12.11.15

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

A year ago, the University of Missouri's football program epitomized indulged players and rape culture.
Following the second major report this year about the failure of the Missouri football team and the athletic department to properly respond to a series of sexual assault allegations, perhaps someone should ask: Why does Mike Alden, athletic director at Missouri since 1998, still have a job?
Because he's good at shaking the money tree.
He has raised a substantial amount of money to renovate the football stadium, which the site assures us "will make the home of Tiger Football one of the finest in America."

What Alden's bio fails to mention is he has also overseen a series of failures when it comes to how his department has handled off-field issues with players, specifically from the basketball and football teams when it involves violence against women.
And the article puts head football coach Gary Pinkel squarely in the Feldwebel Hans Schultz field manual for handling adverse news.
Pinkel said, "if [the police] don't charge him, how am I supposed to, unless there's other circumstances or things I know, that's happened before." Alden, for his part, said he was simply ignorant of Title IX regulations: "But back in 2008, I was not aware of those types of procedures and how they took place on campus."
For a lower-tier bowl bid, I vill do an-y-tink!  That was not good enough for Vice Sports's Jessica Luther, a year ago.
Let me suggest an idea in the case of Missouri: firing Mike Alden. They should fire him and make it clear that they are doing so because of how poorly he has handled this exact same issue over many years, and how his poor handling of it has led to a culture where women are harmed, but many don't want to say anything.
Today, though, it's not the eligibility-studies courses or the comfort women or the coarse behavior. No, the scholarship athletes are enshrined in the Civil Rights Pantheon, right there with the Greensboro lunch counter men and the Vietnam War mobilization.
According to The Columbia Missourian, just 7 percent of the overall student body is black, but nearly half of the football team is (60 of 124 players). This likely contributes to a distance between black athletes and “regular” students. What’s more, this disparity can result in a sort of cognitive dissonance for black athletes, who possibly have experienced discrimination directly or have friends who have, and whose talents generate millions of dollars for an institution that ignores those problems.

“In the past, the ability of mostly white head coaches and administrators to get their mostly black athletes to see themselves as separate from the larger university community often kept wider issues that affect black Americans from disrupting the system,” wrote William Rhoden, a reporter for The New York Times.
Thus, when some football players threatened not to play until university president Tim Wolfe left, the risk of having to make good on guarantees to upcoming opponents concentrated his mind, and he left.  (The right side of social media lights up with comments to the effect that he told the loonies, OK, take it.)  Here's Philip Bump in the Washington Post, on why the dissidents on the team finally pushed the president out.
The football team was already embarrassing the university, but threatened economic damage as well. The operating budget for the school in 2014-2015 anticipates $1.19 billion in revenue and $1.16 billion in costs. The $84 million generated by all of the schools' sports programs is 7 percent of that revenue total — and it's safe to say that football is a lot of that $84 million.
The "embarrassment" Mr Bump refers to is this year's won-loss record, not the previous years of sexual assault investigations.  And Missouri's sports program is, according to a USA Today analysis, generating an operating surplus.  (There's not enough detail in that article, or here, for me to identify unspecified institutional support, such as financing athletic facilities with tax-preferred state bonds.)  Thus, Mr Bump goes on to observe, disaffected football players have the kind of power to withdraw their labor power that Karl Marx or John L. Lewis would envy.  Let the ruling classes tremble!
The fight at the University of Missouri reveals that the football team even at a less-lucrative school can exert significant political power. Which should make the administrations at those more-lucrative schools awfully nervous.
But there is the opportunity Mr Wolfe missed. Ben Shapiro argues, "Time to Cut College Football."
The university could have revoked athletic scholarships or fired the coach. Their only job, after all, is to play football. But then we wouldn’t get to see the big BYU game on Saturday.

College athletics were never meant to override the central purpose of the universities: education.
Thus, a Missouri, or a Brigham Young, wallflowers at the Big Dance and yet in the building, would be an excellent Patient Zero for using the protest as a reason to opt out of the positional arms race in football.  No more eligibility studies courses.  Less reason to have probation officers and publicists around to deal with the "off the field issues."  No reason to procure young women to entice recruits.  That would be a house-cleaning far more disruptive than simply dismissing the coach for a poor record and the players for conduct unbecoming.

And it might buck up presidents, provosts, and treasurers all over the Mid-American Conference, where the explicit subsidies from students make the football possible, despite student discontent with the mandatory fees to support teams that only rarely get in the building, and where a bowl invitation is a way of losing even more money.

Yes, Missouri would take stick for seizing the opportunity to leave the football arms race, but that would be a different order of suffering than the beating it's taking for letting the most aggravated in the professional protest constituencies push it around.

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