February 21, 2001: From the Editor

"Some of the members of the Princeton University Band Council have gone out of their minds and want to enter the band in the marching competition at the Rose Bowl next year. I put a stop to that both in terms of the exorbitant expense and in terms of our reluctance to become involved in any way with commercialized athletics."

-- from the diary of Dean of Students Bill Lippincott '41 in the late 1950s

In the decade following Dean Lippincott's diary entry, Princeton would celebrate its ascension to men's basketball's hallowed Final Four. In the decades following that, the Tigers would rack up repeated national championships in both men's and women's sports ranging from crew to lacrosse to soccer.

Today, Princeton's men's basketball team wears Nike's swoosh while its squash teams play only with Prince. Cheerleaders fire T-shirts sponsored by local businesses into crowds. Football halftime contests give fans a chance to punt, pass, and kick their way to a brand-new car. Commercialized athletics, it seems, are here to stay.
In part that's because sports, both at the college level and in the pros, are expensive. In college, the costs tallied must include not only the financial outlays on facilities, equipment, coaches, and travel, but also the price paid in admission decisions, educational mission, sportsmanship, and campus unity. In the pros, the issues expand to include astronomical player salaries, questions of taxation, sophisticated negotiations and marketing tactics, and even more expensive facilities, equipment, coaches, and travel.

In this annual business and economics issue, PAW takes a look at the economics of sports at both levels. The cover story, which features alumni working as executives in pro leagues around the country, was planned some time ago, and interviews were well under way late this fall when, coincidentally, an advance copy of a book called The Game of Life showed up in the mail. Written by former President William G. Bowen *58 and James Shulman, The Game of Life -- which the New Yorker said "may be one of the most important books on higher education published in the last 20 years" and Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford '61 called possibly "the most important book about sports of this generation" -- argues that college sports may not be worth their price.

The alumni featured in our cover story, all but one of whom are former Princeton athletes, might disagree. But, as Bowen and Shulman show, Princeton is hardly immune to the problems and questions that swirl around higher education, sports, and money. In fact, The Game of Life uses as one of four introductory anecdotes Princeton's controversial 1993 decision to discontinue wrestling. (PAW's excerpt begins on page 18.) Clearly, Dean Lippincott saw it coming.