March Madness is big business. Each year the NCAA collects $700 million for television rights to the men's college basketball tournament, under the terms of a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting. The two networks, in turn, bring in just over a billion dollars each year in advertising revenue. And it's estimated that over nine billion dollars changes hands in bets every year, as some 40 million Americans fill out their brackets to predict the outcome of all 67 games in the three-week tournament.
And this is "amateur" sports.
In his new book Changing the Playbook: How Power, Profit, and Politics Transformed College Sports
(University of Illinois Press, 2015),
historian Howard Chudacoff
describes the key turning points that led to today's big-money world of college sports. Focusing on the decades since World War II, Howard shows how college football, rather than basketball, led to the unchecked power of coaches, athletic directors, and wealthy boosters that we see today. He also explains the NCAA's rise to authority over college sports, a place now sealed by its control of the March Madness billions. There are plenty of screeds out there against the money and corruption in college sports. But as a historian of sport and a former university representative to the NCAA, Howard offers a different take - a well-researched and illuminating history that is both critical of school administrators and the NCAA but also appreciative of athletics at American universities.