The President of Williams College faces a firestorm for not allowing the women's lacrosse team to postpone exams to attend the playoffs. The University of Michigan loses $2.8 million on athletics despite averaging 110,000 fans at each home football game. Schools across the country struggle with the tradeoffs involved with recruiting athletes and updating facilities for dozens of varsity sports. Does increasing intensification of college sports support or detract from higher education's core mission?
James Shulman and William Bowen introduce facts into a terrain overrun by emotions and enduring myths. Using the same database that informed The Shape of the River, the authors analyze data on 90,000 students who attended thirty selective colleges and universities in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s. Drawing also on historical research and new information on giving and spending, the authors demonstrate how athletics influence the class composition and campus ethos of selective schools, as well as the messages that these institutions send to prospective students, their parents, and society at large.
Shulman and Bowen show that athletic programs raise even more difficult questions of educational policy for small private colleges and highly selective universities than they do for big-time scholarship-granting schools. They discover that today's athletes, more so than their predecessors, enter college less academically well-prepared and with different goals and values than their classmates--differences that lead to different lives. They reveal that gender equity efforts have wrought large, sometimes unanticipated changes. And they show that the alumni appetite for winning teams is not--as schools often assume--insatiable. If a culprit emerges, it is the unquestioned spread of a changed athletic culture through the emulation of highly publicized teams by low-profile sports, of men's programs by women's, and of athletic powerhouses by small colleges.
Shulman and Bowen celebrate the benefits of collegiate sports, while identifying the subtle ways in which athletic intensification can pull even prestigious institutions from their missions. By examining how athletes and other graduates view The Game of Life--and how colleges shape society's view of what its rules should be--Bowen and Shulman go far beyond sports. They tell us about higher education today: the ways in which colleges set policies, reinforce or neglect their core mission, and send signals about what matters.
"It may be one of the most important books on higher education published in the last twenty years. It is certainly one of the most interesting."--Louis Menand, The New Yorker
"A provocative and important new book . . ."--Robert Lipsyte, New York Times
"The conclusions are truly depressing and significant. . . . The Game of Life is the most important sports book written in years."--Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated
"A landmark study that should be welcomed by college presidents. . . These findings breathe new and potentially subversive life into old doubts about the role of highly competitive collegiate athletics. . ."--John Hoberman, The Wall Street Journal
"Makes a compelling case that athletics has utterly warped not only big colleges, but most of education, and in ways that go far beyond the usual allegations of diverting resources and spreading cynicism."--Marc Fisher, The Washington Post
"[The Game of Life] does not assign a catalog of sins to sports-minded colleges and universities as does Professor Sperber's book. But it argues compellingly that the influence of intercollegiate sports has greatly intensified in recent years."--William H. Honan, The New York Times
"The Shulman-Bowen data show that recruited athletes not only enter selective colleges with weaker academic records than their classmates as a whole, but that, once in college, they consistently underperform academically. . . .Moreover, they say, the academic standing of athletes relative to their classmates has deteriorated markedly in recent years."--Edward B. Fiske, New York Times
"A fascinating and important new book about the divergence of college sports and educational values."--Jane Eisner, Philadelphia Enquirer
"The Game of Life will have a profound effect on the national debate about professionalized college sports . . ."--William C. Dowling, Newark Star Ledger
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by William G. Bowen: