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Monday, April 05, 2010

Would you rather teach at a school with a clean sports program, or a winning sports program?

On the eve of tonight's version of the Battle of the Valley of Elah featuring Butler and Duke, I wonder whether readers would rather teach at a school with a "clean" sports program, or a winning sports program.  A friend at a mid-major school recently explained to me that s/he would rather teach at a school that wins big -- even if the end result was an NCAA infractions investigation -- because of the positive institutional PR that a March Madness run can bring.  There's certainly no indication that Butler has anything other than a squeaky clean program, but in the past, schools have over-performed athletically by adopting somewhat loose interpretations of the NCAA's rules on amateurism.  Though institutional sanction and negative PR surely follow, in the short run, at least, the institutions benefit from greater attention and, typically, increased applications.

The "Flutie Effect", in its latest version the "George Mason effect", involves demonstrated institutional gains following successful (and particularly surprising) success on the football field or basketball court.  Some past schools that achieved greatness in sports, perhaps most famously the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, did so in part by skirting NCAA rules.  But do the short-term gains outrun the long-run costs?

It's perhaps depressing to imagine there is a choice between a clean program and a winning program.  And depressing that, for staff and faculty at budget-strapped schools, incentives may align to favor winning even if it has costs in terms of academic integrity.

Posted by Geoffrey Rapp on April 5, 2010 at 01:32 PM | Permalink


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I prefer to teach at a school with a losing sports program, whether clean or not. And I do!

Posted by: Brian | Apr 5, 2010 4:10:50 PM

How about Div III, guys? Then you need not worry too much...

Posted by: C.E. Petit | Apr 6, 2010 11:29:55 AM

Scrappy Xavier has great ball, and its program goes beyond "clean" on avoiding violations. It graduates ALL its senior basketball players. What more could you want? But you need a tough nun to make it work.


Posted by: xavier fan | Apr 6, 2010 5:47:24 PM

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