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Influence of College Sports: The Heartbeat of American Universities

The American college experience has been depicted countless times in the media, whether here at home or in sources from around the globe. Between the vibrant party culture, the rabid sporting fanbases or the opportunity to choose one’s own path in life during the first major time spent away from home, it’s no wonder that the college experience has become so mythologized.

Education is the most important part of one’s time spent in college, of course—especially when considering the cost of most four year degrees and the student loan payouts attached—but the fact remains that many young Americans choose their college home based on the strength of extracurriculars like sports. This is how and why they came to claim such a massive role in the collegiate zeitgeist.

Collegiate Athletics: Once the Pinnacle of Sports

These days, college sports typically take a backseat to the pros—with a few notable exceptions like college football in the south—but that wasn’t always the case. In the early days of professional athletics, college was considered the pinnacle of the sport, the amateur status of student athletes considered a far more honorable pastime than playing for money like the professionals did. For example, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the International Olympic Committee allowed professionals to compete alongside their amateur counterparts.

The National Football League, in particular, traces its origins to the Midwest with teams like the Canton Bulldogs, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. As such, it’s no surprise that those teams had to contend for viewers with Ohio State University, Northwestern, the University of Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively.

Long before the era of television and the advent of BetMGM Bonus Codes, fandom was often a product of one’s college experience, providing a tangible connection to the teams people would support fervently. This direct engagement created a strong bond and sense of loyalty that was unparalleled, as regional identities surrounding local professional teams hadn’t yet evolved to capture the widespread attention of entire TV markets. The introduction of BetMGM Bonus Codes, however, has transformed how fans interact with and support their teams, offering a new layer of engagement that enriches the fan experience in today’s digital age.

A Strong Sense of Community

If there’s one way to get sports fans riled up quickly, it’s by drawing attention to the fact that many of them refer to the teams they root for in the first person. Fans have never suited up for the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys, for instance, but they refer to themselves as if they were actual members of the team nonetheless.

With college sports, the connection isn’t anywhere near that tenuous. Most fans of a given university actually attended it. They spent four formative years of their life at the school, taking classes alongside the student athletes they rooted for, crossing paths with them in the dining halls, libraries or at the jubilant celebrations after a big win. There’s a good chance that some of their best friends in life also went to the same school, and according to a study by the Pew Research Center, as much as 28 percent of Americans married someone who went to the same university they did, making the business of sports fandom an integral part of family life.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that, according to that same study, only two percent of Americans attended their university at the same time their spouse did, meaning that those college connections span across graduating classes and cohorts. As they say, choosing a college isn’t just for four years: it’s for life, an easy conversation starter and a calling to shout out your school’s catchphrase or fight song when you see someone else wearing the apparel that represents it.

The Best Rivalries in Sports

While college sports may not draw the same level of viewership that the pros do these days, there’s one facet of the game where they remain undefeated. Professional sports simply can’t sniff the passion—and sometimes, outright hatred—that characterizes college rivalries.

Once again, a lot of that stems from the sense of community. No one will deny that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees hate each other, for instance, but there are only so many people to have played for one of those storied franchises. With hundreds of thousands of people seeing their championship hopes hinge on a grudge match with one of their hated rivals, like when the University of Pittsburgh upset West Virginia University to keep the Mountaineers from winning a national championship in 2007, or the North Carolina Tar Heels ending Coach K of the Duke Blue Devils career in the Final Four, you simply can’t beat the heartbreak and elation that comes with winning or losing a game against your favorite school’s least favorite opponent.

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