Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics / Edition 1

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Featuring a new introduction by the author, the paperback edition of Games Colleges Play chronicles the history of intercollegiate athletics from 1910 to 1990—from the early, glory days of Knute Rockne and the Gipper to the modern era of big budgets, powerful coaches, and pampered players. John Thelin describes how sports programs—although seldom accorded official mention with teaching and research in the university mission statement—have become central to university life. As administrators search for a proper balance between athletics and academics, Thelin observes, this peculiar institution grows increasingly powerful and controversial.

Thelin examines the 1929 Carnegie Foundation Report, the formation of major athletic conferences, the national college basketball scandals after World War II, the dissolution of the Pacific Coast Conference in the 1950s, and the Knight Foundation Report of 1991. He finds disturbing patterns of abuse and limited reform and explores the implications of these patterns for today's college presidents, faculty, and students.

Games Colleges Play provides historical background that will inform current policy discussions about the proper place of intercollegiate athletics within the American university.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews


An important historical analysis of college sport placed in the broader setting of American higher education. Thelin provides a helpful, if dispiriting, perspective for not only thinking about current problems plaguing college sport but also for understanding why college sport has survived and why university leadership and the sports establishment have resisted major reform efforts.

Education Review - Michael W. Simpson

A wonderfully easy read.

History of Education Quarterly - Jana Nidiffer

This book is an important addition to any canon of the field's literature.

American Historical Review

A welcome book on an important subject.

Education Review
A wonderfully easy read.

— Michael W. Simpson

History of Education Quarterly
This book is an important addition to any canon of the field's literature.

— Jana Nidiffer

Chronicles intercollegiate sports from 1910 to 1990, documenting their steadily increased prominence in relation to academics, the major scandals and attempts at reform over the years, and the current status of opportunities and temptations for both the colleges and the athletes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801855047
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/1996
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 1,075,354
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Thelin is professor of history of higher education and philanthropy at Indiana University. A former Chancellor Professor at the College of William and Mary, he is the author of Higher Education and Its Useful Past and co-author, with Lawrence L. Wiseman, of The Old College Try: Balancing Academics and Athletics in Higher Education. His research for this book was funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: American Higher Education's "Peculiar Institution" 1
Ch. 1 The Reform Canon: The 1929 Carnegie Foundation Report 13
Ch. 2 Responses to Reform, 1930 to 1946 38
Ch. 3 Regional Pride and Institutional Prestige: College Sports and the "Booster" Campus 68
Ch. 4 Schools for Scandal, 1946 to 1960 98
Ch. 5 Faculty Control and the Irony of Reform: The Pacific Coast Conference, 1946 to 1959 128
Ch. 6 Critics and Controversies, 1960 to 1980 155
Ch. 7 From Sports Page to Front Page, 1980 to 1990 179
Epilogue: An American Dilemma: Balancing Academics and Athletics 197
Notes 205
Bibliography 237
Index 247
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