In the run-up to the first-ever Division I college football championship game, a new Monmouth University poll finds many Americans believe big-time sports schools put too much stock in athletics.

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford (33) escapes from Rutgers' Delon Stephenson en route to a 38-yard rushing touchdown (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

A 75 percent majority in the poll also feel the professional-style sports programs at larger colleges and universities are pressuring smaller institutions to "ramp up" their athletic game.

"Many feel that the pressure that this puts on the good-quality midsize universities is just too much," said Paul Brown, president of Monmouth University.

The poll finds just under one in four, or 24 percent, believes these big-time programs maintain the proper balance between athletics and academics. For Brown's part, he said he loves the phrase "student-athletes," who are absolutely essential to a university's fabric.

"But they are, first and foremost, students," he said, "and that's just not what is happening at some of the big-time sports programs. Many believe the big-time sports programs are just putting undue pressure on lots of aspects of a university, including the students themselves."

In the poll, opinions were somewhat reversed when respondents took a look at higher education institutions that did not have big-budget, high-profile sports departments. Fifty percent said these schools maintain the proper academic-to-athletic balance, and 38 percent said the schools still place too much emphasis on sports.

The poll also examined the role of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in all of this. Better than four in 10 in the poll, or 42 percent, believe the NCAA does a poor job of encouraging its members to balance learning with the bouncing ball. But almost as many (39 percent) say the national organization does a credible balancing act.

By a 71 percent figure, the Monmouth poll found college graduates were the group most likely to feel that schools which are athletic powerhouses overemphasize the sports aspect.