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Sports and the University

Enrollment is Closed

About This Course

Sports are everywhere in US universities. Why is this? What does it matter? What are the benefits—and what are the costs? How should the system change? In this course, we will explore six key topics at the intersection of athletics and American college life:

1. Ancient Athletics
2. History of US College Sports
3. Economics
4. Race
5. Gender
6. Aesthetics and Life Meaning

We hope that you will bring to this course your interests, experiences, and thoughts on college athletics. Discussion forums will be a key part of Sports and the University, as we ask you to weigh in on such issues as payments for college athletes, perception of women in university sports, and the future of athletics. You will have an opportunity to earn a Statement of Accomplishment for the course by taking quizzes on the course topics.

A truly interdisciplinary course, Sports and the University features experts in classics, literary studies, philosophy, Olympic coaching, academic advising, campus religious life, and gender studies. The course is also multimedia, featuring some experts in video lectures and some in audio interviews; the audio is available both within the course and as a companion podcast playlist.

We hope you will join us for an exciting investigation of this vital topic!


There are no prerequisites for this course.


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Susan Stephens

Susan Stephens is Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics.

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Blakey Vermeule

Blakey Vermeule is Professor of English at Stanford. Professor Vermeule's research interests are neuroaesthetics, cognitive and evolutionary approaches to art, philosophy and literature, British literature from 1660-1820, post-Colonial fiction, satire, and the history of the novel. She is the author of The Party of Humanity: Writing Moral Psychology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2000) and Why Do We Care About Literary Characters? (2009), both from The Johns Hopkins University Press. She is writing a book about what mind science has discovered about the unconscious.

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Stephen Sansom

Stephen is a PhD candidate in Classics at Stanford. He specializes in early Greek poetry, especially Homer and Hesiod, and the social world of ancient athletics, which is the topic of his recent publication, "Contests and Clothing in Four Agonistic Papyri from Hellenistic Egypt" (Stuttgart 2016).

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Morgan Frank

Morgan Day Frank is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Wesleyan University. His research examines the relationship between literature and the consolidation of the American educational system at the turn of the twentieth century.

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David Pickel

David is a PhD candidate in Classics at Stanford, focusing in archaeology. His research interests concern Roman Italy and disease history. He is Director of Excavations at la Villa Romana di Poggio Gramignano, an Augustan-era villa located near the Umbrian town of Lugnano in Teverina.

Guest Speakers

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Brianna Bain

Brianna Bain is a javelin thrower who graduated from Stanford University in 2015. She’s a 4-time PAC-12 champion, 3-time NCAA Division 1 All-American, and the Stanford University school record holder. She’s currently living in San Francisco, California and working in finance.

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Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature and of French and Italian (and by courtesy, he is affiliated with the Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures/ILAC, the Department of German Studies, and the Program in Modern Thought and Literature). As a scholar, Gumbrecht focuses on the histories of the national literatures in Romance language, but also on German literature, while, at the same time, he teaches and writes about the western philosophical tradition with an emphasis on French and German nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts. In addition, Gumbrecht tries to analyze and to understand forms of aesthetic experience 21st-century everyday culture.

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Billy Hawkins

Billy Hawkins is a professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston. He is the author of The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions; and co-author of Sport, Race, Activism, and Social Change: The Impact of Dr. Harry Edwards’ Scholarship and Service, The Athletic Experience at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Past, Present, and Persistence, and Critical Race Theory: Black Athletic Sporting Experiences in the United States. His teaching and research contributions are in the areas of sociology of sport and cultural studies, sport management, and sport for development.

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Solomon Hughes

Solomon Hughes is the Assistant Director of the EDGE Doctoral Fellowship Program. He works on the development and leadership of programs created to empower students as they navigate the graduate school experience. Solomon began his Stanford career in VPUE serving as an Academic Advisor for students participating in varsity sports. He has served as a Lecturer in the Graduate School of Education, and co-designed a course that examines the intersections of race, college athletics, and college achievement. He holds a PhD in higher education from the University of Georgia. His BA and MA are from the University of California at Berkeley. He is inspired by the potential of higher education and firmly believes that excellent learning is inclusive learning.

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Roger Noll

Roger G. Noll is professor of economics emeritus at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he directs the Program in Regulatory Policy. Noll also is a Senior Fellow and member of the Advisory Board at the American Antitrust Institute, and a member of the Advisory Board of the AEI-Brookings Joint Center on Regulation.

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Joanne Sanders

The Rev. Joanne Sanders, Associate Dean for Religious Life and a priest in the Episcopal Church, came to Stanford in September of 2000. She received a Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and a Doctorate of Ministry at Seattle University with a concentration on interdisciplinary leadership.

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Charles Stocking

Charles Stocking is an Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Western Ontario. His research and teaching focuses on the sociology of power in Greek literature and culture with special attention to issues of gender, ritual, and the body.

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Tara VanDerveer

Tara VanDerveer is the Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball at Stanford. VanDerveer has led her Stanford teams to two NCAA Championships, 12 NCAA Final Four appearances, 22 Pac-12 regular-season titles, 12 Pac-12 Tournament crowns and 29 trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 1995-96 VanDerveer served as head coach of the USA Basketball National Team, leading the team to a 52-0 exhibition record and then to the Olympic gold medal with a perfect 8-0 run at the 1996 Atlanta Games. In February 2017, VanDerveer surpassed 1,000 career wins.

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Tom Wasow

Tom Wasow is the Clarence Irving Lewis Professor in Philosophy and Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus at Stanford.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is covered in this course?

This course covers six key topics: ancient Greek athletics, sports and the modern American university, race, gender, economics, and aesthetics.

Who is this class for?

This class is for anyone with a critical interest in college sports, from student athletes to fans to scholars.

What work will I do in this course?

In order to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, you complete short quizzes to show comprehension of key information. We also hope you will be active in posting thoughts and questions for discussion.

Do I need to buy a textbook?

No, all required materials are included for free in the course.

What is the format of this course?

The key materials for this course are audio and video lectures and discussions. There are also short optional readings.

  1. Course Number

    SportsAndUniversity - ARCHIVED
  2. Classes Start

  3. Classes End

  4. Estimated Effort

    2 hours per week
  5. Price

Image credit: Mary Harrsch (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)