Sociologists try to explain the significance of football's role in American universities
- A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association argues that a better understanding of football's role in American higher education, as well as its role as a signifier of status, is necessary for understanding the sport's significance in society.
- Mitchell Stevens, an associate professor of education at Stanford University and co-author of the paper, argued that the traditional explanations for why American higher education values football--that it's the path to school spirit and good feeling (debunked by recent scandals), that it makes money or that it enables people who don't support liberal arts to still support the university--are flawed.
- Instead, the paper proposes three reasons for why football is central to the identity of American universities: Intercollegiate football is "a system for marking and distributing status" among universities, status derived from football and conferences is "consequential beyond the athletic domain" and the status gained from interplay between athletics and academic prestige, while related, may not be identical.
From the article:
DENVER -- When a Stanford University scholar displayed the first slide in his presentation on college football and university status systems, an audience member who was a loyal Cardinal fan challenged him. Why, she asked, would a Stanford professor lead off with a slide showing the football stadium of the University of California at Berkeley? The comment was a joke. But it was a perfect illustration of one part of the paper presented here at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association -- namely, that in the United States, a major part of the identity of American colleges and universities is linked to athletics and, specifically, to football. ...
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