will receive for a series of recruiting violations, and yet another describes the dismissal from the team of a young man who, but for a series of abysmal personal choices, might have been a leading candidate for next season's Heisman Trophy.

All three stories detail life in the fast lane at that intersection of business and entertainment we call Division I college athletics. They all involve power, wealth and success - and the arrogance that accompanies achievement of those goals. They all show us that "enough" is never really "enough"; there's never enough wealth, never enough power, never enough success.

University programs and NCAA conferences must "evolve" so the athletic programs of member schools can make even more money, can become even more powerful, can hire even more successful coaches, can pay them even more millions in salaries, can recruit even "better" players, can win more games, can attract even wealthier boosters, can sell even more team paraphernalia, can build even bigger facilities, can establish even more powerful dynasties, can garner even more lucrative television contracts, can go to even more prestigious bowl games or even deeper in the NCAA Tournament - so they can become even more the embodiment of that "American dream" they, themselves, have created and so successfully sold to the American public.

Big-time collegiate athletics resemble the "Blob" of the 1958 Steve McQueen horror film. It slowly oozes across the nation, devouring everything it touches and growing stronger every day. Colleges no longer control these mega-programs. They control the colleges.

Top-tier Division I scholarship athletes no longer play sports so they can attend college; they attend college so they can play sports - and those who can leave for professional sports as soon as it's financially advantageous to do so. …