|Duke Lacrosse Scholars|
|Stanford Undergraduates Contemplate Charles Darwin|
It's not a pretty picture.
What is really astonishing about college athletics is that so many millions can be so blind to its hazards.
A former president of Princeton, William Bowen, has written in "The College Game" and "Reclaiming the Game" about the poisonous effect on the integrity of academic scholarship of merging commerce (in the form of college sports) and academia .
The reigning opinion has been that college sports may not be central to the mission of an academic institution, but it is a harmless way to raise cash for cash strapped institutions. The impact of admitting 100 people to play football and 50 to play basketball on a student body of 10,000 is minimal. In the Ivy League, where there are smaller class sizes and far more teams (lacrosse, swimming, volleyball, equestrian, soccer--an average of 15-20 sports teams) the impact is actually higher, there you may have 300 or 400 people on campus to do a sport, out of a class of 1000.
All this brushes by the story of Lenny Moor, who, when called on in class, told his professor, "My name is Lenny Moore. I carry the ball. I don't answer no questions." Does having people on campus who reject the value of scholarship and academic effort really injure the academy?
Does filling a stadium with 100, 000 paying fans at Ann Arbor really harm the integrity of a great university? What is the harm of smiling fans in blue and maize and pom poms and little kids in the college colors having a good time at the football game?
The president of the University of Chicago, long ago, said he could not abide the thought of sending a team of 19 and 20 year old boys across the country to California to play in a game which consisted of chasing an inflated bladder around a field. His school ultimately eliminated football. Johns Hopkins does not have a football team, but it does have a lacrosse team. The Ivies all have football teams.
There are, of course, stories about football players raping young women off campus at or after visiting local bars.
But the real issue is the difference between a culture of physical and mental contest living alongside a culture of the mind. We value diversity on campus, and perhaps we should value the diverse cultures of athletes and engineers. Why then, if we value these different perspectives, do we not include in that mix tradesmen, farmers, assembly line workers?
Faculty, particularly in the humanities have always been something of an impoverished priesthood, suffering the insults of materially successful people while the scholars pursue their arcane interests. Of course, faculties are now also filled with "stars" who command great salaries and interest free mortgages at some universities, who cut rap albums and who appear on TV shows.
Mad Dog has no real insight into how healthy life is on America's college campuses today.
But he has his doubts.