By Ken Reed
As college sports increasingly became all about the money the past 50 years, the Ivy League, for the most part, remained a Division I conference that put academics above wins and dollars. However, during the past decade, that philosophy has slowly eroded, as win-at-all-costs (WAAC) and profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) thinking and actions have become more prevalent in the storied Ancient Eight sports conference.
In recent years, numerous accusations have been tossed Harvard’s way regarding loosening entrance requirements for athletes, especially for the school’s successful men’s basketball program. (Recent ESPN basketball recruiting rankings have Harvard ranked 10th, one spot behind basketball factory North Carolina.) Other Ivy schools have faced similar charges. Ivy League schools also started increasingly accommodating television networks by playing more “money” games on school nights, sacrificing study time for their athletes.
The commercialization of the Ivy League has picked up steam in recent months. It appears Ivy League administrators have decided to completely sell out their principles and join big-time colleges and universities around the country in the giant college sports money grab.
Earlier this month, Yale and Under Armour announced a partnership deal reported to be worth $16.5 million over 10 years. That’s more than Big Ten schools Illinois and Rutgers make from their Nike deals. Approximately, $2.5 million of the Yale agreement is targeted for “marketing activation.”
“It’s a deal that could become the norm for Ivy League schools, but it also underscores an old tension,” wrote Alexander Wolff in the January 25th issue of Sports Illustrated.
“College sports sees its mission as higher education, except when it sees its mission as making money. Time will tell whether Yale is honorably pursuing both.”
The history of college sports would tell you that the safe bet is against Yale doing that.
For years, the Ivy League refused to create a money-making postseason hoops tournament to determine the league’s representative in the NCAA basketball tournament. The feeling was that the long regular season was the best way to determine the top team in the league. Plus, a postseason tournament was seen as detracting from the athletes’ academic pursuits. However, according to recent reports, the Ivy League is close to implementing a four-team conference tournament starting in 2016-17.
Moreover, the Ivy League recently reached an agreement with JMI Sports to serve as “the League’s official marketing rights agency” to target “elite regional, national and international brands.”
A look at recent money-based developments makes it clear that the importance of higher education in the Ivy League is gradually, but steadily, dropping.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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