Of Football Teams, Fraternities, and Other Important Intellectual Concerns

football coachThe $50 million Burton Family Football Complex at the University of Connecticut may be nameless soon. Robert G. Burton, who had donated about $3 million to help fund the stadium, wants his money back and his family’s name erased from UConn football. He also informed UConn he will cancel his $50,000 a season suite in the stadium.

What upset Burton, who had donated about $7 million to UConn, mostly for its football program, was that the selection committee for a new football coach didn’t take his suggestion. Not long after Burton’s tirade, the chairman of the Board of Trustees reached out to “mend fences” to keep money where it belongs—in the football program.

While athletics drives many universities, a few consider sports as supplemental to the academic mission. I believe this is how a conversation went at one college located somewhere in America, where the accreditors were questioning the president.

“How did your football team do this year?” asked the chairman of the accrediting team.

“We were 3-and-6, and very proud of our team,” said a beaming president.

“This is serious. What steps have you taken to replace your coach?”

“We hadn’t thought about it,” said the president, mystified by the inquiry. “Coach Samuels is one of the nation’s most respected organic chemists, teaches a full load of courses, then works out the team an hour or two in the evenings.”

“An hour or two?” said the accreditor, mockingly. “No wonder your school has such a dismal record! Most colleges have twice-a-day drills for two or three hours at a time. The students don’t even go to class in the fall. Your coaching staff must be lazy.”

“We have only two assistant coaches. One teaches sociology, the other is a speech pathologist.”

“Most colleges have a dozen coaches,” said the accreditor. “How can you not have assistant coaches for ends, backs, and nose guards?”

“We have a good staff in our anatomy and physiology labs,” said the president, adding that with additional assistant directors in Music and Theatre, the college produces some professional-class musical comedies.

“Who cares? How many of your athletes went on to professional NFL careers?” The president diverted the question, and excitedly told the accreditor about alumni who went into the creative arts, others who are leaders in social work and environmental science, and of graduates who are among the nation’s leaders in almost every field of scientific research.

“Business!” roared the Chairman. “How many of your graduates are in high paying business jobs!”

The president thought hard, but could think of only three of his recent graduates who went into corporate business, and then only because they couldn’t get any other job. “Of course,” said the president, “a few dozen of our graduates enter law and med school every year.”

The accreditor’s face finally lit up. “Oh, so you do have wealthy alumni! Why didn’t you say so!”

The president shook his head. “Most of our alumni lawyers are into consumer law, and our med school graduates usually become family physicians or work with the poor.”

“Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.” Also not a good sign was the social atmosphere on campus. “I didn’t see any fraternity or sorority houses on campus. In fact, hardly anyone even knows where the nightly parties are.”

“I guess that isn’t helping our cause for reaccreditation, is it?” asked the president. He didn’t have to ask since the accreditor was now writing furiously.

“Your building fund? Any new recreation or student union buildings?”

“We’re planning a new building to house our community service programs.” The accreditor hardly looked up he was so disgusted. “We had two Rhodes Scholars and one Danforth fellowship last year! One of our profs just won a Pulitzer. Ninety percent of our faculty hold the doctorate!”

“Any of them all-Americans?”

“Our Intercollegiate Debate Team was national champion last year! The Student Social Welfare Club led the fight against conversion of apartments into condos!”

“Redeem yourself with committees,” shouted the accreditor. “Do you have more committees than scholarships?”

“We believe most committees are wastes of time that encourage their members to act in irrational and arrogant manners.”

walter m. braschThe accreditor’s aide calmed him down long enough so he could ask a final question. “How much of your budget is spent on sending your administrators and faculty to phony academic conferences to pat each other’s behinds?”

“None,” wept the president, “most of our budget keeps students and faculty current in their fields.”

The accreditor slammed his notebook shut and walked away. The president called after him, “When will we know whether we have been reaccredited?”

The accreditor stopped a moment, turned around, and shouted back, “When you become a real educational institution.”

Walter Brasch

Published by the LA Progressive on January 29, 2011
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About Walter M. Brasch

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former multimedia writer-producer, newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and is professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at the health, environmental, geological, and economic impact of natural gas horizontal fracturing. He also investigates political collusion between the natural gas industry and politicians. Among his 18 books--most of which integrate history, politics, and contemporary social issues--are The Press and the State, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, The Joy of Sax: A Look at the Bill Clinton Administration, and Social Foundations of the Mass Media.
He is also the author of dozens of magazine articles, several multimedia productions, and has worked in the film industry and as a copy writer and political consultant. He is the author 16 books, most of them focusing upon the fusion of historical and contemporary social issues, including America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (2005); Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of Geroge W. Bush (2008), Black English and the Mass Media (1981); Forerunners of Revolution: Muckrakers and the American Social Conscience (1991); With Just Cause: The Unionization of the American Journalist (1991); Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the 'Cornfield Journalist': The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris (2000); The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era (2001); and Sex and the Single Beer Can (3rd ed., 2009). He also is co-author of Social Foundations of the Mass Media (2001) and The Press and the State (1986), awarded Outstanding Academic Book distinction by Choice magazine, published by the American Library Association.