Editor: Below you will find a piece by David Sirota about recent investigative efforts by Lowell Bergman, local boy, former 60 Minutes producer, and one of our heroes for helping to inspire the original OB Rag from the pages of the San Diego Street Journal. Here are posts about Lowell Bergman here and here.
By David Sirota / TruthDig / April 8, 2011
Lowell Bergman is the rare skunk who regularly finds his way into the power elite’s garden parties. As tobacco executives celebrated huge revenues in the 1990s, he was the journalist whose reporting about cancer and nicotine addiction stopped the festivities. As credit card executives toasted their holiday-season profits, his 2004 New York Times investigation humiliated the lending industry by showing how it traps unsuspecting consumers in perpetual debt. So it was no surprise that as the sports establishment concluded its perennial orgy of profit known as March Madness, Bergman was at it again, this time exposing the corruption beneath all the school spirit.
In Bergman’s damning special now available on PBS’s “Frontline” website [all three parts are in links in original article – go here], viewers are shown the side of “amateur” athletics that’s almost never discussed inside the beery bubble of sports media. We see, for instance, an NCAA that makes billions off television contracts, while student athletes receive only a tiny fraction of that revenue in the form of scholarships. We see coaches making millions off long-term contracts, while players remain perpetually at risk of losing their meager financial aid. We see, in short, an Athletic-Industrial Complex that turns schools into support systems for sports—rather than the other way around.
Commenting on the perverse situation, fellow investigative journalist Michael Lewis told Bergman that the typical fan “shouldn’t care unless you have some weird obsession with justice.” But that’s not true in the age of strapped budgets and skyrocketing tuition. Fan or not, justice fetishist or otherwise, the scandal should concern every American taxpayer because we’re all paying a price.
Today, the vast majority of college athletic departments run operating deficits. In 2009 alone, that meant “about $1.8 billion in student fees and university funds went to cover gaps,” according to USA Today—and much of those fees and funds are those of taxpayer-owned public universities.
For the remainder of this article, and for links to the PBS videos, go here.
David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.