The History of College Sports

History 373
TR 2:10-3:25
Strong Hall, Room 105
Fall 2018

Prof. Chad Black

Phone: 974-9871
Office: 2627 Dunford Hall, 6th Floor
Office Hours: Tuesday, 4:00-5:00, Wednesday, 3:00-4:00, or by appointment.

The United States is unique in its blending of academia and “big time” athletics. Collegiate sport dates to the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was seen to offer discipline and health to young men tempted by leisure and illicit pastimes. Colleges established intercollegiate competition under the principles of “Amateurism,” principles that have been a cause of tension and scandal ever since. This course will trace the history of collegiate sport and its relationships to both the University and the wider community. It examines the evolution (and in some respects the remarkable consistency) of university priorities in the era of “big-time” sports and considers the practical and moral implications of that evolution for both college athletes and the institutions that claim to serve them. The course readings and assignments provide the historical grounding needed to understand the conflicts at the heart of what the NCAA likes to call “the collegiate model of sport.” Are college sports “good” for athletes? Are modern universities meeting their obligations to the students they recruit and admit? Given the historical trajectory of the big-time sport enterprise, is reform possible? If so, who is responsible for fixing what ails college sports? What corrections should be applied and when? These are the questions addressed in this course.

required readings

The following books are required for this class:

  1. Stephen W. Pope, Patriotic Games : Sporting Tradition in the American Imagination, 1876-1926 2nd Edition (University of Tennessee Press, 2007).
  2. Lars Anderson, Carlisle vs. Army : Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football’s Greatest Battle (Random House, 2008).
  3. David Whiteford, A Payroll to Meet : A Story of Greed, Corruption, and Football at SMU (Univ of Nebraska Press, 2013).
  4. Jay Smith and Mary Willingham, Cheated : The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes, and the Future of Big-Time College Sports (Potomac Books, 2015).

All other readings will be available to the students electronically.


Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact me as soon as possible to ensure that your needs are met in a timely manner with appropriate documentation.

Attendance: Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory. If you will not be able to attend class, please contact me ahead of time.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs when someone knowingly or unknowingly presents another person’s words or ideas as his or her own. Any work turned in for this class must meet University standards for academic honesty. Any students unsure about how to apply these rules are urged to consult with me prior to turning in any written work.

Deadlines: Assignments must be turned to the instructor no later than the end of class on the day they are due, or at some other specified time established by the professor. Late papers will not be accepted for any reason without prior arrangement. This includes technology problems.

Cell Phones and Laptops: Please silence our cell phones prior to class. Please do not text during class. Laptops are allowed only for tasks related to this class. Distracting use of technology (social media, surfing, etc.) causes problems not only for your own learning, but for those around you. Research shows that analog notetaking improves learning. Consider having paper with you. Based on the prevailing literature, hand note-taking– both while reading and in class– leads to substantially better educational outcomes. You are not required to have a laptop in class, so feel free to leave it at home. If, however, you have reason to use your laptop for notetaking, I won’t stop you from doing so.

Office Hours: Students are strongly encouraged to speak with me outside of class. The advantages of talking with me include: extra help on an assignment or preparation for an exam; clarification of materials covered in lecture, discussion of my comments on your work; discussion of this or related courses. I am available during office hours on a first-come, first-served basis; if you cannot come by during office hours, please contact me via email or phone and I will be happy to set up an appointment with you.

Changes: I reserve the write to change this syllabus as the semester progresses. This is not a contract, but rather a document to guide expectations and clearly communicate weekly assignments. Please bring the syllabus with you to our class meetings. Or, keep up with it on the course website.