GREENSBORO, N.C. – As possibly the only foreign perspective in The Carolinian’s Sports section, it still confuses me as to why university sports are so popular and so relevant to everyday life in the U.S. When I first moved to the States and met my current girlfriend five years ago, I was told I was now an N.C. State fan. I asked her at the time, why does it matter? She looked at me like I’d just shot her first born out of a cannon. Five years later, I still don’t have a definitive answer as to why collegiate sports are so important, or why I am expected to be a “wolf man.”
This is my understanding of sports in the U.S. versus what I knew in the U.K.: In the U.K., all sports that are paid attention to are local or professional. In the U.S., high school sports matter. This seems to have a lot to do with the college culture that has a further reach than simply to college students. In the United States, it seems that everyone HAS to go to college. University is all-important and technical schools can happily fall by the wayside. This is because high schools get more funding or are considered better by producing more college students. High school students bust their wee butts to try and earn a scholarship to the school of their dreams. Then, after their four years of playing collegiate sports, they get a chance to finally earn money to play sports and go professional. Sounds right? I thought so.
But why does that matter? Surely, when you are only guaranteed a player for four years at a time, they shouldn’t be all that important. Surely your university should be a place of academic prowess, where the best research should be awarded and tracked by alumni? Surely universities should just buy a wet field that people can play games of football on. Perhaps divert the $40mil or so that they’d spend on college sports, and divert it to other campus functions
Don’t get my words twisted – I do like watching UNCG beat ETSU and everyone else who steps foot upon our basketball court, but think of the possibilities! Think of how much money NCSU could pour into revolutionizing the way we build and use nuclear power if they used the funding from their football and basketball team and poured it into their STEM programs. Think of Duke being known for its hospital and medical advancements, not for Coach K.
The possibilities of what we could do instead of college sports are massive. However, I am not so naïve to think that money is not the primary motivator of the school. Schools need money to advance their programmes and to hire teachers and to run. That money has to come from somewhere, and I understand that sports are a great form of revenue for a university and that college sports help young people grow into successful adults. However, I’d be remiss if I did not say that alumni tend to pride themselves on their school’s sporting prowess versus paying attention to the things that the school is doing to advance the human race. Really, if Duke didn’t spend all that money on a subpar basketball team, we might have robotic eyes or have found the cure to cancer.