"Read this book if you care about both sports and undergraduate education. Dowling is one of the most brilliant and dedicated teachers I know. He has been struggling for more than a decade to save the educational soul of Rutgers University. This book exposes the Faustian bargain university presidents and trustees make to field nationally competitive athletic teams.
Dowling tells a sad and very personal story of the struggle at Rutgers, but readers at other institutions will have no difficulty in substituting the names of their own presidents and athletic directors.
Dowling is not against athletics. He is for education."
N. Katz, Princeton University,
Confessions of a Spoilsport
William C. Dowling
"Universities exist to transmit understanding and ideals and values to students . . . not to provide entertainment for spectators or employment for athletes. . . . When I entered a much smaller Rutgers sixty years ago, athletics were an important but strictly minor aspect of Rutgers education. I trust that today's much larger Rutgers will honor this tradition from which I benefitted so much."
In 1998, Milton Friedman's statement drew national attention to Rutgers 1000, a campaign in which students, faculty, and alumni were resisting the takeover of their university by commercialized Division IA athletics. Subsequently, the movement received extensive coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sports Illustrated, and other publications.
Today, "big time" college athletics remains a hotly-debated issue at Rutgers. Why did an old eastern university that had long competed against such institutions as Colgate, Lafayette, Princeton and Columbia choose, by joining the Big East conference in 1994, to plunge into the world of TV-revenue-driven extravaganzas like "March Madness" and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl? What is the moral for universities where big time college sports have already become the primary--and often the only--source of institutional identity?
Confessions of a Spoilsport is the story of an English professor who, having seen the University of New Mexico go downhill academically in the era of a major basketball scandal, was galvanized into action when Rutgers joined the Big East. It is also the story of the Rutgers 1000 students and alumni who set out to resist the decline of their university--eviscerated academic programs, cancellation of minor sports, loss of the "best and brightest" in-state students to the nearby College of New Jersey--while tens of millions of dollars were being lavished on Div IA athletics. Ultimately, however, the story of Rutgers 1000 is what the New York Times called it when Milton Friedman issued his ringing statement: a struggle for the soul of a major university.
William C. Dowling is University Distinguished Professor of English and American Literature at Rutgers University.