Big Time Losers examines the price colleges and their athletes pay when sports becomes big business.
An elite college basketball player says in the film, “It’s not about what you can do in the classroom. It’s only about what you can do on the court.” Big Time Losers follows up with this player— and others like him— to see what happens after college, when the cheering stops.
Many student athletes benefit from the discipline, leadership skills and networks that come with being a part of a great team. A successful team can also be a source of pride for individuals and help bring in revenue for a university. That’s the bright side.
Critics charge the increasing influence of money—through corporate sponsorship, apparel sales, advertising and TV rights—have muddied up a sports system founded on the principals of building sound bodies and minds.
“It’s a multi-billion dollar business,” Harry Edwards, a sports-sociologist, says in the film.
Top-level coaches earn nearly $1 million dollars on average in football and $1.2 million in basketball. Universities spend hundreds of thousands on luxurious locker rooms meant to woo prospective athletes and keep current ones happy. And colleges pay for athletes’ personal tutors and athlete-only “academic centers”.
Unfortunately, however, at most universities athletic costs far exceed revenue. Only about 40 universities can claim that their athletic departments turn a profit. Who ends up paying?
Critics point out that fees imposed on regular students make up the difference. These mandatory fees can reach $1000 per student. And, according to these critics, the programs students underwrite harm athletes.
To some, the phrase “student-athlete” is a misnomer because injuries, demanding games schedules, and intensive physical training get in the way of education. Elite teams in football and men’s basketball post the worst academic records, graduating just 54% and 46% of players, respectively.
“There’s a lot of athletes with no degrees out there. Some guys who went to big schools with no degrees. But they don’t show you that on TV. Don’t put that out there. There’s a lot of athletes out there who don’t finish,” a former college athlete says in the film.
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