May’s second midweek madness gets existential. The big story of the day was the “discussion” about the future of our favorite sport- more on that after the jump.
Sandman. Freak of Nature. The guys at CBS Sports have taken a look across the college football landscape, and identified the physical specimen that we should keep our eyes on. tBBC Crush (seriously, I’m confident that he could crush all of us at once) John Simon makes the list for his tangibles and his work ethic; both of which are important factors in his leadership of this Buckeye team.
But one thing is for sure – Urban Meyer will bring hardware back to Columbus with him before all is said and done. Gold pants, B1G titles and crystal footballs. For everyone who has piled on over the last twelve months – from those in Ann Arbor, Madison, and SEC country to those posted up at the headquarters of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News – there’s simply no way around it. Urban Meyer wins, and he wins big.
In more than 20 years I’ve spent studying the issue, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that college football has anything do with what is presumably the primary purpose of higher education: academics.
Some studies have even suggested that annual giving to the university increases on account of athletics. Though few studies have been able to tie that into actual success, a Master’s Thesis by Auburn graduate Christopher Whaley in 2006 found football alone was worth an average of $3.3 million in additional donations.
There’s another, but equally important reason we should require all activities to be college football: academics. Did you know 100% of high school dropouts have never played college football? Did you know the same is true of MIDDLE SCHOOL dropouts? These are the kids who are falling through the cracks, and we need this to save them.
OK- My take on this debate (I know you’ve been waiting for it). Look, I work at a D2 school and have worked in athletics at D1 and D3 schools. I get college athletics, and love it. I believe it’s got a value that cannot be easily measured by some of the normative analysis models.
That being said… I’m having a hard time with the following things, moving forward-
I agree with Buzz. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t see how big time college athletics fits the academic mission of most Universities; To be fair, the same can be said for Greek Life, Student Activities, Homecoming Celebrations, etc… the co-curricular can be a great addition to the University; however, I see more misses than hits in terms of education (versus entertainment). Case in point- why are the entrance requirements and matriculation expectation for athletes often significantly different than the rest of the student body. There’s been debate about “affirmative action” quotas at Universities; we’re not asking why someone gets in with poor scores and a 95 mile an hour fastball or ability to play the cello?
Show me the money- Eric and I were talking about this yesterday; Football brings in revenue that runs many athletic departments. YET, many athletic departments still run in the red. While football is a revenue generator, I’m also positive that the expenditures to have football at the highest level are also pretty significant. You’ve got to spend money to make money, true- but if you didn’t have football, you’d not have some of the crazy salaries, huge facilities only accessible by athletes (in spite of being funded by all of the student body), the tuition/meals/gear/support staff/academic support staff/etc necessary for 100 very large fellers. Losing a revenue source like football is a death knell for many women’s sports, who are funded by fall ticket sales and so forth; but it might also balance out, since Title IX strives for equality. If you’re not spending money or giving opportunities to a large number of men, you can lose similar funding/opportunities for women’s sports. These are not, by the way, my idea… just things I think about.
“Student-Athlete” is a lie- Given that, I’m inclined to believe that students in high profile sports are being taken advantage of (mutually, but still) more than many of them are benefiting. For example- basketball. This year’s national title team is more than likely made up of “students” who took enough credits to stay eligible in the fall; with many of these being frontloaded into September and October (before March Madness). After that, it’s all basketball all the time- through early April (right about midterm times, if that mattered). Look at the Atlantic’s article that we’ve linked to so many times… the idea that these young adults are playing sports for their educational edification is a created construct that quite frequently fails to benefit the young adult- particularly if you look at the numbers of participants nationwide -vs- numbers of opportunities post college career.
Medical issues are real-The Atlantic, again… “Student Athlete” was created to prevent the Universities from having to address workman’s compensation issues following an injury “on the job”. What happens when, after graduating or leaving the school, a football player starts having knee, back, joint, hip, neck, or brain issues? Are they able to get the care they need from the institution? Perhaps- but Gladwell is right; a few well placed lawsuits are all that’s needed to gut the athletic departments at many schools.
None of this should surprise both of our regular readers hereabouts, as we’ve pondered aloud about this for quite some time now. But I’m still seeking to find peace in the tension between the ideal and reality; particularly since I love the Bucks as much as I do. To be honest, my thoughts on this would be a lot clearer if any of the following, barely formed ideas, started to come to fruition:
Football as a degree/intership- Universities don’t have a problem with students majoring in music and making money/receiving academic credit for their talent and time; why not sports? Shouldn’t there be some practical life-application stuff that would help prepare these men and women for “careers inside of sports”- the NFL already has to do a lot of grooming for rookies when they come to the league; why shouldn’t there be a partnership that makes this “sports business” a train of academic exploration? Oh, and don’t water it down either- if you’re teaching life skills, teach them as if lives depended on it.
Academic Investment- Yup, students get “free” room, board, tuition, and other significant perks. What about giving them all the degrees they want for free, as both a “thank you” for what they’ve done for the University AND as a way to encourage students to take life in the classroom seriously. The University will pay for you to finish your degree, if you leave in good standing (no BS “academic redshirts”, Nick). If you are a on field contributor for more than two years, the University will also support your pursuit of a Master’s degree. Four years? We’ll look forward to calling you “doctor”.
Minor Leagues- Another option? Take the biggest programs (you can probably name 60 or so of them right now), pull them out of the NCAA, and have them be what they really are- NFL Farm Teams. Let young adults work with agents, have some sort of agreement with the Universities (facility rental, branding, etc.), and get this right. And that includes playoffs and long term health care- although I guess the League would need to work that out with the current arrangement first.
Again, these are just things that are rattling around my head… reforming college sports has been a target for a long time; and it may just be too big to fail. Until it does.
There’s no waiting for a press conference on BTN, or a newspaper clipping from The Dispatch with hopes there’s a quote or two in there from your favorite player. Just manage your way out of the stadium and wait about ten minutes before hopping on Twitter. You’re sure to find any number of players, all of which you just watched perform at the highest collegiate level, bombing out tweets to coaches, teammates and, yes, you the fan. That ease of access to these ‘celebrities’ – and their willingness to participate – is the root of a potential problem.
What A Difference A Day Makes- According to sources, Anzalone still has OSU on his list, so you’ve got to wonder if President Gee’s email to his folks helped at all.
Another Perspective- Then there’s Joey Bosa’s response- “I’m not going to let a stupid little weirdo like that define Ohio State to me.” Mike Heuerman’s dad’s take? “”My goodness, you might as well blame Urban Meyer for the budget deficit if you’re going to blame him for someone taking a picture with a guy in a restaurant.””