11.12.05

NO DUMB IDEA EVER GOES AWAY. University Diaries has been following the corrosive effect of big time football on the academy for some time. Most recently, she's turned up what we refer to as an opportunity cost, here at [Southwest] Missouri State and at Colorado. Start at [Southwest] Missouri State, where one observer sees the folly of dropping some non-revenue sports in preference to football.
One of the main reasons given for not cutting the football program by university officials has been that in doing so, the university would lose face recognition amongst the community and prospective students. Somehow, students make their decision to attend Missouri State based on the fact that MSU has a mediocre football program in place.
Doubtful. A recommendation to new readers: pick up Murray Sperber's Beer and Circus (my regular readers are about to get a review session) and read about the potential reverse effect. Quoth Publishers Weekly,
Sperber argues that an ever-growing number of state universities lure undergraduates to their schools with halcyon images of booze-filled parties and prominent sports programs while abandoning their commitment to the students' education. Administrators use the students' sorely needed tuition dollars to fund sports, build research facilities and hire world-class faculty members, who give the school prestige but scarcely give their legions of undergraduate charges the time of day. With an eye fastened on the dangerous phenomenon of binge drinking, Sperber (College Sports Inc.) backs his assertions with responses to a questionnaire he circulated to students across the country, interviews with professors and administrators and frequent citations from sociological studies. Sperber methodically attempts to persuade readers that at the largest universities, where the majority of young Americans attain their undergraduate degrees, "the party scene connected to big-time sports events replaces meaningful undergraduate education." Though he admits his work deals mainly with anecdotal rather than scientific proof, the wealth of evidence Sperber amasses to support his convictions makes for a striking, sobering read.
Professor Sperber offered a case study of the attempt of the powers of the [State] University of [New York at] Buffalo to reposition their respectable, if sports-invisible university as a joke member of the Mid-American, to the detriment of all concerned. I don't know of any noteworthy academic programs at [Southwest] Missouri State (Golden Bear fans, enlighten me), but I do know they have a solid womens' basketball team, their coach's trailer-park hairdo notwithstanding.

Then head over to Colorado, where embattled party director football coach Gary Barnett has stepped down. Read a Denver columnist's version of Imagine.
"I want it to be clear that I'm going to bring a great football coach to this university," University of Colorado-Boulder athletic director Mike Bohn said last week.
It won't be Don Morton.
Tulsa football coach Steve Kragthorpe does not want to replace Gary Barnett as coach at Colorado.
Sorry, I'm being mean.

But read the entire Denver Post column.

"Ironically, at a time when higher education has never been more important to our nation ... confidence in the university has been badly damaged by the corruption of big-time college sports," [former University of Michigan president James] Duderstadt said. Until universities confront this pig in the parlor, "they will be unable to earn the public trust."

Forget the myth that football pumps millions into university budgets every year. Even if it were true, it wouldn't matter. As the tattered reputation of CU demonstrates, football - and our obsession with it - has cost us dearly.

And it deludes others.

During their time at Marquette, every student inevitably discusses our lack of a football team.

Most students want a football team because it would be fun or cool. While it would be fun, a football team could propel Marquette into the upper echelon of universities.

After Marquette’s Final Four appearance in 2003, the group of student applicants for the following year was the largest ever. This result of larger applicant pools has changed Marquette’s reputation and has allowed the school to be more selective.

Many gifted students disregard Marquette because we lack a football team. While this may be shortsighted on their part, it does refl ect the general sentiment surrounding our school.

I bet Marquette’s strong alumni base feels the same way. Ask any alumnus what they missed out on during their Marquette experience and a majority will say football. In a time when many Marquette alumni feel isolated from the school after last year’s nickname controversy, the best way for Marquette to reach out to students and alumni would be to reinstitute a once-proud program: Marquette Football.

With a football team, Marquette would attract better students. A proud tradition would be restored and alumni interest would grow. Alumni donations would increase providing additional funding for student projects. In turn, this would attract even stronger students and professors. This cycle would propel Marquette into the highest tier of universities.

Right. (Not to generalize from my own experience, but the high price and skimpy academic reputation of Marquette more than offset whatever drawing power Al McGuire had. Milwaukee, which was off the sports radar screen completely, and Madison, where there was a strong hockey team exactly one member of my graduating class knew about, drew for the academics. The social set weighed the relative merits of Oshkosh and Whitewater. Revenge of the nerds, forsooth!) As far as football, anybody remember George Andrie? (He'll sell you logo-wear if you're interested.)

Again, not to generalize from my own experience, but the recent successes of Northern Illinois football have not been without consequences: classes disrupted on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday evenings, longer police blotters on home-game weekends, and resources openly reallocated away from the academic departments. Is that really where Marquette and [Southwest] Missouri State want to go?

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