American College Athletics

American College Athletics

American College Athletics

American College Athletics


Instead of holding the universities in contempt, we ought rather to endeavor to recall them to more sober studies.

Erasmus to Luther, May, 1519

THE university grew in Europe. It was transplanted to the Americas. It is an association of scholars and students whose primary aim is the development of the intellectual life. The name universitas given to this association was not intended to indicate the effort to teach universal knowledge. The term connotes simply the whole body of teachers and students associated together. The quality of a university will therefore depend upon the scholarship of its teachers and the intellectual quality of the students it gathers unto itself and by their attitude toward the things of the mind. While the university in every civilized country will reflect, to a greater or less extent, national ideals and habits of mind, its primary function in every country is to serve as an exponent of its highest intellectual life. This is the reason and the justification for its existence and the basis of its appeal for support.


Nothing in the educational régime of our higher institutions perplexes the European visitor so much as the rôle that organized athletics play. On a crisp November afternoon he finds many thousands of men and women, gathered in a great amphitheater, wildly cheering a group of athletes who are described to him as playing a game of football, but who seem to the visitor to be engaged in a battle. He is the more mystified when he discovers that of the thousands of onlookers, not one in a hundred understands the game or can follow the strategy of the two teams. At the end, the vast majority of the onlookers only know, like old Kaspar of Blenheim, that "'t was a famous victory" for one university or the other.

When the visitor from the European university has pondered the matter, he comes to his American university colleagues with two questions:

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