If you still aren’t sure about how completely big-money sports have corrupted universities, today’s WaPo rundown on how the University of Missouri–which is full of philosophers, sociologists, organizational behavior professors, furious students, and what-all other sources of insight–figured out it needed new leadership should knock some scales from your eyes.
Laura Esserman, shaking things up in a men’s world to improve the health and increase the happiness of her patients, and other people’s patients. Evidence-based medicine and courage. Rockstar! You go, doc!
Patricia Horoho, [link corrected 29/IX] smoothing things out in a men’s world to improve the comfort of officers at the expense of her patients (students who aren’t officers yet). Evidence-suppressing management and craven servility. Flack in scrubs costume, and not such a great officer come to think of it. Hang up your stethoscope, doc, and maybe park your stars in the kitchen junk drawer too.
College football season opened with another humiliation for my school, to go with our financial disasters (last year we spent $2m on a coach and athletic director who no longer work for us), bottom-of-the NCAA graduation rates, and lousy on-field performance. We beat Grambling State University, a historically black school in Louisiana, 73-14! Late in the fourth quarter, I think a 110-lb cheerleader was our right tackle. If it had been a boxing match, the ref would have shut it down (52-0 at halftime); in kid’s sports they would have invoked a mercy rule.
But who would schedule such a senseless, unsportsmanlike exercise in the first place? Grambling’s entire athletic budget, one of my colleagues found out, is third from the lowest of all Division I public schools’, 1/15 the size of ours. Their football roster is 89 players, almost all from east Texas and Louisiana; ours is 133, recruited from all over the west. Their coach makes $195,000; ours makes ten times that. Continue Reading…
Some reflections on the disgusting spectacle queued up for tomorrow night, from almost a decade ago.
If you enjoy watching this, you have a screw loose. Or a piece missing.
When the next college sports scandal breaks…shouldn’t be too long now…remember that the corruption of the higher education enterprise by the money sports, MBB and FB, is redeemed because those athletic scholarships are a path for poor kids, especially poor kids of color, to get a college education.
Three Duke basketball players (so far) are off to the NBA as freshmen. Most of a single academic year, physically present on the actual Duke campus, shuttling from practice to training to practice, is pretty much the same thing as a Duke degree, right?
The University of Michigan is a great institution, probably the second or third best public university in the world. I did not realize how great it is until today, when I found it has such a surplus of brilliant faculty, and such prosperous students who don’t need to borrow a penny to graduate right on time with a fine education, that it is going to pass up about six fully-endowed chairs, or 25 ordinary full profs for six years each, or four thousand full-ride scholarships, to hire the ’49ers slightly used football coach. [update 30/XII: apparently early reports of a $48m deal were exaggerated: Harbaugh is making a little less than 2/3 of that plus incentives of unknown amount. Numbers corrected above, no correction to my main point required.] Now that’s an academic program that knows its place, one that the football boosters can be proud of! The athletic program claims to turn a profit (from experience, I am highly skeptical of cost accounting for college athletics financials) but things are so flush on campus that instead of wasting this money on students, classrooms, or teachers, Michigan seems to invest it all back into athletic facilities. Michigan’s unemployment rate is almost down to 7%, and its population has stopped shrinking after seven years of flight. There are those who think business seeks out places with a highly educated workforce and a great science establishment, but those people know nothing about economics: a winning college sports program is what grows a state’s economy; look at Alabama! In fact, all four states with playoff teams have median incomes in the
top (I hate it when the web doesn’t come up with the facts I’m expecting!) bottom half of states…never mind, those out-of-work Michiganders are proud to buy one, whatever it costs, and they deserve the best circuses the state can put on.
Mark says alcohol creates more social cost than all other drugs combined. I work for a university that has a persistent alcohol problem among its students.
It also has a sideline in big-time athletics, but that operation has made some very bad decisions in recent years and is genuinely desperate for money. Three years ago, we made a three-year deal to let Coors use our name to sell beer. No, really; there was an enormous billboard on the local interstate, but no-one on campus noticed. Last year such a billboard went up again, and the 15-year-old son of a public health [sic] prof noticed, producing some faculty outrage and this 21/XI/13 assurance from Claire Holmes, our Associate Vice Chancellor for PR:
… I am working on this issue with Vice Chancellor Wilton and have a meeting to discuss this with him Tuesday next week. As you know, contracts are binding agreements, so there is a process involved to change any agreements. What I can assure you though is that there are no more beer ads planned for the foreseeable future.
It appears the “process” didn’t work, or AVC Holmes was misled, or the folks who could sign a three year contract couldn’t foresee a year ahead…or everyone at our higher financial levels missed the MBA class where they explained that any contract can be abrogated for a price (which would be pretty small while Coors had a whole year to figure out how to use the billboard without us). Or maybe our campus leadership just decided $200,000 was an appropriate price at which to sell our students’ welfare and our principles, and endure public humiliation in the eyes of every driver and Chron reader. You might think the 200 large at least went to the health center for alcohol emergencies, or the police and fire departments who have to deal with the alcohol poisonings and sexual assaults on Saturday night, or the undergraduate dean’s office for student alcohol education and safety programs, but as far as I can tell, you would be wrong. The money is Intercollegiate Athletics’ to use as they wish.
