If there's any remaining debate about the state of NCAA athletics right now, consider the following exchange between reporters and Mack Brown during a tour with Darrell Royal of the renovations at DKR-Memorial Stadium.
Media: What do you think of the arms race that it takes things like this [stadium] to stay competitive?
Brown: I would say that we have an arms race in society, and I think it’s a good thing because it means we’re making progress. Every business is trying to get better every day. If we ever get so that we’re slowing down, then we’ll be backing up. So, I’m not concerned. We are making more money than ever before. And to continue to do that, to support the other sports on our campus, we’ve got to keep making it. And you can’t make it without adding more seats and getting better recruits and winning and making more fans happy and getting them to come sit in the stands.
Media: There was time when this was considered almost a luxury, but now it’s mandatory to keep up?
Brown: It really is. In recruiting, everything changes every day. It’s tougher on athletic directors than ever before because money is tighter. It’s happening in every sport. Everybody’s trying to win the national championship in every sport. It’s not going to stop. That’s why we all got to continue to find ways to make money.
Whether you think this is a good or bad thing, Mack Brown's candor certainly precludes making the argument that the current landscape is anything but money-driven. The most admirable still play within the rules and try to compete without sacrificing other important values like education, character development, and the like. Still, there's absolutely no question at all that college sports are Big Business, capital 'B'.
For those who dislike what things have become, a word of caution before you finger-wag: there's no single group to blame. A not exhaustive list of factors responsible for the shift include: fans, media, professional leagues, the internet, coaches, tax cuts, boosters, and university regents.
Personally? I find things far from utopian, but on the whole not something I'm losing sleep over. Then again, I'm pretty disillusioned these days. There's a reason I'm a sports - and not political - blogger.