Critics of intercollegiate athletics in the U.S. have identified many negative consequences for universities, individual players, students, and other fans. In this paper, we take a cultural perspective to explore both the positive and negative consequences of college athletics. First, we show how athletics function as cultural forms that carry cultural meanings and argue that many of the meanings carried by athletics reflect cultural ideologies of the wider society. We then enumerate and discuss many of the positive and negative consequences that have been attributed to athletics at societal, organizational, group, and individual levels. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for current reforms, arguing that the cultural significance and positive functions of university athletics represent formidable barriers to reform.
The authors are with the Management Department at the University of Texas, Austin TX 78712.