Sunday, November 12, 2000

IU professor aims to fix the system




map
        Murray Sperber was in Colorado Saturday, plotting against hypocrisy, scheming against fraud, conspiring to fix college athletics.

        You remember Professor Sperber, right? He was Bobby Knight's most stern critic at Indiana University, the one who was forced to flee the country to distance himself from threats. He's going back to Bloomington in January, and he's already at work on a new set of enemies.

        The same week Knight was fired, Sperber published a compelling indictment of the academic indifference undermining public universities: “Beer and Circus: How Big-time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education.” Now, having diagnosed the problem, the prof is setting out in search of a solution that is sure to expand his pariah status beyond Assembly Hall.

BOOK SIGNING
  Murray Sperber will sign copies of “Beer and Circus” at the Joseph-Beth at Rookwood Pavilion at 7 p.m. Thursday.
      Sperber and some like-minded academics have gathered in the Rockies this weekend to chart a path toward real reform. Known either as the Drake Group or the National Alliance for Collegiate Athletic Reform, their aim is to find an athlete willing to sue the system on the theory that big-time college sports is a big-money enterprise built on the labor of exploited students.

        “I debated (NCAA executive director) Cedric Dempsey in Indianapolis last Saturday,” Sperber said. “Someone asked me, "Give me one reason why the NCAA can't reform college sports?' I said, "I'll give you six billion reasons.' ”

        He was referring, of course, to CBS' 11-year contract to broadcast college basketball.

        “That's not a contribution to education,” Sperber argues. “That's payment for a product.” Education forgotten

        Society no longer harbors many illusions about the education of the scholarship athlete. Relatively few of them are scholars in any legitimate sense. Many are glorified vocational students, learning basketball or football as a trade, opening books mainly as a means to balance wobbly tables.

        More troubling is Sperber's contention that many large American universities employ big-time sports to deliberately divert students from what they're missing. They've “stopped trying to give their students a meaningful undergraduate education,” preferring to promote a lively sports/alcohol scene that keeps tuition payments flowing and impedes authentic enlightenment. One student, responding to a Sperber questionnaire, described his college experience as “a four-year party — one long tailgater — with an $18,000 annual cover charge.”

        Just wondering: Was “Animal House” fiction or documentary?

        If the courts were to decide the NCAA was a cartel and that the grant-in-aid constitutes an artificial cap on an athlete's wages, Sperber thinks it could lead to overt professionalism. A few prominent schools would be able to compete while paying players above the table, and the rest would be likely to adopt the Division III model with no scholarships and some perspective.

        Perspective can be hard to find around big-time college sports. No one knows this better than Sperber.

        “I still can't get past the idea that it's sports,” he said. “It's fun and games. It's not life, and it's certainly not worth threatening a university professor about.”

        This is the part Sperber hasn't quite figured out. Where he has reached conclusions, however, he's pretty convincing.

        E-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.

       



Sports Stories
MND makes state volleyball three-peat
Roger Bacon second again
Bad first half costs Badin soccer title
Mercy loses state soccer final
Complete prep football coverage at Enquirer.com/prepfootball
Elder 21, Fairfield 14
Portsmouth 37, Purcell Marian 6
Reading 50, Milford Center Fairbanks 8
Vandalia Butler 31, Edgewood 14
Marshall 51, Miami 31
Ohio State 24, Illinois 21
Vanderbilt 24, Kentucky 20
- SULLIVAN: IU professor aims to fix the system
Let college basketball madness begin
NKU 70, Bentley 61
NFL Insider
Trumpy happy, burning up airwaves
Auto Racing Insider
Milwaukee 4, Cyclones 2

Smith's rookie problems are norm
Who's got the edge?
Bengals-Cowboys by the numbers
Players to watch
UC 13, Memphis 10
UC 119, Budapest 53
Huggins mixing it up with Bearcats' lineup
DAUGHERTY: Will Xavier lose appeal without rodeo smell?
Xavier players don't care about preseason polls
Big Red Machine still big with fans
Reitsma has future in rotation
Medical reports encouraging