This year’s poster has a couple of little logos in the corner saying “Party safe”and “21 means 21″, so it’s fine! Cigarettes are OK with a little health warning on the pack, right? OK, I’m ready to get with the program…but we can do a lot better. At the least, we need to start selling beer at games again. Several years ago, I offered what I thought was a surefire scheme, but so far haven’t been able to sell it. Never mind: how about we partner with these guys, so they can put our logo right on their page as long as they also have a little box that says “Don’t plagiarize!” But the payoff from that deal pales in comparison to what we can get for adjusting research results, from companies who would kill to have a UC study finding their products safe/effective/whatever. A notice on our web home page, and on the title page of each such lucrative report, to the effect that “UC Berkeley does not support compromising academic standards” would surely sanitize such deals.
I’m already shopping for my new office furniture.
Some educators think the point of school is to get students to do their own thinking. Others, not so much: the little Caesars in Bucks County seem to think their school is about sports and (for example) the school newspaper is there to gin up pep rallies so the high school players can do their job, which is to amuse ignorant white grownups.
Seriously, how messed up is this: students learn journalism by having their copy dictated by racist administrators? Who obviously haven’t read a newspaper in twenty years?
More generally, there seem to be no limits to the degree that sports, especially football, can corrupt a community and degrade its culture (can you say Steubenville?) if the grownups go infantile; the good people of Sayreville seem to be more upset about missing a season of football than an epidemic of sexual assault (though in that case the school leadership is on the ball).
School team nicknames have many strange conventions, especially the taste for war and predation. A game isn’t a war, or a fight! I always liked MIT’s choice of a beaver (your cougars or whatever may occasionally have a beaver for lunch, but they will end up working for them after graduation). More mysterious to me is all the Trojans; why would you name your teams after history’s most famous losers?
Florida State (and Tallahassee) have plenty to work on about football and bad behavior by players. But the school took care to get the Seminole Nation to OK their team name. I think that’s OK, especially as the Seminole are local to the institution, and Seminole is not a derogatory word. As to Neshaminny, while the logo itself doesn’t have the particularly vile quality of the Cleveland pro baseball team’s, the idea that it has some aroma of local pride only demonstrates that the district’s curriculum doesn’t have much of a unit on Native Americans. He’s wearing the headdress of people who live a thousand miles away, a ludicrous inconvenience for eastern forest people trying to get around in trees and brush.
Oh well, seen one Indian, seen ‘em all, and there’s a game Friday night.
In late spring, big-time sports at Berkeley hit bottom on several dimensions, but things may be turning around. In the last few anni horribili, the Intercollegiate Athletics program saddled the campus with about $400m in debt to rebuild the stadium and construct an accessory building that is about a third conditioning space for athletes, a third party venue for boosters and possibly players, and a third coaching offices. A scheme to play the spread between tax-exempt bond interest rates and market returns on endowment, plus selling premium seats on long contracts (the ESP program), to retire this debt is in some trouble (ESP sales are steadily declining year by year). At the same time, we were humiliated by the worst graduation rates in the country (football) and in the conference (men’s basketball) along with on-field performance in those money sports (1-11 in FB, 7th in the conference in MBB) that, let us say, does not sell tickets or open donor wallets.
We sent our athletic director packing (she wound up at Penn State…the world is a strange place in many ways) and the football team is no longer an embarrassment, 4-1 so far even though we did not beat the point spread in last week’s squeaker. More interesting, a task force stood up by the chancellor last winter has come out with a report, focused on “the academic performance of student athletes and the overall quality of their campus experience”, that he has pretty much accepted. It has a lot of good stuff in it and deserves a careful read.
Is there no-one down your NFL HQ who took a PR course in business school? Today we have another domestic violence arrest, and as the player is not a star and the team can do OK without him, a quick suspension. But we also learned that Peterson and Hardy’s “suspensions” (also Dwyer’s, I think) are vacations with full pay. I thought paid vacation was a nice thing that people usually want more of! Roger, Roger, you don’t want pictures of these guys partying on the beach with floozies popping up in supermarket aisles; drawing multi-million dollar salaries, there’s plenty left after their lawyer bills to do that.
This is, if possible, even more messed up than yesterday’s improvisations, and it’s bleeding out from the NFL and owners’ suites to all the players, because the Players’ Association contract agreement is looking like a place for violent thugs to hide behind.
Here’s what I think should happen when there’s good reason to believe a player has behaved heinously off the field (good reason is certainly an arrest and might well be a lot less): Continue Reading…