Published: August 31, 2012

From Taylor Branch’s controversial article about college sports for The Atlantic to the tragic scandal uncovered at Penn State, the relationship between higher education and college athletics has provided some of the most heated controversies of the year. But why do sports even exist at colleges and universities?

As the nation readies itself for another round of football championships, college bowls – and of course March Madness and Final Fours – BackStory seeks historical perspective. The American History Guys unpack the origins of college sports, and the ways universities have justified athletics on campus. Peter, Ed, and Brian take us to Amherst College in the 19th century, where the first collegiate Phys. Ed. program blossomed. They also recount a little-known story about the integration of the University of Alabama’s football team.