Big-time sports equals big-time money

Frontline has posted online a 2011 special on the influence of money on big-time college athletics.

It’s timely, relevant and it ought to whet the appetite of those who might be a bit concerned about big money’s influence on what used to be thought of as something akin to a recreational activity.

All this March Madness attention has swung into high gear, with teams playing for the right to participate in the Final Four of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.

What’s more, a National Labor Relations Board panel has ruled that college athletes are able to unionize, given that — according to the panel — they are “employees” of the university they represent.

Big money? It’s there in college sports.

Frontline has been ahead of this story for years, as it usually is on most compelling national issues. It’s why the WGBH based program has been acclaimed for so many years — and why Panhandle PBS broadcasts it to its viewers in the Texas Panhandle.

The 2011 special produced by the acclaimed PBS documentary series examines money’s huge influence. Boosters pay big money to universities and demand the schools do their bidding; student-athletes are awarded huge scholarships to get an education while they participate in revenue-producing sports such as football and basketball (both men and women).

Schools use the revenue they obtain from these events to build shiny new sports venues. Donors line up with huge amounts of cash to bid for the right for these venues to carry their names.

College athletics is big business.

Will the student-athlete unionization effort produce professional athletes who also happen to be college students? Let’s wait to see how this plays out.

Meanwhile, March Madness continues apace. The schools involved in the race for the men’s basketball championship stand to make a lot of money. Spend it wisely.


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