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J-students take on athletic departments and the NFL

SHOWCASE | March 08, 2012

Kent State students in Karl Idsvoog’s classes do solid watchdog reporting, as shown in a series of interviews questioning the lopsided, costly favoritism that athletes – and coaches – get at university after university.

By Karl Idsvoog

In a globally competitive economy, what are the implications for America when the highest paid public employee in state after state is either a football or basketball coach? 
At our large state universities, the department that gives the most full scholarships is not the math or physics or chemistry or computer science department; it's the athletic department.   
To obtain a full scholarship, an academic student needs to demonstrate top academic ability. But at university after university, there's a double standard. For the athlete going to a university, the GPA is often inconsequential. 
Thanks to television contracts and endorsement deals, there are college football programs (Penn State, Ohio State) that make a lot of money. That's not the case for most universities. The Mid American Conference is a Division I conference. Its universities lose millions and those budget holes are plugged by fees charged to the academic students. At Kent State University, students pay $24 per credit hour, up to 11 credits, or $264, each semester, to the athletic department. Even distance-learning students who never set foot on campus pay $24 per credit hour to the athletic department. A student taking a three-credit history or math or chemistry course pays $72 to the athletic department.   
Students and parents don't know that because only one MAC university (Buffalo) provides line-item detail on the bill. With ever-increasing tuition costs, with students leaving school with more college debt than ever, what are the implications in a globally competitive economy to see American universities cutting tenured positions, teaching more with adjuncts, while the salaries and budgets for athletics continue to go up?  
At Kent State University, every head coach gets a car, as do assistant football and basketball coaches. No other department can afford a perk like that. Is the balance between academics and athletics dangerously out of balance? Do universities in Europe give their top scholarships to soccer players? 
What is the primary purpose of a university, to be a cost-free training ground for the NBA and the NFL? Here's one more student project worth watching, a survey of the NFL teams where Kent State students wanted to find out how much the billion dollar franchises of the NFL donate to the universities where they get so much of their talent trained for free.              
Click here for a video on Karl Idsvoog’s approach to teaching journalism. 

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