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Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Has Crippled Undergraduate Education
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Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Has Crippled Undergraduate Education

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  232 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
In this fascinating book, Sperber uses original research culled from students, faculty, and administrators around the country, to argue that what universities offer instead of a meaningful undergraduate education is a meager and dangerous substitute: the party scene surrounding college sports that Sperber calls "beer and circus" and which serves to keep the students happy ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 2000)
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Mar 20, 2010 Katie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: David B
Recommended to Katie by: Pedagogy class at UT-Austin
Shelves: sociology, education
I think I will never watch an NCAA Division I game again. Sorry, Horns... So long, Lions... Screw you, Illini. I used to like college football, even though I can't really keep my mind on it, but oh well. Sports fans, university administrators: beware this book. Well, I mean, unless you want to read a good book.

Here is how the NCAA and its supporters are destroying undergrad education: by encouraging sports scandals, binge drinking, and irresponsible behavior that disgust the public and discourag
Sep 09, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
As a student entering my first year of college (to a university which the author might call a "Big Time U"), a family member strongly recommended this book to me. Murray Sperber's critique is extremely well written; an effective mix of anecdotal and empirical evidence as well as personal insight outline the crashing and burning of the 21st century undergraduate education. Sperber's coined term "beer and circus" (party and sports), a reference to Roman bread and circus, describes Big Time U's att ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, tom-recommended
I finished this book over six months ago, but I still think about it probably weekly, if not more often.

This is one of the most illuminating and damning books I have every read. Though written in 2000, it still feels absolutely pertinent to today's world of college athletics (with the exception of the kind words he has for Joe Paterno - oops.). It makes the whole thing look so... tawdry, particularly the behavior of the NCAA and its member school's athletic programs. The almighty dollar is king,
Jun 09, 2011 Joe rated it liked it
For all its faults, this book honestly changed the course of my life. I read it shortly before applying to college. I was, and remain, a serious college sports fan, and prior to reading Sperber's book I looked at teams that did well in football and figured, well, I'll go to one of those universities. Then I read Sperber's book.

Sperber argues that sports-and-party-based frat-boy culture is being capitalized on by colleges, who market their party atmosphere and great sports teams to draw in an ev
Aug 30, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it
I would have liked this more if he had actually focused on the detrimental effect big-time athletics has had on the quality of education in many American universities. Unfortunately, save for a few chapters at the beginning and end of the tome, this is a well-researched rant by Sperber, where he takes on not only the disenchanted and egotistical faculty at research universities, but also the spoiled, drunken, cynical students who have come to populate their classes.

Overall, it's a depressing and
Rose Be
Apr 13, 2012 Rose Be rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Old Grouches
Recommended to Rose by: Class reading
Shelves: non-fiction
Here, let me sum up this book:

> Undergraduate education is declining rapidly

> Logical error!

> Undergraduates everywhere drink beer all the time. Even the gluten intolerant ones, probably.

> Overgeneralization!

> Faculty are wonderful angels (Sperber is faculty) who sometimes can't be bothered to connect with their apathetic students.

> Students are either collegians (drink all the time, don't care), academic (future faculty) or vocational (have a job, don't care about grades).
Paul Haspel
Jan 15, 2012 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it
Beer and Circus is a well-written and thought-provoking look at modern collegiate culture. Murray Sperber, of Indiana University, feels that major universities across the United States are cheating undergraduates of the first-rate education they deserve, instead providing athletic spectacle and a thriving party scene, the way a Roman emperor might once have offered his people "bread and circuses" to direct their attention away from the freedoms they had lost. Sperber provides some hair-raising e ...more
Michael Rubin
Oct 05, 2011 Michael Rubin rated it liked it
Professor Sperber has written an informative book with "Beer & Circus".

The reasons to recommend the book are many. For readers like myself who know little of collegiate sports or their costs and benefits on universities today, it is an eye opener. Drinking and atheletics have an increasingly dominant role in our society today. Beer on college campuses is not the same thing it was twenty years ago or even ten. The relationship of sports and student have become more complicated, more expensive
Michael C.
Apr 22, 2016 Michael C. rated it liked it
A spot-on critique of the massive drinking problem on university campuses and its connection to college sports, which are often prioritized over undergraduate education, as well as universities' over-emphasis on faculty's research role as opposed to their undergraduate education role.
My biggest complaint about this book is Sperber's call to abolish lecture classes at universities. I think this idea is impractical to say the least, and I think Sperber's hatred of lecture courses is a little mispl
Sep 12, 2008 Nathan19 rated it really liked it
In this book, Murray Sperber lives up to his sub-title and more in explaining that college sports in big time universities, along with university officials and careless professors, "are crippling undergraduate education." The title may suggest that it is only college sports "crippling" the undergraduate system, but also to blame is the faulty teaching system, wild partying and lack of commitment by those undergrads. Along with countless months and possible years of research, Sperber sent out a q ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Robert rated it liked it
Well an interesting view point from someone who definitely is not a fan of the college sports biz. For some reason he thinks you should mainly go to college to learn instead of playing sports and drinking yourself into a daily stupor. I liked reading the chapter where he spoke on binge drinking and how it is ruining undergraduate studies. Although his facts were probably true I just kept finding myself daydreaming and remeniscing about my own college years of social drinking (and non-social drin ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Tim rated it it was amazing
A well researched and argued book that accurately depicts the state of higher education at Big-Time U as of 2000. I do believe many of the problems highlighted in this book are societal more than merely college institutions chasing after greater glory.

