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

Murray Sperber

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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A full report on, and informed critique of, a severe, rapidly worsening crisis in today's academic life, Beer and Circus argues that meaningful education is being replaced by sports-related partying on college campuses across the country. Combining an understanding of American culture with research culled from students, faculty, and administrators nationwide, Sperber (professor of English and American studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and author of several books on college sports) exposes several cherished myths about college sports.

He also shows how our "Big-time U." sports system is serving two vital aims—keeping students happy and keeping tuition figures high—with disastrous and perhaps irreversibly damaging results. Addressing such recent phenomena as binge drinking, national television sports coverage, corporate marketing and sponsorships, and the so-called "Flutie factor," Beer and Circus opens our eyes to a generation of students deprived of their education. This important work speaks as clearly and directly to students as it does to educators and policy-makers.


Praise for Beer and Circus

"Sperber now stands alone in his ability . . . to unravel and describe the forces that have given us the dismaying spectacle of big-time college sports . . . This is an important book that should worry anyone concerned with what is really wrong about American higher education."—William Chace, president of Emory University

"It is difficult to read this book and not conclude that much of what passes for higher education in America today is actually academic fraud. Everyone should read this book, especially the thousands of college faculty who see no inherent conflict between revenue-producing sports and academic values."—Allen L. Sack, former Notre Dame football player and co-author of College Athletes for Hire

"The case Beer and Circus marshalls against these places—'schools' scarcely seems the right word—is overwhelming, a devastating condemnation of 'higher education' in America."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"Sperber's book [fosters] a sinking feeling about the future of American culture. He has managed to document one facet of our national decline in painstaking detail, and the result is an admirable, timely, and profoundly disturbing work."—The New York Times Book Review

"Beer and Circus does a terrific job of illustrating how college sports has shielded the decline in education from public scrutiny . . . A powerful and important book."—The Chicago Tribune

"America is coming to an awareness of the profound corruption in college sports and its unholy alliance with professional leagues. Future historians will trace this awareness to Murray Sperber's books."—Allen Barra, The Wall Street Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Beer and Circus

The 1960s marked a low point for the collegiate subculture on
American campuses; numerous fraternities and sororities...

Read the full excerpt


  • Murray Sperber

  • Murray Sperber is a regular media commentator on college sports. A professor of English and American studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, his previous books include College Sports, Inc.; Onward to Victory: The Crises That Shaped College Sports; and Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football.