Should We Ban College Football?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Football on the lawn Football on the lawn (ElvertBarnes/flickr)

Big money, corruption, and injury have put college football in the spotlight. Tomorrow night, Intelligence Squared will debate the idea of banning college football. Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Friday Night Lights -- and supporter of a ban -- previews the conversation with Tim Green, announcer and former Atlanta Falcons defensive end -- who opposes a ban. Tim Green is also the author of Pinch Hit


Buzz Bissinger and Tim Green

Comments [43]

Shawn from Bergen County

Pop Warner football now limiting hits:

And a recent lawsuit in the NFL regarding concussions:

Jun. 13 2012 11:06 PM
DB from New Jersey

I don't believe the question "should we ban college football" is the right question to ask.

All sports should be banned from public schools including high school (except for physical education and intramural games). It's common knowledge that players do get seriously injured, some even die, playing sports. I think it's also common knowledge that players intentionally hurt each other well before they start playing in college, and better helmet will not make football completely safe from someone that wants to hurt you.

Furthermore, why should public dollars be spent on an activity that is not accessible to all? There are only so many people that can play on any given team. And not everyone that want's to play is given a chance.
Let private organization (or private universities) fill the gap needed for extracurricular sports for players of all ages. And let people decide for themselves whether they want to take the financial and physical risk of trying to become a star player.

The burden of sports finance should not be on the tax payer.

May. 18 2012 04:02 PM

Ban college football? No.
Implement various revisions to the rules to limit injuries? Yes

K, I think we're done here.

May. 07 2012 02:56 PM

College football as well as college basketball earn billions for these non-profits as well as the NCAA (which is also a non-profit). Of course this is exclusive of the money illegally bet on these spectacles.
Perhaps taxing the billions made on these to a dedicated tax to fund education might be better than an outright ban.

Also, the monopolies of the NFL and NBA use these programs much like minor leagues. There is just too much money being made here for too little benefit.

May. 07 2012 01:45 PM

Just a thought: with or without banning college football... what's bad for football could be good for soccer, basketball, baseball, wrestling, etc over the next 50-75 as programs shift their focus.

In the end, any sport which attracts donors and generates student support is good for the school. Currently, football does that best... but at the highest costs for insurance, equipment, travel, coaching, etc.

The sports I mentioned above could achieve the same results with fewer expenses and fewer injuries... if the student body and alumni got behind them, and that's a big IF for many schools.

May. 07 2012 11:51 AM

Sheldon, ice hockey, wrestling, lacrosse, rugby, to name a few.

May. 07 2012 11:48 AM

Thanks for calling in and rebutting, Shawn.

I'm not a fan of banning college football, but the head injuries have turned me against college football, bad rules in hockey, and boxing generally (though I love the sport I have come to realize what a problem it is) as much as drugs in horse-racing have turned me off.

With enough rule changes and better technology/ equipment (I hope helmets in Bergen County are better than what passes for proper helmets in parts of the Southern US), I think high school and college football can become safer.

But how much safer? It will still be a calculated risk even if players are wearing Indy 500 helmets and neck guards.

May. 07 2012 11:46 AM

Mr. Green's fundamental debating skills are an excellent indication to the value of college football programs.

May. 07 2012 11:42 AM
Shawn from Bergen County

I'm the orthopaedic surgeon who called in. I'd like to rebut a few of the points made during the show after my call. If Mr Green indeed correlates football with driving or alcohol, then he should support at the minimum limits on play. There are dangers associated with alcohol, which is why there are laws limiting their purchase until you are 21 years old. There are dangers associated with driving, which is why you can't get a license until you are 16 or 17.

I unfortunately see the injuries associated with football every single day. And I guarantee that 10 years from now Mr. Green will look back on his statements today with regret. New data every single week comes out supporting limitations on hits due to head injuries. The game is much different today than it was 30 years ago when Mr. Green played. My old high school's offensive line (in Cincinnati OH) this year had 4 kids over 300lbs. I bet that is bigger than the college line that Mr Green played against. The sport has grown, the injuries have grown, and the technology to protect these kids has not grown.

May. 07 2012 11:41 AM

The undercurrent to this discussion is the semi-professionalization of what were traditionally amateur sports (in the English tradition). This process has evolved parallel to the profit motive for college sports.

While the first intercollegiate football game (Rutgers vs. Princeton, November 1869 - was rather rugby-like, in any case it was an intramural sport. No players had any expectation of making a livelihood from the sport. Neither the sports technology (ball, cleats, headgear), the rules, or the level of physicality were the intense, fast-paced game that exists today.

Yes, injuries were a guarantee in the game, but "profiteering" was a non-factor.

If colleges maintained a variant of that early game, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But, the game speed and the profit motive have far out-paced the rules and the equipment/ technology. That's actually rather typical, as business/ finance/ science have outpaced the legal/regulatory structures which are put in place to restrict them.

