The logical error is a failure to distinguish between "exposure" in the sense of mere name recognition -- which can be a very bad thing -- and something like "earned prestige" or "deserved reputation."
Mere "exposure" is worthless. One of the most-discussed events of recent years was the O.J. Simpson trial. Those whose "name recognition" increased as a result do not seem to us models to be envied or imitated.
On the other side, "reputation" very often comes not from "exposure" but from a long-term commitment to genuine intellectual attainment.
At the institutional level, for instance, Harvard enjoys a reputation as a good university. Not because it has a winning football or basketball team, but because it has remained committed to academic and intellectual values over a long period.
The bottom line: the exposure Rutgers might get from football or basketball is simply "O.J. recognition" given to any name splashed across a TV screen with some frequency. Such "exposure" is in itself valueless.
The "reputation" Rutgers stands to achieve by abolishing professionalized sports and devoting its resources to intellectual and artistic accomplishment would be, on the other hand, immensely valuable. ( Source: Gerdy, Ch. 4: "Does Athletics Generate Positive Visibility?")
Pro: Having a successful "big time" athletic program increases alumni donations to the university, and therefore works to the benefit of all students.
This is the "Boosters bring Bucks" argument.
There are a number of answers. The first is that very few alumni -- studies suggest 1-2% -- give to their schools out of sports loyalty.
Second, evidence strongly indicates that "successful" alumni tend to withhold contributions when the school becomes "too" identified with athletics or when there is a sports scandal.
Third, research shows that the major givers to "professionalized" programs tend to be "boosters" who did not attend the school to whose program they contribute money -- the local automobile dealer or beer distributor, often not himself a college graduate, who sees himself as increasing his "local clout" by giving to the sports program. Not a penny goes to the university. (Source: Sperber, "Myths and Facts," 2-3).
Pro: Schools like Duke (Stanford, Michigan, etc.) manage to combine a high level of student selectivity with "professionalized" athletic programs. Why can't Rutgers do the same?
This is the "What about Duke?" argument.
From a letter to the Daily Targum:
The "What about Duke?" argument is an example of what introductory Logic texts call the Fallacy of Inference Per Enumerationem Simpliciter: arguing by counting only favorable examples.
For instance, it is easy to name a far greater number of genuinely distinguished institutions -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Columbia, Swarthmore, Colgate, Lafayette, Williams, Amherst, the University of Chicago, etc. -- that do not permit "athletic scholarships" (payment in tuition, board, and room for performing in the athletics program) than those that do.
Conversely, it is easy to name 50 or 60 "sports factories" with no academic distinction whatsoever -- for every Duke and Stanford there are fifty UNLV's and UNM's and Universities of Alabama at Birmingham -- whose institutional identity consists of little more than having a Division IA athletics program.
Given those proportions, here is an analogy to demonstrate why the "What about Duke? what about Stanford?"argument is invalid.
Some years ago, medical researchers tried to make the point that smoking causes lung cancer and heart attacks and emphysema.
A favorite trick of the tobacco companies was to keep spotlighting a few heavy smokers who lived to be 80 or 85 without these conditions.
The "debate" went like this:
Some other points:
(1) The evidence shows that schools like Duke (Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan, etc.) maintain a decent academic standard not because but in spite of their athletic programs:
(2) The recent point-shaving scandal at Northwestern, like the under-the-table payments made by the basketball coach recently fired by Berkeley, demonstrate the power of "professionalized" athletics to corrupt even schools that maintain decent levels of student selectivity.
(3) When given a choice between a "good" school with a professionalized sports program and one without, top students tend overwhelmingly to choose the latter:
In short, there is evidence that a "sports factory" image is doing unremarked harm to institutions like Duke, Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan, etc. They are at present academically respectable universities. The probability is that they would attain to a much higher level of distinction if they ceased to bring in hired semi-professional athletes to play on their teams.
Pro: A successful "big time" athletic program increases applications, thus making the university more selective in its admissions.
This is the "Here Come the Frosh" argument.
A concession: there is sometimes an increase in applications when a school with an unsuccessful athletics program suddenly "gets a winner." The recent appearance of Northwestern in the Rose Bowl is an example.
But there is a catch. "Added" applications come overwhelmingly from students with mediocre-to-poor academic records.
One admissions officer we talked to said, "Students who apply to your school because they've heard the football team is winning aren't likely to be students you want in your freshman class."
At institutions that depend purely on "body count" for solvency -- effectively, any college or university that admits 80%+ of all applicants -- an increase in applications can help keep the school solvent.
Several people have told us that increased applications during the period when the Australian professional player Andrew Gaze was imported to perform on the Seton Hall basketball team produced much-needed revenue and helped keep Seton Hall solvent.
So long as Rutgers is able to sustain a selective admissions policy, the Northwestern "Rose Bowl admissions bump" example seems to be the pertinent one. A rise in applications from high school students who "had heard the football team was winning" would, on the available evidence, do nothing to increase the quality of incoming students.
Pro: Our athletic department has a huge academic support program, which shows that it is serious about giving its athletes a real education.
This is the "Tutors for Tight Ends" argument.
We consider the existence of a large tutorial program for "hired" athletes a confession of institutional failure.
At schools that do not permit "athletic scholarships," playing on a team is regarded as an extracurricular activity, like writing for the college newspaper, acting in drama productions, or playing in the orchestra.
