Frank Deford quotes James Duderstadt on the culture of college sports

by Shaun Manning on July 26, 2012

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, hosts of ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” show, spoke with acclaimed sports writer and Sports Illustrated columnist Frank Deford about the culture of college athletics in the wake of the Penn State scandal.

Deford said that the byword for college football and basketball is “More,” with athletic programs becoming “bigger, huger, and of course wealthier, richer. And all of that has led to more temptation.”

To Deford’s mind, there is no way to “reel it back in.” “It’s just going to get bigger and bigger. We’ve seen that with the new contract for the football bowl championship.” And while the NCAA regulatory body might introduce new rules and guidelines relating to athletics’ place in the university setting, there’s no real sense that this could significantly change the culture surrounding sports. “I can remember covering an NCAA conference, I think it was 30 or 40 years ago, and the subject was, ‘When are the Presidents Going to Take Power?’ It’s the same issue over and over,” Deford said, laughing lightly. “I remember addressing the Knight Commission twenty years ago–they all sit around and make themselves feel good by issuing proclamations that nobody pays any attention to. The presidents always succumb and pick up the money.”

During the course of the program, Deford quoted one of this university’s most prominent and outspoken critics of big-money college athletics. “There’s a wonderful book written by a guy named James Duderstadt, he was President of the University of Michigan,” Deford said, referring to Intercollegiate Athletics and the American University: A University President’s Perspective. “He just said that, ‘I prayed, on my watch, nothing bad would happen. I couldn’t really do anything, I kept my fingers crossed that on the athletic field nothing would go really wrong.’ I think that’s the way most of them feel.”

The hosts and Deford moved on to discuss the truly disturbing implications of the Penn State scandal, that the university–and, by extension, other universities–would go to any lengths to protect its football program, even place children in danger from a known predator. “I do think that Penn State is an exceptional situation,” Deford said. “All the stars were aligned here. If this had happened at any other school, I think the football coach would not have been powerful enough to stop the college authorities from doing what they would.

“But having said that, it certainly indicates how powerful that culture is.”

Listen to the full program at ESPN.com.

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