7.5.12

FAREWELL TO FOOTBALL?

A number of writers come to the same conclusion: tackle football is hazardous to the health of young people.  Never mind that there's nothing more American than episodes of violence interrupted by committee meetings.

Here's Buzz Bissinger in The Wall Street Journal.
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.

That's because college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned. A radical solution, yes. But necessary in today's times.
The analysis is cold-blooded: participating in the positional arms race is crowding out resources from the rest of the academic mission.
The average student doesn't benefit, particularly when football programs remain sacrosanct while tuition costs show no signs of abating as many governors are slashing budgets to the bone.

If the vast majority of major college football programs made money, the argument to ban football might be a more precarious one. But too many of them don't—to the detriment of academic budgets at all too many schools. According to the NCAA, 43% of the 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision lost money on their programs. This is the tier of schools that includes such examples as that great titan of football excellence, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers, who went 3-and-9 last season. The athletic department in 2008-2009 took in over $13 million in university funds and student fees, largely because the football program cost so much, The Wall Street Journal reported. New Mexico State University's athletic department needed a 70% subsidy in 2009-2010, largely because Aggie football hasn't gotten to a bowl game in 51 years.
There's no academic analogue to Ronald Reagan calling the Bowl Championship Series an evil empire yet, in order that the mandarins of big time football can be properly mocked.  But there is much to mock.
The president there, Wallace D. Loh, late last year announced that eight varsity programs would be cut in order to produce a leaner athletic budget, a kindly way of saying that the school would rather save struggling football and basketball programs than keep varsity sports such as track and swimming, in which the vast majority of participants graduate.

Part of the Maryland football problem: a $50.8 million modernization of its stadium in which too many luxury suites remain unsold. Another problem: The school reportedly paid $2 million to buy out head coach Ralph Friedgen at the end of the 2010 season, even though he led his team to a 9-and-4 season and was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Then, the school reportedly spent another $2 million to hire Randy Edsall from the University of Connecticut, who promptly produced a record of 2-and-10 last season.
Sunk costs, or throwing good money after bad?  Coach Friedgen, however, has been on double-secret probation ever since his team went into DeKalb ranked 15th in the country and lost in overtime in the "Immaculate Interception" game.  Ever since then, the administration at Northern Illinois has sought greater visibility in football, most recently lining up private financing for an indoor practice field, ostensibly to be made available to all students.  (A Cold Spring Shops source within the athletic department suggests that the field may be made available to other student-athletes, as the locution goes, on a space-available basis, which suggests little or no availability to students for indoor exercise or Ultimate Frisbee.)

Mr Bissinger refers to public recognition of the medical consequences as further reason to scale football back.  Last Friday, Rush Limbaugh reacted to a related column by detecting new Fabian gradualism at work.
My point with this is just that I know who these people are, and now that this is being speculated about on a tech blog, wait 'til the forerunners of the liberal sports media get hold of it.  Even though their bread is buttered with this stuff, I know these people.

Some of them are leading the charge and don't even know it with the way they're covering the sport.  Some of them are leading the charge for getting the game banned and  they don't even know it! By the way they're covering it.  They're demanding this and demanding all these new safety features, safety regulations, safety rules. Empowering the government to police the game.  They're begging for it, and they don't even realize it.  They, in their naivete, think they're working hard to make the game safer and so forth, and all they're doing is paving the way for the game to be banned.
Not a tech blog, by the way, a sports site with economists on retainer, occasionally Instalanched.

Moviemaker Sean Pamphilion also concludes, after a good deal of work with football players, that the game is poisoning the common culture.
I interviewed the principal of my son's junior high school today because they just eliminated their tackle football program. I am not personally advocating for the banning of football on any level. However, this is a public health concern and needs to be taken seriously.
There's the opening for the Fabian gradualism. Rooting football out, however, will take time, as it is well-established.
It's about the culture. Everything trickles down. I've seen coaches in amateur football, like young kids, speak in a way that you should not speak to children. I've seen high school coaches scream and curse at these kids for making a mental error—well, what if a kid makes a mistake on a math test? Does the teacher get to start screaming, "You're fucking up!"

Why do we give these football coaches this anointed position? What other sport besides football do these guys get to treat our children like pawns? One of the things I asked people throughout making the film was, "Should coaches be vetted the way we vet teachers? Or should they just be guys with football experience?"

To me, [Saint defensive coordinator Gregg] Williams was the height of this mentality. People say that's just a part of football culture. Well, the culture needs to change. It has to change.
University Diaries asks, probably in jest, "What would our universities do without it?" I've been known to tell new administrators, when we cross paths at one of the football related university meet-'n-greets, that there have been a lot of good things going on here long before the BCS run of 2003, or the 2011-2012 mid-major championships.

There will be a New York University Ban College Football debate on May 8.  The event is sold out, but there will be a web-cast.

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