At schools with "professionalized" programs, "academic support" is an expensive admission that the individuals brought in to play on teams are not real college students. (Penn State actually boasts about paying over $600,000 a year to "tutor" its athletes.)
Sperber provides extensive material on Division IA "academic support" programs. Here is a typical passage:
Rutgers 1000 has said again and again that professionalized college sports is a way of turning "real" Rutgers students into second-class citizens at their own university.
The existence of "academic support" for athletes is a dramatic example of how this works.
What student couldn't pass courses with a "tutor" assigned to take notes, help to write papers, and explain material at great length? Why should the tiny handful of "students" recruited to play in a "professionalized" sports program be granted such privileged treatment?
Pro: The graduation rate in our football and basketball program is really high. This shows that the athletes are real students.
This is the "Waving the Phoney Diploma" argument.
The whole notion of "graduation rates" seems to us the most worthless piece of NCAA-inspired rhetoric ever to be injected into the national sports controversy.
The basic point: students are supposed to graduate, just as students are supposed to read Aristotle and Shakespeare and learn math and physics.
To make a major virtue out of something that students are supposed to do anyway seems to us both irrelevant and dishonest.
The bottom line: congratulating yourself because 79% of your football players graduated is exactly like congratulating yourself because 79% of your friends didn't steal anything from your house the last time you had a party.
There's more. A very large percentage of scholarship athletes in "professionalized" programs are "non-students" who are kept eligible through various ruses -- fake courses in "recreation science" taught by members of the coaching staff, summer credits taken at distant campuses under "arranged" conditions, etc.
The administrators at many of these schools collude in keeping functionally illiterate athletes "academically eligible." (For a vivid example, click here on "Personal Fouls," Peter Golenbock's great book about North Carolina State basketball. We've included several sections relating how coach James Valvano kept his players "eligible" while winning the NCAA championship. It is a chilling story.)
In other words, most "professionalized" programs are already expert at fraudulently "manipulating paper" to keep athletes eligible.
If the pressure to "increase graduate rates" mounts, they will simply manipulate pieces of paper called "diplomas."
Rutgers ought to be spared the sleaziness of "academic support" and "graduation rates." It can achieve this by abolishing athletic scholarships and letting Rutgers students play on the teams.
Pro: A lot of your responses use Ivy League schools as examples. Rutgers is a state school. The Ivies are snob schools for fancy types. They're no model for us.
We do not use examples like Harvard and Princeton because we want Rutgers to be "like" Harvard or Princeton in any pernicious sense.
We use them because such schools are a living demonstration that you can have a great university without "professionalized" sports.
We predict that, in abolishing professionalized sports, Rutgers will set an example that other public universities will be imitating over the next 20-60 years.
Rutgers is what people in higher education call a "public Ivy" -- one of the few public institutions in the United States to provide high-level education while remaining open to good students from less-than-wealthy personal backgrounds.
In that phrase, we are every bit as proud of the word "public" as we are of the word "Ivy."
We do not want to "be Harvard" or "be Princeton." We want Rutgers to be Rutgers. We know that if it lives up to its own ideals it can lead higher education in a worthier direction.
Pro: If Rutgers played sports at the collegiate level, it would become an "elitist" institution run entirely for the benefit of "intellectuals."
This is the "Where the Elite Meet to Greet" argument.
You don't have to have a professional franchise for students to enjoy sports.
When Princeton is challenging for the title in basketball or Dartmouth in football, their alumni and students go to games, root for the teams, tailgate and have as good a time as the "boosters" at "sports factory" schools. We do not think that the K-Suite Gang has any less fun cheering for their team than the Husker Howlers do in cheering for the University of Nebraska.
We admit that the level of competition is not as high as those of "semi-pro franchises" like Nebraska or UNLV or Virginia Tech or the University of Miami.
We see nothing wrong with football played by college students looking like collegiate rather than pro football. People who want to see professional football can turn on the the TV.
As for the "elitism" charge, we have a final word to say.
If you take "elitism" to mean "granting unearned privilege by birth or wealth," we're against it.
We think that people ought to be rewarded according to their merits.
If you mean by "elitism" something more like "recognizing the best in a given activity or pursuit," then we are elitists.
We think that places in major symphony orchestras ought to go to "elite" musicians, in the sense that they are the best by musical talent and training.
We think that the U.S. Olympic teams should be made up of "elite" athletes, in the sense that they have survived incredibly tough competition.
We see nothing wrong with the fact that world chess is dominated by "elite" players: grandmasters, measured by points.
Anything else seems to us foolish.
So, yes: we would like Rutgers to be "elitist" in the sense that it tried to appoint and retain the best faculty and admit the best-prepared and most motivated students it possibly could.
We see absolutely nothing wrong with this.
Every "booster" who has called us "elitist" over the last ten months has turned out, in further discussion, to be "elitist" in sports.
All these people study "recruiting reports" like Hoop Scoop, for instance, to find out if Rutgers is going to hire "blue chip" basketball players for its team.
We say this: most people are "elitist" in some area they care about.
If you're an elitist about "blue chip" slam-dunkers with low SATs rather than students who are brilliant at Greek or philosophy or biology or math, that's fine.
But please don't turn around and accuse others of being "elitist" because the values they envision for Rutgers are different than yours.
The issue seems to us only what you want to be an elitist about.