My involvement in college sport spans thirty-five years, and my experiences as an athlete, an advocate for athletic reform, a college professor, and an NCAA faculty athletics representative have focused my attention on the issue of sport in higher education. In the mid-1960s I attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. As a member of Ara Parseghian's 1966 national championship football team, I had opportunities that most young athletes can only dream about.1
My last football game was against the University of Southern California before a sellout crowd of over 100,000 spectators in the Los Angeles Coliseum. We won 51 to 0. The night before the game, the team was invited to a private screening of a film that was about to be released by Universal Studios. Robert Mitchum, one of the stars of the movie, joined us in the screening room and talked with the players as if we were old friends. I leaned back in the soft leather seats, watched the movie, and marveled at how well football players are sometimes treated.
During my four years at Notre Dame, I traveled first class and stayed in luxury hotels. I remember meals on the road where the choice was steak or lobster. Wherever we stayed we were treated as celebrities. During one trip the pilot even altered our flight plan just so that we would get a better aerial view of the Grand Canyon. I can well understand why other college students, especially female college athletes, who often carpooled to games at their own expense, resented what they perceived to be the privileged lives of big-time college athletes.