Football U.

Spectator Sports in the Life of the American University
J. Douglas Toma
A balanced look at the use of athletic programs as a tool in "branding" universities and in building community spirit, support, and identity both on campus and off


It's the great debate again: who's winning, college sports or higher education? For anyone passionate to settle that score, Football U. presents a new direction—that maybe it's time for the two sides to shake hands and call a truce.

J. Douglas Toma makes a case for dialogue and mutual benefits. In short, at some major institutions of learning, academics can learn a thing or two from spectator sports, particularly football, and vice versa.

Still, a lot of people don't see it that way, and the very mention of this subject can start a heated discussion in some circles. Even if you don't pay special attention to college sports you've probably heard the arguments, usually anti-athletic, which run from the dumbing-down of America to the commercialization—hence impoverishment—of everything in our culture.

Toma argues that football underscores the collegiate ideal, and highlights the unique forms in which some institutions express that ideal. He's trying to heal an old wound—the separation of town and gown. Spectator sports do this in part, he believes, by creating a "national brand" that adds distinctiveness to otherwise commonplace campuses. "Teams and games," he writes, "provide a convenient vehicle through which external constituents relate to institutions and thus identify with them—coming to think of the institutions as their own."

Football U. may just breathe life into an old cliché: it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

J. Douglas Toma is Associate Professor, Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.

Praise / Awards

  • "It is important to recognize what spectator sports have contributed to American higher education, and I enjoyed and learned from Doug Toma's reflections on these contributions in Football U. Kudos to Dr. Toma for reminding us of the significant benefits that spectator sport brings to sustaining a positive culture within and recognition outside our great American universities."
    —David Longanecker, Executive Director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
  • "In addition to telling an engaging story about sports in the academy, Toma demonstrates a way of integrating insights from several parts of our field of study and weaving a story that should be of broad interest, showing us that the field of higher education has something to say to the general public. He also provides a compelling portrait of the role of college sports in building universities. The payoff from investment in sports, we learn, may be in the memories of college football weekends, images that compel many to return to their towns on crisp fall Saturdays—sometimes even when their teams lose."
    —Edward St. John, University of Michigan
  • "Football U. perceptively illuminates the place of 'big-time' college athletics in major research universities. But make no mistake, this is a book about education, not sports. Its discussions of the context in which athletics operates—'collegiate life,' and the economics and cultures of major research universities—are required reading for anyone who wants to truly understand the rapidly changing nature of American higher education."
    —Jeffrey Orleans, Executive Director, Council of Ivy Group Presidents
  • "Football U. offers insight into the foundation for institutional fervor, the challenges to sustain town, gown, alumni, and adoptee excitement and the fiscal and political pressures associated with these amazing enterprises."
    —Larry Moneta, Ed.D, Vice President for Student Affairs, Duke University
  • "Football U. is a thorough and thought-provoking examination of the way a university's image is formed by football and other spectator sports. J. Douglas Toma deftly discloses how football helps universities connect with certain constituencies in a way academics alone cannot, and why expecting excellence from student-athletes on the field and in the classroom is a superior strategy for a successful university."
    —Steven B. Sample, President, University of Southern California
  • "[H]ighly readable . . . makes a compelling case that high-stakes football is a spectator sport whose purpose is institution-building, not student character-building as the conventional wisdom would have it. Toma does the academy a service by calling for more transparency about the purposes and imperatives of big-time athletics programs."
    —William Massy, Professor Emeritus and former Vice President for Finance, Stanford University
  • ". . . brings impartiality to a subject all too often filled with controversy, pitting football boosters against critics who complain that academic achievement takes second place to athletics success."
    Athletics Administration, October 2003

Look Inside


Acknowledgments     vii

The Name of the Game: Spectator Sports in Institution Building     1

The College Try: The Collegiate Ideal and the Landscape of Intercollegiate Athletics     17

School Colors: The Forms of Institutional Culture     47

Team Spirit: Community and the Substance of Institutional Culture     73

League Standings: The University as National Brand     95

Home Games: Local Involvement in the Life of the American University   127

Loyal Fans: Institutional Identification at State U.     165

The Football School: Institutional Image and Brand Equity     195

Homecoming Weekend: Motivating Institutional Advancement     217

Amateur Ideals and Commercial Realities: Understanding the American University and the Future of College Sports     245

Index     283

Illustrations following page 150

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 310pp.
  • 11 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11299-9

Add to Cart
  • $44.95 U.S.