On the other hand, there is a problem with incentives which the legal system has enabled: insurance for high school and college sports athletes. The schools don't have to cover their losses and, for the most part, the players ignore the very real risks with the promise of a future in sports despite overwhelmingly contrary evidence. They choose so willingly, but not wisely.

May. 07 2012 11:39 AM
Andrew from Manhattan

I don't like football. I don't enjoy football. I also have never met a football player who did not graduate high school and college, when attending. I agree that studies show that the sport is excessively violent, with players spending more time training than studying, and schools spending more money on sports than arts and education. With this said...

We should not ban college football.

If people want to put their bodies through the destructive forces of the sport while ignoring, if not spending a disproportionate amount of time studying their academics and arts (EQUALLY important programs), that is THEIR CHOICE.

If you don't like the show, change the channel. Don't ban something because you don't understand it. If you don't want your children playing football, don't let them. Don't ruin it for everyone. This line of thinking has been used in other arena's of thought including gay marriage, abortion and provocative television. Lesson learned... I hope so...

May. 07 2012 11:36 AM
Gene Detroyer from NYC

I played on 3 college national championship teams 40 years ago. Everyone of my team mates graduated.

One of the biggest hypocrisy I see is when they introduce the starting line-ups at the beginning of professional football games and link the players to colleges as if they attended classes and graduated. How silly.

They aren't students. They aren't connected to the students and we shouldn't be suggesting they earned anything at the university.

May. 07 2012 11:35 AM

I thought a guy with the name "Buzz" would be a someone with some credibility in this debate. Unfortunately, from his wiki page, he's just a Phillips Andover brat with bad debating manners. I would pay to see the football player put this dude in a headlock.

May. 07 2012 11:35 AM

It's nice and cool with your head in the sand - takes the edge off that concussion!

May. 07 2012 11:34 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

RL, if you say so but I can't think of a college sport that is.

May. 07 2012 11:33 AM
The Truth from Becky

Here's an original idea, don't let your kid play!!

May. 07 2012 11:33 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

This debate is below your standards. I'm sure there is an argument against banning college football, but Mr. Green is not making it. He has not facts, just disagrees with everything said by Mr. Bizinger (and now everything by the caller). His only response seems to be "That's just not true" with no evidence.

Also since he mentioned Syracuse University, it's largest academic scholarship offered is $12,000 a year (less than one-half the tuition cost alone), while giving full rides (tuition, room & board, books & other expenses) to 100+ football and basketball players (including "one & done" players like Carmelo Anthony}. At the very least, the emphasis seems misplaced for a supposedly major ACADEMIC institution.

May. 07 2012 11:31 AM
Clif from Manhattan

Yes, please do! Maybe our society can begin to "graduate" to a higher level of consciousness. I'm so tired of this corrupt Good 'Ol Boy system where minorities with no other real opportunities are taken advantage of. This is simply a modern day gladiator system where the players are reduced to chattel. Yes, of course, there are some very smart football players out there, but let's be real. Most are simply not. While minorities with real intelligence often slip through the cracks.

It's backwards for a university to be exploiting the ignorance of it's students!

May. 07 2012 11:30 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The caller said there was a concussion in every single game he was the orthopedist for. That's 1 player out of at least 22, so ~4% of players per game. Does Tim Green really think the other activities he named have that high a rate of serious injury?

May. 07 2012 11:28 AM
Henry Stayduhar

If the player gets injured, he loses his scholarship and has to pay for college. The players get signed year by year.

May. 07 2012 11:28 AM

Thanks to the Doctor for the "Gladiator" comment. There is no doubt that maybe it takes time for people to realize that certain "sports" are, basically, a stupid because they're so dangerous endeavor.
By the way, Buzz has no facts to back up his arguement but subscribes to the, "if I talk over the other person who does have facts, then that makes me right" line of discussion. No points for him.

May. 07 2012 11:27 AM
Katherine from Mamaroneck

Tim Green is being awfully cavalier about head injuries in high school football. I'm not saying that college football should be banned, but to say that there is nothing different with injuries sustained in football versus baseball or other sports?

Head injuries are possible in any sport. That's true enough, but to say it's the same?

May. 07 2012 11:27 AM

We learn from science over time. We mandate seatbelts in cars. We wear bicycle helmets. And we don't allow people to smoke in bars. And I think that we are starting to learn that hockey and football subject their participants to a serious risk of repeated concusions which have been shown to lead to brain damage.
If you want to subject yourself to those risks, that's one thing. But I would not want my son to be have that risk.

May. 07 2012 11:26 AM
Tom from Brooklyn

This is GREAT- they are at each others' throats..As much heat as light. (and I'm a U of Chicago alum)

May. 07 2012 11:25 AM

Ah, c'mon!!! Don't muck up the debate with actual facts, statistics or actual science!!!

