Unwinding Madness

What Went Wrong with College Sports—and How to Fix It

Gerald Gurney, Donna A. Lopiano, Andrew Zimbalist
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Inside Look:

A critical look at the tension between the larger role of the university and the commercialization of college sports.

Unwinding Madness is the most comprehensive examination to date of how the NCAA has lost its way in the governance of intercollegiate athletics—and why it is incapable of achieving reform and must be replaced. The NCAA has placed commercial success above its responsibilities to protect the academic primacy, health and well-being of college athletes and fallen into an educational, ethical, and economic crisis.

As long as intercollegiate athletics reside in the higher education environment, these programs must be academically compatible with their larger institutions, subordinate to their educational mission, and defensible from a not-for-profit organizational standpoint. The issue has never been a matter of whether intercollegiate athletics belongs in higher education as an extracurricular offering. Rather, the perennial challenge has been how these programs have been governed and conducted.

The authors propose detailed solutions, starting with the creation of a new national governance organization to replace the NCAA. At the college level, these proposals will not diminish the revenue production capacity of sports programs but will restore academic integrity to the enterprise, provide fairer treatment of college athletes with better health protections, and restore the rights and freedoms of athletes, which have been taken away by a professionalized athletics mentality that controls the cost of its athlete labor force and overpays coaches and athletic directors.

Unwinding Madness recognizes that there is no easy fix to the problems now facing college athletics. But the book does offer common sense, doable solutions that respect the rights of athletes, protects their health and well-being while delivering on the promise of a bona fide educational degree program.

Praise for Unwinding Madness

In general, big time college sports have become so far removed from any reasonable connection to higher education as to be a sham. Who better than Andy Zimbalist to lay out the issues and provide a sensible plan for reform?
—Bob Costas, Broadcaster, NBC Sports and Major League Baseball Network

College and sports are an instant pairing for most of us. But sports have come to play an outsized role at many colleges, and they now overshadow the core college mission: to educate. The authors of Unwinding Madness carefully and dispassionately dissect the problem and offer a realistic path forward that makes education central once again.
—Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, 2009–16

The NCAA is a dirty cartel hiding under the skirts of a sham called “amateurism.” Everybody, however, pretty much accepts this as just one more prize example of good old American exceptionalism. While Unwinding Madness might not expose this obvious, long-standing hypocrisy, it provides, in comprehensive, scorching detail, every unfair and cruel aspect of the NCAA humbug. The book is a powerful indictment of our most shameful sports sin, and it should be read, foremost, by school presidents and university board chairs. And, too, by those athletic directors and coaches still bearing a conscience.
—Frank Deford, Author and Commentator


Gerald Gurney is assistant professor of education at the University of Oklahoma and a past president of both the Drake Group and the National Association of Academic Advisers for Athletics.

Donna A. Lopiano is the president of Sports Management Resources, a consulting firm, and an adjunct lecturer in sports management at Southern Connecticut State University.

Andrew Zimbalist is the Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College and a noted sports economist and sports industry consultant.

Media Coverage

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