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


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