Mr. Green has CLEARLY taken a few too many hits!!!

May. 07 2012 11:24 AM
Dorothy from New Jersey

The quality of the debate speaks to the main point of the show: the pro argues from sentiment, has no sources and rejects reason. The con is erudite, well-researched and thoughtful. I wonder which one went to school on an athletic scholarship?

May. 07 2012 11:24 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Moneyball sports, generally football and basketball for most schools but I include any sport that can lead to a pro career, attract attention of TV viewers and boost alumni donations -- AND can vary from campus to campus -- ought to be funded by the alumni organization. Players scholarships, coaching staff salaries, player stipends and annuities, etc. This would take most campus sports OFF THE Title IX table.

Doing so, would bring some balance back to college sports and permit universities to spend their dollars in sports that very few - outside of the athletes and their families - care about.

My alma mater, Rutgers University, no longer offers NCAA sanctioned mens swimming and diving, mens crew, mens tennis or mens or womens fencing. Wrestling and gymnastics were on the chopping block, too, but survived. All for the god of big-time football. It wasn't worth it, in my opinion.

May. 07 2012 11:24 AM
Alan from 150 Varick Street

Why not take away the license of all teenagers instead? You would definitely be saving a lot more teens as opposed to banning football.

May. 07 2012 11:23 AM
The Truth from Becky

Not at all! Sign a waiver and make new helmets...we have wireless internet and flight now for goodness sakes!! Somebody call NASA.

May. 07 2012 11:23 AM

Sheldon, while I agree with you, that's not the point the guest was making. And there a several sports that are as or more dangerous than football. Ya can't pick and chose.

May. 07 2012 11:22 AM

Isn't this a futile argument about something that would never happen?

And: Wouldn't banning high school football be more urgent?

May. 07 2012 11:22 AM
Brian from Hoboken

I am not sure if banning is right, but new helmet technologies are helping. The newest helmets should be mandatory, even if they look "dorky" as some say.
With the multiple suicides of football players, the brutal brain damage suffered, I cant watch football without some degree of guilt. Years ago I felt bad for ex-players who at age 50 moved like 80 year olds because of bad knees. Living into your 70s with arthritis is now the BEST these players can hope for. What does that say?
I don't think we need to ban it. As the doctor caller said, fewer and fewer kids will pick up football as children, effectively ending the game as we know it in another generation.

May. 07 2012 11:21 AM

The 43% number is dubious at best. It does not take into account the number of schools that are growing by making an investments into new stadiums, facilities, scholarships, etc. that both football and other programs with take advantage of. Like any growing business, they are losing money for a few years to make big bucks later.

If you wanna ban football because of health and safety, then you have a valid argument, but to do it for financial reasons is lightweight.

May. 07 2012 11:21 AM

Football kills the very spirit of US Higher Education... Student-Athletes are abused by both the colleges and the NFL teams... Colleges and the NCAA function as the NFL's minor leagues... Baseball foots the bill of training their future employees through the farming system and the minor leagues in the US and abroad. The NFL pays nothing for training their employees... As a professor in a College with a football programme in the US one is forced to create a double standard when grading...

May. 07 2012 11:20 AM
Joshua from Brooklyn, NY

This is a poorly set up debate encompassing too many different issues. But the answer in my opinion is not to "ban college football" but merely to reduce its status to that of most other college sports, i.e. a competitive extracurricular activity that adds to the college experience, not a professionalized spectacle that dominates it. If the NFL wants better D-leagues it should pay for them.

May. 07 2012 11:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

RL, you're missing the point. It's about brain injuries, something football is notorious for.

May. 07 2012 11:20 AM

I can't recall the last time pundits starting screaming at each other on the show, very entertaining ;). while i may be wrong i suspect is b/c sports are in play here.

May. 07 2012 11:18 AM

Coach Sandusky!!! Plenty of free time in the showers if we close down the football program!!

Whada'ya say?

May. 07 2012 11:16 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

I am a college professor (small college) and I have 2 students with brain injuries due to football. One of them has serious learning problems as a result and has not been able to finish school. We do not make money on football but it seems the program attracts more men than we would otherwise have (and brings geographic diversity). We might lose that. I do not like football but I wonder if there is a safer way to play it.

May. 07 2012 11:15 AM
JD from NY

Football is for the slow kids.

May. 07 2012 11:14 AM

What would stop football fans to shift to other sports, sinking their money and corruption into wrestling, lacrosse, hockey, basketball, etc.???

This is not a radical time, but this is a useless segment.

May. 07 2012 11:11 AM

Why would you not ban college hockey before football? It's far more brutal.

May. 07 2012 11:09 AM

This is the MOST intelligent thing since sliced bread!

May. 07 2012 11:02 AM

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