Sports and Freedom

Sports and Freedom : Rise of Big-time College Athletics

3.9 (11 ratings by Goodreads)
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Perhaps more than any other two colleges, Harvard and Yale gave form to American intercollegiate athletics -- a form that was inspired by the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry overseas, and that was imitated by colleges and universities throughout the United States. Focusing on the influence of these prestigious eastern institutions, this fascinating study traces the origins and development of intercollegiate athletics in America from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Smith begins with an historical overview of intercollegiate athletics and details the evolution of individual sports -- crew, baseball, track and field, and especially football. Then, skillfully setting various sports events in their broader social and cultural contexts, Smith goes on to discuss many important issues that are still relevant today: student-faculty competition for institutional athletic control; the impact of the professional coach on big-time athletics; the false concept of amateurism in college athletics; and controversies over eligibility rules. He also reveals how the debates over brutality and ethics created the need for a central organizing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which still runs college sports today. Sprinkled throughout with spicy sports anecdotes, from the Thanksgiving Day Princeton-Yale football game that drew record crowds in the 1890s to a meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt on football violence, this lively, in-depth investigation will appeal to serious sports buffs as well as to anyone interested in American social and cultural more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 147.32 x 213.36 x 27.94mm | 476.27g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • half-tones
  • 0195053141
  • 9780195053142

Review Text

An earnest, academic history of 19th-century American intercollegiate sports that is at once thoroughly researched and insubstantial. The author is on the faculty of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at Penn State. One of his central theses is a debunking of the myth of an earlier, better time when college athletics were unsullied by commercialization and alumni pressures to win. From the very beginning (the first Harvard-Yale crew race ever was sponsored to promote a N.H. lake resort), money and college sports were inextricably linked. The ideal of amateurism - imported from Oxford and Cambridge, where it had functioned to fortify class barriers - was never much more than rhetoric in the relatively democratic America. Early college baseball and football were rife with essentially professional ringers. Smith discusses other historical influences on sports, among them the philosophy of "Muscular Christianity," the Civil War veterans' return to campus, and Frederick Taylor's ideals of rationalized management (adopted in both coaching techniques and rules reform). However, these welcome and intelligent forays into sociological and cultural contexts vaporize, and the book descends to humbler fare - e.g., the issues of student vs. faculty vs. alumni control, the way other colleges followed the lead of Harvard and Yale, the intricacies of football-rules evolution, and anecdotal pop history under headings like "The First Great American Pro Crew Coach: Charles Courtney" and "Walter Camp, Father of American Football." Smith has put a patina of sociological comment on an old subject, but his writing is pedestrian and the scholarship narrow and unexciting. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

11 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 18% (2)
4 55% (6)
3 27% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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