October 28th, 2007

WATCH: Big Time Losers




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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4 comments

An average A.C.T. score of 19 is a sad indictment on the Flint, MI educational system. I dare not address this issue with the school board, as the culprit would be labeled lack of money, which is only part of the issue. What I would like to see is a grass roots effort at educating the young athlete.

I am a sixty-year old retired high school English teacher. … Your program struck a chord. As a college soccer player, I ignored Chem and Calc, flunked out, and ended up drafted and in Vietnam. … I had been lured by the glory, but used by the system, ignored and discarded as my future circled the bowl.

Today, in one of my speech classes, sits a young man who is in the wrong place. He does not bring a pen to class. He plays ball. He fails his tests and does not prepare for class. He is here to play ball, recruited by people who know better, but who, perhaps, feel he deserves his chance, and fills a seat on the courtside bench, in case one of the starters needs a breather.

College athletics are, ultimately, just as distasteful to me as professional sports. They are a cancer upon education, and pro sports are the world turned upside down. I would prefer if all athletics at all levels, including high school. were intramural and provided opportunities for maximum participation, maximum fun, and a focus on lifetime sports and recreation.

Your program [Big Time Losers] struck a chord. As a college soccer player, I ignored Chem and Calc, flunked out, and ended up drafted and in Vietnam. College athletics are, ultimately, just as distasteful to me as professional sports. I would prefer if all athletics at all levels, including high school were intramural and provided opportunities for maximum participation, maximum fun, and a focus on lifetime sports and recreation. Great job on the film.

[...] They get 1-year renewable athletic scholarships for four years, and that’s it. But, as my colleague John Tulenko reported, players in big-time programs are sometimes urged to take a minimal academic load, one that [...]




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