Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports

By Andrew Zimbalist | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Student as Athlete

Thus, a youngster gambling his future on a pro contract is like a worker buying a single Irish Sweepstakes ticket and then quitting his job in anticipation of his winnings.

—Tom McMillen, former basketball star at the University of Maryland and the NBA, former member of the U.S. Congress, and cochair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness

Resolved: That as ministers of the Kansas conference, being more fully convinced than ever that intercollegiate games are dangerous physically, useless intellectually, and detrimental morally and spiritually, we respectfully request, with renewed emphasis, the trustees and faculties of our institutions of learning to do all in their power to abolish such games.

—Kansas Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church,

March 1894

IN 1996 the Wildcats of Northwestern University went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1949. The Wildcats had not had a winning record since 1971. In September 1995 their odds of making it to the Championship Game of the Big Ten and Pacific Ten Conferences could not have been much better than Ross Perot's chances of being elected president. There were good reasons for Northwestern's 47-year Rose Bowl drought. Northwestern spent $363,000 on recruiting (just threefifths what their competitors in the conference spent) and graduated a Big Ten high 93 percent of their student-athletes (compared to an average of 66 percent for the rest of the conference). 1 Overall, the graduation rate of scholarship athletes for the entering classes of 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990 at Northwestern was an impressive 85 percent, compared to the NCAA Division I average athlete graduation rate of 58 percent. 2

-16-

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