Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kneeling At The Sports Pedestal


Sports madness at The Ohio State University continues even after all these years, despite the "bowl ban"...How could it not?

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky controversy at rival Pennsylvania State University, a news feature announced a new coach for the Buckeye Football Team, Urban Meyer. He was hired for a contract worth over $27 million for four years hard labor.
Okay, you might call it sour grapes. My husband used to be a mathematics professor at Ohio State, doing hard labor for peanuts, relatively, measured in the thousands of dollars, rather than millions. Yet no one in the entire world, not just America, could do the exact same academic discipline in mathematics as my husband could do because he invented it. We left. He's at a much better place at Princeton University.
Back then, Columbus, Ohio, seemed football-crazy every fall. All the traffic lights were green around the stadium after a game. Hotels filled, food sources benefited…Obviously, nothing has changed about the way the University rewards the sports program for tourism and entertainment reasons.
Which other country on the entire planet, at a major university funded primarily through taxes, had fans who agreed that a coach of a single sport deserved greater rewards of money and outside benefits than the most brilliant scholars at that same university and the President? The practice is widespread across America, I hear, and how crazy is that?
Imagine if this scenario were turned around. Supposing football became associated with the least prestige and monetary reward within the university? Suppose many of the players received life-threatening concussions from playing the sport? As a consequence, wouldn't decent citizens take pity on the players and, with a flash of decently good conscience, stop the program? But I'm dreaming of utopia.
Ohioans and the parents of Ohio State University students keep cheering for football. They pay their football to the detriment, at the cost, of the primary university function -  the teaching and researching duet, as my family can attest. They their football coaches on an ivory pedestal. Professors aren't paid much, aren't on an ivory pedestal, because the sports program needs the money, or so the rumor mill says.
And exactly what is the history of American football?
Modestly it expanded from a game history suggest was played between Harvard and McGill University in 1874, following an earlier 1859 game between Princeton and neighboring Rutgers University. That's it! It is popular, but it doesn't have the history of many venerated fields of discipline that the university is mandated to provide to students to provide a worthwhile education.
The sport of American football is new, unproven, and anti-academic. The culture is clubby, jock-strapping, and unfriendly to women except as cheerleaders. Paying astronomical rates to sports coaches at universities is also new, and completely newsworthy. Why have universities taken to rewarding sports at the expense of academic pursuits? It's insane.
Private universities do not focus on  popular football mega-events, not on the same scale. Certainly, football programs sell tickets and may fund other sports programs if that's true. But that doesn't mean they should lack oversight and authority by the university administration and boards.
I think universities are unbalanced when they reward sports more than the disciplines that they ethically, often with government funding, have the mandate to fulfill.
And exactly where are girls, women, females, children, and infants, in all this talk of football? Forgotten, irrelevant, useless, unnecessary???...

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