Once Again In the Toilet Bowl!

I update and repost this in my ongoing effort to spit into the wind. There is something radically wrong in academia where the business model has become the paradigm and students are regarded as clients. But major sports are clearly still the tail that wags the dog!

Don’t get me wrong. I sit glued to the TV during the end-of-the-year orgy known as the Bowl Season. I have yet to learn how to watch more than one game at a time, however, try as I might. But, let’s get serious: 40 bowl games in about two weeks is enough to make the head spin and the stomach turn over even if one weren’t gorging himself on chips and warm beer. The bowl games are now appropriately named after their corporate sponsors and I am waiting for the Kohler/American Standard/Eljer Toilet Bowl to be announced soon. That one I want to watch!

But the “Bowl Season” is a symptom of something terribly wrong. The big-time collegiate athletic picture in this country smacks of greed, hypocrisy, and dishonesty. I say that as a devoted game-watcher and former small-time collegiate coach. Seriously folks, what on earth does this have to do with educating young minds? Answer: nothing whatever; it’s about fielding a competitive team in basketball of football, keeping the alums happy and the undergrads diverted so they don’t realize that their money is being squandered on what their parents mistakenly think is a four-year degree that will give their kids upward mobility. Bollocks! It’s all about having fun and getting into a bowl game — even if your team is 6 and 6. It makes no difference. The point is to get on TV and see your school’s name on ESPN. There’s money to be made, so don’t let education get in the way. Money for some, at any rate. But it isn’t money that improves the quality of education in any way shape or form.

All of which simply confirms Curtler’s Law, which states that the quality of education at a Division I school varies inversely with the success of the football program. And I must add that as a Northwestern alum I worry that they are winning football games of late (though not this year, sad to say). In the end it’s not about education: it’s about success on the field. If the money that is now pumped into Division I athletics, especially basketball and football, were spent on academic scholarships think of the dividends it would pay. But that’s not going to happen because the temptation to sell the university’s soul for big bucks has been too much for several hundred universities around the country, very few of whom will ever see the money roll in. Just think of poor little cousins trying to keep up — like South Dakota State University.

Things are already rotten in the state of academia all over the country, at every level.  In the typical American college or university, for example, curriculum is incoherent and priorities are skewed; the students themselves, pumped up by an unwarranted sense of entitlement and ill-prepared for study, are busy planning the weekend’s next party. The institutions regard them as a source of money, as faculty fight for their precious territory and students are lost in the shuffle. But at the Division I level it’s even worse: faculty also fight for their territory but also are caught up in the publish-or-perish frenzy that directs their attention away from their students; classes are crowded, and students must sit in auditoriums while being taught by graduate assistants who have their own agendas and are therefore unwilling to push the students to do their best. These problems are compounded by the sports mania. What the large, Division I universities do not need is the distraction of big-time football and the diverting of monies and attention away from what is of central importance to any college or university. In the end, the student is the victim.

But never mind. If we are lucky maybe next year we will make it to the Toilet Bowl.


9 thoughts on “Once Again In the Toilet Bowl!

  1. Hugh, the lure of big money has gotten a number of universities to add football teams. I remember when some dropped their programs because it was too costly. We should not forget how money and boosters killed the Southwest Conference through rampant cheating. Keith

      • Hugh, I am not surprised. Plus, the brand risk that money brings heightens. Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and UNC all make money, but each has been in court and the news due to misdeeds by athletic staff and their cover-up. For those who are unfamilar, one was due to a pedophile coach, two were due to a sexually assaulting doctor and the last one was due to class schedule fraud.


  2. Ahhhh … the ‘dumbing down’ of America. Why learn to read and think critically, why learn to write coherently and interestingly, when you can learn to run fast carrying a little ball and earn millions more!!! An aside, I was very disappointed when the S.F. Giants moved from their old Candlestick Park to “Pacific Bell” Stadium, and when the Cincinnati Reds’ Riverfront Stadium became Cinergy Field. Takes the atmosphere, the character, out of it. Bah Humbug.

  3. When I started at UB back in 1978, they had one of the very best English departments in the country. Because of mental health issues, I had to drop out & I didn’t get to go back until 2008. By then, UB had gotten into sports in a BIG WAY. Yes, UB had always had a sports program but not like it now. I guess the UB Bulls went to some “bowl” in the Bahamas … whoop-de-do! Meanwhile, the English department is so downgraded that it’s barely there. It’s the same with all the non-business, non-science departments … if you’re not there to make the University money, you’re a nobody. Getting an education means getting a trade nowadays. Not learning. & getting a trade means getting into whatever field will make you the most money so you can pay off your loans. WOW. What a life we’ve given our children & grandchildren.

    • Thanks so much for the comment. I have been saying this for years. As a college professor from 1968 until 2005 I saw it happening all around me. The liberal arts are dead and the useful arts are flourishing.And yet it is the former that help the young to gain possession of their own minds.

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