Go Fightin’ [Insert Your School's Mascot]s!
The first intercollegiate athletic competition in the United States happened back in 1852. It was a rowing race between Yale and Harvard. Things have come a long way since then. Today, collegiate athletics are a big business. The most popular college sports are men’s football and basketball, which both enjoy popularity that rivals that of professional leagues, due in part to the fact that the quality of play is so high. Every year, college football’s Bowl Championship Series and college basketball’s March Madness tournament garner huge TV ratings and fill stadiums around the country.
Today, most college athletic competitions are governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) governs competition between some smaller four-year schools. The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) oversees play between two-year and community colleges.
Going to Games
Most college sports teams have a fiercely loyal following that includes both current students and alumni. Even if your school’s sports teams don’t play in the most prestigious division, there’s bound to be a core group of students who go to the games and cheer. These kids are probably the hardest partiers in your college’s entire student population.
If you ever get the chance to go on a road trip to watch your team play in a bowl game or in March Madness, or even just in a game against a rival school, don’t pass it up.
There are a number of controversial issues surrounding collegiate athletics. The most notable is the assertion that the athletes, particularly in men’s football and basketball, aren’t true students. Many are given scholarships despite having poor grades. Schools often hire tutors to assist athletes with their academic work (which is often much easier than that of the average student, since many student-athletes take a light schedule). Despite this, student-athletes at schools that place a strong emphasis on athletics often have very low graduation rates.
A second major criticism has to do with money. Though the NCAA doesn’t allow students to accept payment for their play, schools often find a way around this. Some athletes are given gifts from booster clubs, and many are permitted to live in special residence halls. Some people argue that student-athletes are, in a way, a type of slaves, since their labor generates millions of dollars in revenue for their schools but they receive no official compensation.