Sports began on American college campuses as a way for students to blow off steam and be healthy. Over the last century and a half, athletics have transformed into something very different: a handful of elite athletes, showered with resources and coaching, competing against other schools while the rest of the student body cheers from the stands.
On Thursday, Spelman College — a historically black women's college in Atlanta with a far-from-big-time NCAA athletics program — announced how it plans to return to the old model. The school said it would use the nearly $1 million that had been dedicated to its intercollegiate sports program, serving just 4 percent of students, for a campus-wide health and fitness program benefiting all 2,100.
"When I was looking at the decision, it wasn't being driven by the cost as much as the benefit. With $1 million, 80 student-athletes are benefiting," said Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman's president. "Or should we invest in a wellness program that would touch every student's life?"
For Tatum, there is also an element of social responsibility. She said a campus analysis found that almost one out of every two students has high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or is obese.
"I have been to funerals of young alums who were not taking care of themselves, and I believe we can change that pattern not only for them but for the broader community," Tatum said.