It's time for March Madness and the NFL draft, placing college basketball and football in the national spotlight once again.
We will join millions of Americans in cheering for our favorite schools and players, but, as observers of intercollegiate sports for years, we're concerned by some numbers that won't show up along with rebounds and touchdowns.
For instance: fewer than 2 percent of the young men who play college basketball or football go on to play professionally. And those sports account for a relatively small percentage of those who compete in intercollegiate sports.
The vast majority of student-athletes compete in Olympic sports such as swimming, volleyball or wrestling, or in sports that don't produce revenue.
Largely because of football and basketball, however, the world of college athletics is in turmoil. Schools across the country are dealing with conference realignment, lawsuits, unionization efforts and the so-called "autonomy movement." The latter is led by the most powerful football-playing conferences and institutions, which seek greater flexibility from complex rules that generally apply to all intercollegiate athletes at all schools.
The autonomy movement has produced positive changes for student-athletes — such as scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance and a more generous approach to meals — but these changes are not free. Institutions that adopt them are likely to spend millions more annually on athletics.
Despite public misperceptions that Division I programs are awash in cash, the reality is these changes will further strain budgets that are already tight. Administrators will need to find new sources of revenue or face choices, like cutting back on other sports.
Football and basketball are the most visible faces of intercollegiate athletics, we can't forget that the development of professional athletes, or of Olympic athletes, is not the principal goal of collegiate athletics. Student-athletes at our schools "double major" in academics and athletics, as complementary elements of their maturation.
One of the missions of the NCAA is the development of leadership qualities among student-athletes. Student-athletes benefit throughout their lives from the enduring traits of cooperation, diligence and leadership they developed during training and competition, becoming better employees, parents and citizens.
The business community has long been aware of the valuable traits and skills former student-athletes bring to the workplace. A recent article on a prominent business website was titled, "Why Your Next Employee Should Be a Student-Athlete."
The author, Stephanie Vozza, observed that student-athletes are experienced at working in teams and achieving results, tend to be resilient, strong communicators and masters of time management. These skills cannot be attributed solely to college athletics, of course, but they are undeniably developed by that experience.
As the autonomy movement directs ever more resources toward football and men's basketball, we must ensure the cost of increased benefits does not imperil all that is good and positive about broad participation in college athletics.
As we cheer March Madness and track our favorite college football players, we must not overlook or abandon the contribution of college athletics to the Olympic movement and to the lives of generations of participants. Those contributions don't get the spotlight but are what matters most.
Kevin White is vice president and director of athletics at Duke University. Bob Bowlsby is the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.