As seen on TV: ‘We shut down the university’

“Educators are in thrall to their athletic departments because of these television riches and because they respect the political furies that can burst from a locker room. ‘There’s fear,’ [Bill] Friday told me when I visited him on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill last fall. As we spoke, two giant construction cranes towered nearby over the university’s Kenan Stadium, working on the latest $77 million renovation….

“Friday insisted that for the networks, paying huge sums to universities was a bargain. ‘We do every little thing for them,’ he said. ‘We furnish the theater, the actors, the lights, the music, and the audience for a drama measured neatly in time slots. They bring the camera and turn it on.’ Friday, a weathered idealist at 91, laments the control universities have ceded in pursuit of this money. If television wants to broadcast football from here on a Thursday night, he said, ‘we shut down the university at 3 o’clock to accommodate the crowds.’ He longed for a campus identity more centered in an academic mission.”

— From “The Shame of College Athletics” by Taylor Branch (UNC ’68) in The Atlantic

Sorry for today’s multiple postings, but civil-rights historian Branch is making big waves in indicting the NCAA for the “unmistakable whiff of the plantation.”


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