For instance, even if sports were eliminated from the picture, the drinking would remain pervasive.

Perhaps the biggest take-away I got from this was a tangential conclusion: when evaluating what school to attend, consider the annual giving percent
Jul 23, 2016 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Remember bringing this up as an example in summer school class. Cool insight into the marketing of alcohol and the expenses of college sports.
The author does not mince words throughout this book attacking the failures of the NCAA and major college leaders in providing for and educating the undergraduate population. As a big college sports fan myself, he accurately describes what he calls "double think" by people like me find disgust with the current system (which has only gotten worse since his book was written in the early 2000s), but also love and support our college teams. Plenty of material in this book makes one question the role ...more
Kevin Brown
Nov 28, 2010 Kevin Brown rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2011 Dustin rated it liked it
Although this book contains a lot of academic jargon, it is well researched and well written. Anyone who attends a Big Time U would agree with the author's thesis: beer and circus and an emphasis on research at large public universities has negatively affected undergraduate education. Many people are concerned with the public schools, and rightfully so, but don’t forget that major universities are failing to educate students, as well.
Sep 12, 2008 Zach19 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2013 John rated it liked it
An important book, though I found it a bit repetitive. Its thesis is that the research and athletic departments of big state universities (like mine) have a symbiotic relationship at the expense of the undergraduate students: the research faculty don't want to teach the undergraduates, and the athletic department keeps the undergraduates distracted so that they don't notice how little they are being taught. Sound plausible?
Sperber's voice on this issue is an important one, even if he might over-state his case a little. The goings on in the world of college football, basketball, and ESPN since this book was published only serve as more evidence that Sperber has put his finger on a cultural problem that is not getting better.
Kyle Pennekamp
Nov 05, 2011 Kyle Pennekamp rated it it was ok
This could really be called: "Beer and Circus: A title we came up with to try and sell a book that's mostly about how universities' focus on professor research and post-grad work has destroyed undergraduate education and how schools use sports to distract undergrads from that fact."

Boring as hell.
Nov 29, 2007 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
All college football and basketball fans should read this. It sheds a lot of light on big time college sports. I work for a Division I college athletic department. I can attest to most of the information in this book. I don't agree with all the author's viewpoints but his research is compelling.
Heather Downs
May 11, 2013 Heather Downs rated it liked it
The author has some interesting ideas about the role of college athletics and drinking on large college campuses. I agree with his concerns about the falling quality of college instruction. However, his discussion of college drinking needs more than anecdotal evidence.
May 18, 2011 Darcy rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
I actually found this critical analysis of Division 1A, Big Time universities extremely interesting. However, the book left me feeling a bit depressed because many of the things Sperber talked about are occurring at UW and all over the Pac-10/12.

Good read for a class.
Aaron Lozano
Jan 12, 2016 Aaron Lozano rated it did not like it
Sperber had a great opportunity to get things right, and only came out about 50/50. Interesting topic but a very one sided and biased approach was taken here. Disappointing read.
Jan 27, 2009 Whitney rated it really liked it
This book was very informative, and well written. I really appreciated the topic of this book, I think it needs to be addressed more often in the college community.
Apr 22, 2008 Karin rated it liked it
Great (though cynical) ideas gave insight into my job at IU and my undergrad experiences at Iowa... Really poorly written, though, especially for an English professor!
Dec 14, 2009 Katy rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Pretty radical ideas... but some of the stats arguing against the machine of college sports are staggering. I recommend this, Haley recommended it to me :)
May 25, 2007 Daniel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents of children about to go to college, and to kids about to go to college
This book brings up some amazing points about how careful you need to be about picking where you want to go to college.
Mar 02, 2009 Janssen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2006
I'd really like to reread this now that I attend one of the biggest football universities in the country.
Aug 25, 2007 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If you care about higher ed and sports, you should read this book, although I kind of hate the title.
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