College football has never been more popular, but behind the glittering success are darker truths. Join Mike Strange, sports reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel, for a discussion of The System: The glory and scandal of big-time college football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. The program is sponsored by Knox County Public Library and the City of Knoxville.
Millions fill 100,000-seat stadiums every Saturday; tens of millions more watch college football on television every weekend. The 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama had a viewership of 26.4 million people,
second only to the Super Bowl. Billions of dollars from television deals now flow into the game; the average budget for a top-ten team is $80 million; top coaches make more than $3 million a year; the highest paid, more than $5 million.
For Strange, The System suggests a parallel between a popular game day staple and college football. “A hot dog fresh off the grill on a summer picnic is sublime,” he says. "But, you probably wouldn't want to be at the meat-packing plant to see what goes into it. College football is sort of like that. On a Saturday in a stadium, it's a pageant, full of color, tradition, passion and even catharsis. But after The System takes you behind the scenes, you might see that Saturday pageant in a different light.”
Investigative journalists Benedict and Keteyian were granted unprecedented access during the 2012 season to programs at the highest levels across the country at a time of convulsive change in college football. Through dogged reporting, they explored every nook and cranny of this high-powered machine, and reveal how it operates from the inside out. The result: the system through the eyes of athletic directors and coaches, high-flying boosters and high-profile TV stars, five-star recruits and tireless NCAA investigators and the kids on whom the whole vast enterprise depends.
Strange grew up in Frankfort, KY, and holds degrees from Georgetown College and the University of Kentucky. He worked at newspapers in Middlesboro, Ky. and Owensboro, Ky. and joined the News Sentinel in 1983. After one year on the Lady Vols beat, he has covered University of Tennessee football and men's basketball since 1984.
The public is invited to join the conversation. Bring your favorite sandwich or pick up something from a downtown restaurant. Copies of the books are available at the Library if you'd like to read one before the program.