The Big Ten  recently announced that their athletic teams would play against only conference opponents this Fall. This follows on the heels of the Ive Leagues that announced that they were cancelling all Fall sports because of the Carona Virus. Given the fact that the Pac 12 has admitted the possibility that they will follow the lead of the Big 10, there is a distinct chance that other conferences will follow suit;  it is also possible that there will be no Fall sports on any college campus this year because of the virus.

I ask: so what?

The answer to my snide question is that there is BIG money involved. Football provides the funding for all other sports on many large college campuses and the prospect of no football has sent a number of athletic directors into spasms. In fact, a number of colleges have already eliminated “non-revenue” sports such as swimming, tennis, and golf to save money. As a former tennis coach this pisses me off just a bit. But again, I ask: so what?

Suppose that the colleges have to drop sports this Fall and even in the long term — if not forever. This would mean that the reason to attend college can no longer be linked to the success of the sports teams. It  might even mean that the colleges and universities might have to restructure their priorities and make academics the mainstay of the students’ experience and students find other means of entertainment. Heaven forbid!

When Robert Hutchins became president of the University of Chicago many years ago the first thing he did was to eliminate the athletic programs. This caused no end of consternation among the alumni and boosters, but he weathered the storm and the University became a beacon in the bleak landscape of universities that fell to the temptation to make athletics their main raison to exist. The University of Chicago remains one of the few universities in this country to not have intercollegiate sports and yet it survives. Not only that, but it has maintained a brilliant academic reputation until this day. And this despite the fact that it is located in South Chicago which many regard as a dangerous place to live.

In a word, the Carona Virus is making us all take a deep breath and reorder our priorities. Why should the colleges and universities not do so as well? And in doing so, while we realize that college athletics can provide a large source of income for many — but by no means all — universities, the students may be the ones who benefit from dropping intercollegiate sports in the long run. After all, college is supposed to be a place where the young begin to emerge as mature adults whose world is wider and deeper.  And while they must find other means of entertainment while on campus, they may just end up spending more time in the library — which makes more sense. The question of what place, if any, sports are to take in the college curriculum is a thorny one at best. And it is one many refuse to even consider.

I am a retired academic who has always thought that academics are what college is all about. And while I did coach championship tennis teams and thought the experience rewarding for all involved, I managed to keep my perspective and always regarded the athletic end of things as icing on the cake — never the heart and soul of why those young people were enrolled in college.

It would not pain me at all to see intercollegiate athletics fall by the wayside, even though it would mean my finding something else to do on Saturday during the Fall (I do love to watch college football despite my slightly twisted perspective!). In the end we may just find out what really matters. Not only on college campuses, but in the world in general. I really think we are already beginning to find out!


8 thoughts on “Scrambling

  1. “So what?” — You gave me a chuckle, so that’s a very great thing = for me to be in a public restaurant (empty right now) and wearing a mask while racing through opening emails, hitting ‘reply’ so the compose function is waiting — -and scrolling through wp notifications and opening a few while still online.. Yours of course is one of those, though there are about four others waiting on the screen (of yours) to leave a comment.

    My burro laptop, powered by the hamsters, gets so loaded that it often crashes then losses all info, including the comments typed off line at home…

    ah, but if this is my greatest challenge, i am lucky!

    I hope that your medical challenges are going as well as possible, and that you find lots of positive reading material to offset all of the negative we witness almost daily in most all places we visit.

    “So what?” gave me a great respite, and I look forward to reading this at home with greater attention.

    Your voice is important, Hugh. Thanks for keeping the posts rolling out and giving us lots of Food for Thought.

    • And thank you for reading and commenting when I know how busy you are. But if your hamsters were better fed perhaps they would perform more reliably. No?

  2. … and I reached home base, read this with the attention it deserves, and I laughed a second time at the ‘it pisses me off,’ — always such a surprise yet when one usually doesn’t use such language, it stresses that you’re beyond the normal frustration…. and yes, i agree with you.. the focus is out of order.

    between you and btg, i appreciate those details about what’s happening in the usa that would otherwise never reach hamsterville!

    the dear hamsters are too well fed, i fear, so they get lazy! i’ll feed them the burned tea, which burned today b/c i was painting and forgot that the batch of fresh herbs and guayusa was cooking… i stopped and took a break, now here at the neighbor’s restaurant.

    tomorrow turns busy again, and the locals must have learned from watching the usa folks.. they are out on weekdays like it’s christmas eve, so i stay inside as much as possible during the week.

    may this week bring good things to all of us!

    (Loading pages now to read at home!) signing off soon, lisa

  3. Hugh, athletic boosters need their games to heighten donations. I keep reading about various college football teams that have ten, twenty even thirty COVID-19 cases with just practices. Think of what will happen with more practices, games, travel, locker room contagions.

    The PGA is televising golf, but with no fans and more easily achieved social distancing. Football and basketball are contact sports. Playing is not prudent. Keith

  4. Dr. Curtler,

    Once again, I express my agreement on this topic.

    ALL colleges and universities that field sports teams should do so according to Division III NCAA rules. No athletic scholarships. No external funding of athletic teams, programs, or athletes. Strict limits on training hours. Period.

    ALL college and university athletes must be in good academic standing in regular core courses and majors in the university — no “Sports Management” degrees and “Special” courses that mean nothing academically.

    ALL athletic departments must work within and under the auspices of the Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, or its equivalent academic College, subject to the same rules, regulations, fiscal transparency, and general accountability as all other College departments and divisions. Pay scales for coaches should be equivalent to pay scales for other adjunct faculty in the College. No exceptions.

    There may well be a bit more tweaking needed to this list of suggestions, but this will do for getting on.

    Sadly, this is a perennial topic of discussion.

    Regards, respects, and best wishes,

    Jerry Stark

    • At our university the largest major is “sports science” which guarantees graduates work after graduation. That work, as it turns out, is tantamount to handing out towels at the YMCA. I like your suggestions. Much appreciated.

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