Karl Idsvoog spent a career as an investigative reporter in broadcast and online journalism. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Following the bankruptcy of APBNews.com, Idsvoog moved into media development and training. He has done media development projects for the U.S. Department of State, the International Center for Journalists, IREX, Internews and Radio Free Asia. He is a tenured professor at Kent State University.
To Save Millions
MAC Universities Should Eliminate the Sport that Causes Brain Damage
The New York Times reports one in five children don’t get enough to eat. The inequality in our healthcare system is apparent to all. The pandemic is forcing America to reassess priorities. One place that should happen immediately and certainly before this fall is at our Ohio MAC universities (Kent State University, University of Akron, Ohio University, Miami University, University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University).
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) universities have the opportunity to do two things no Division 1 school has done in decades: 1.) stand up for ethics and, 2). stand up for education. In other words, it’s time to eliminate football, a sport that causes brain damage and loses millions at every MAC school. It’s not just concussions that can cause lifelong problems. As brain research at Boston University has found, subconcussive hits can be devastating, particularly to the developing brain.
Future Football Player? Not a Chance. Mothers
who put helmets on their toddlers before they let them ride a trike will
not allow them to play a sport that causes brain damage. Mothers, unlike
Division 1 university presidents, have respect for medical knowledge.
What would a university do if it had a chemistry class where the class experiments caused brain damage each semester? It’s time for university presidents to answer the question: why do you continue to promote and support a sport medical science has documented causes brain damage? It’s time reporters everywhere in this country to ask university presidents that question. Put down your pom poms and pick up your pens. Stop cheerleading and do some reporting.
Another question for university presidents: why does the football program give more full scholarships than any academic college?
We’re the only country in the world where a university gives a full scholarship to a student who can’t even read a college textbook so he can play football. And if you don’t think that’s true, take a couple minutes and listen to what reading specialist Mary Willingham and Gerald Gurney, an expert on the intersection of college sports and academics have to say in this project: Checking For Academic Corruption in College Sports (there is lots of academic corruption).
Time for Financial Transparency
University students are incurring record levels of debt. Students and parents should be demanding that MAC universities provide financial transparency (line-item detail) on the student bill. The highest fee every academic student pays goes to fund athletics. That’s an issue Ohio University’s David Ridpath has researched and written about extensively. If you get your car fixed, you get an itemized bill. Go to the dentist, you get an itemized bill. But go to a MAC university, as Ridpath says, universities don’t want you to know how much the student pays to fund athletics.
Every university has classes on ethics. Why, when it comes to college athletics, doesn’t the university have any? It’s time to stop giving scholarships paid on the backs of the academic students to athletes who can’t read. It’s time to stop promoting a sport that causes brain damage. It’s time for a Division 1 university president to say education is more important than football. And it’s time for reporters in newsrooms all across the country to hold their university presidents accountable and to ask why they continue to support a sport that causes brain damage.
And keep in mind, football is a dying sport. Moms who put helmets on their toddlers before they let them ride a trike are not going to let them play a sport that damages their child’s brain. Moms care about their sons' brains. Why don't university presidents? The pandemic should force university presidents to answer that question.
At a national and worldwide level, we've all witnessed the price we're paying for an administration that has ignored science. Universities should be the last place that happens. Come on university presidents. Stand up for education. Stand up for protecting a student's brain. Eliminate a sport that causes brain damage and that at MAC universities loses millions every year.