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Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University (Penn State Press) Library Binding – July 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Read this book if you care about both sports and undergraduate education. Dowling is one of the most brilliant and dedicated teachers I know. He has been struggling for more than a decade to save the educational soul of Rutgers University. This book exposes the Faustian bargain university trustees and presidents make to field nationally competitive athletic teams.

“Dowling tells a sad and very personal story of the failed struggle at Rutgers, but readers at other institutions will have no difficulty in substituting the names of their own presidents and athletic directors. Dowling is not against athletics. He is for education.”
—Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University, president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies

“Big-time college athletics are helping to ruin higher education at Rutgers and elsewhere, writes insider and star professor of literature, William Dowling. In his personal story of involvement with athletics at Rutgers, Dowling pleads for Rutgers and other universities to become places that are student-centered and intellectually challenging.”
—Ronald A. Smith, author of Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

“Even if you care not a fig about the Neanderthalization of our universities, you’ll get a buzz out of Dowling’s furious prose. Dude’s got a chip on both shoulders and half a dozen angry beehives throbbing in his bonnet. . . . Spoilsport is the follow-up fans of the classic football book Friday Night Lights (which was about sports corruption in the football-rotted high schools of West Texas) have been waiting for.”
—Steven Wells, Philadelphia Weekly

“Universities exist to transmit understanding and ideals and values to students . . . not to provide entertainment for spectators or employment for athletes. . . . When I entered a much smaller Rutgers sixty years ago, athletics were an important but strictly minor aspect of Rutgers education. I trust that today’s much larger Rutgers will honor this tradition from which I benefited so much.”
—Milton Friedman, Rutgers

“[Confessions of a Spoilsport] is, mostly, a well-argued diatribe, and a very useful one—perhaps the best overview of college-sports corruption published. It should be required reading, for education and sports writers, not to mention high school students pondering their college choices along with their financially fearful parents.”
—Robert Whitcomb, Weekly Standard

“Dowling provides evidence that will make the reader sit up and take notice. He writes well, providing clear, comprehensive evidence of the pitfalls of big-time athletics.”
—M. E. Beagle, Choice

From the Back Cover

"Read this book if you care about both sports and undergraduate education. Dowling is one of the most brilliant and dedicated teachers I know. He has been struggling for more than a decade to save the educational soul of Rutgers University. This book exposes the Faustian bargain university trustees and presidents make to field nationally competitive athletic teams.

Dowling tells a sad and very personal story of the failed struggle at Rutgers, but readers at other institutions will have no difficulty in substituting the names of their own presidents and athletic directors. Dowling is not against athletics. He is for education."

--Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University, president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies

"Big-time college athletics are helping to ruin higher education at Rutgers and elsewhere, writes insider and star professor of literature, William Dowling. In his personal story of involvement with athletics at Rutgers, Dowling pleads for Rutgers and other universities to become places that are student-centered and intellectually challenging." --Ronald A. Smith, author of Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press (July 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271032936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271032931
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A. Barr on September 7, 2007
Format: Library Binding
Ever since it joined the Big East football conference under former president Francis Lawrence, Rutgers' rankings and admission standards have moved downwards. William Dowling here describes the battles of the Rutgers 1000 group (to which he belonged) against the corruption and cynicism of 'big time' athletics at Rutgers, and details the harm done by 'booster culture' to the intellectual and academic tradititons of America's 8th-oldest university.

For those who believe that universities exist primarily for the transmission of knowledge and free intellectual enquiry, this is not a pretty story. It details how, under a weak president chosen by a board of govenors concerned foremost with 'making it big' in sports, Rutgers withdrew from over a century of competition with schools like Princeton and Cornell and modelled its sports program on institutions like Virginia Tech and Miami. The consequences - including the flight of many of the brightest students, and a run down, crowded, shabby campus offset against the first-class athletic facilities provided for 'student athletes' are well documented in the book.

As a Rutgers student, it angers me that my university has thrown away at least $150 million over the past 15 years on football alone - money that could otherwise have gone into scholarships, new buildings, and facilities for ALL students. In these days of hype and hooplah over a 'winning' football program at Rutgers, it is worth remembering the price Rutgers has paid and continues to pay for such 'success'. I salute Professor Dowling for detailing the numerous reasons why many of us at Rutgers view div 1A football as an expensive sham that does far more harm than good to this great university.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Norman J. Levitt on October 5, 2007
Format: Library Binding
To put my cards on the table at the first opportunity: I have recently retired from Rutgers, New Brunswick after 37 years on the Math faculty. For several years, I worked with Bill Dowling and the Rutgers 1000 to try to find a way of diverting the university from the cesspool that is big-time Div 1-A football. I am mentioned in the book in one or two places.

That said, I have to say that I don't miss teaching very much and that the atmosphere created by the dominant jockocracy, especially now that the "program" is a "winner", is an important factor in my indifference. Div 1A football is pure poison when one longs for an atmosphere where serious students predominate and their genuine intllectual curiosity flourishes. I have had such students, of course, and met quite a few of them in the defunct Honors Program, which Dowling accurately describes. These days, they seem like remnants of a doomed race.

Note that it's not jocks, as such, who now flourish in New Brunswick? The best and brightest of them--those who participate in the "non-revenue" sports as free individuals motivated only by their enthusiasm--have, in most cases, been victims of a wholesale purge (unreported in Dowling's book, alas, though it is the saddest and most ironic aspect of the moral rot that concerns him). Fencing, Crew, and Men's Tennis and Swimming have vanished without a trace, despite intense lobbying from outraged parents and alumni and universal bewilderment among undergrads. Why? The pretext is that they are "too expensive". But this happens as more and more cash is poured into a bloated and self-indulgent football program, in the form of luxury accommodations to entice recruits and astronomical pay-scales for coaches and administrators.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Golenbock on July 24, 2007
Format: Library Binding
William Dowling is a professor at Rutgers who lives to teach bright, inquisitive students. But since Rutgers opted to move its football team into the Big East conference, he began noticing that the quality of his students was diminishing drastically. Was it possible that big-time football was actually ruining the academic reputation of the college so the best high school students no longer were applying? Was the intellectual elite turned off by the rah rah emphasis on football?
Indeed, he discovered, that was the case. And worse, his current top students began transferring to other colleges for the same reason.
To reverse the trend Professor Dowling attempted to raise the alarm as his RU1000 group sought to do what it could to get the Rutgers chancellor and board of directors to return to small-time football before Rutgers' educational standards fell so low it no longer was rated an elite college.
Alas, the efforts of Dowling and those professors and students who cared so deeply about the academic standards of Rutgers failed, as boosters, corporate sponsors, and football-crazy alums and students painted their faces red and cheered Rutgers to a spectacular season in 2007. As the football budget ballooned, Dowling and his group protested cuts in the academic budget. The betrayal to the core purpose of his beloved university was too much for Dowling to accept without comment.
In a brilliant book that lays bare the high cost to education and educators at sports-crazed colleges, Dowling makes one wonder whether many of our colleges have been corrupted beyond repair.
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