Nobel prizes are great, but college football is why American universities dominate the globe
WRITTEN BY - David F. Labaree - October 07, 2017
College football costs too much. It exploits players and even damages their brains. It glorifies violence and promotes a thuggish brand of masculinity. And it undermines the college’s academic mission.
We hear this a lot, and much of it is true. But consider, for the moment, that football may help explain how the American system of higher education has become so successful. According to rankings computed by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, American institutions account for 32 of the top 50 and 16 of the top 20 universities in the world. Also, between 2000 and 2014, 49% of all Nobel recipients were scholars at US universities.
The connection between brawny linemen and brainy physicists may seem remote, but it’s really not. In order to support a large number of high-powered professors, US universities need to attract a huge number of tuition-paying students, and they need to turn those students into loyal lifelong donors. In order to draw state appropriations, they also need to extend their reach beyond their own alumni by attracting the political support of citizens in the immediate community and in the state at large. And they need to do so within an extremely competitive higher education market consisting of nearly 5,000 degree-granting institutions.