Unions for college football players

The National Labor Relations Board, acting on a case brought by Northwestern University athletes, has ruled that college football players qualify as employees and so have the right to unionize. [Read more...]

Changing West Point in the name of football

West Point has very high standards.  It’s hard to get into.  Cadets have to be outstanding not just in academics but in leadership and other personal qualities.  This is because West Point is not just a good college.  It’s where our elite army officers are formed.

But it doesn’t have a good football team!  And it’s lost to Navy for the past 12 years!  How can that be?  Something must be done!

So some school officials, alumni, and army brass are proposing that West Point change its admissions standards so that the athletic program can recruit really good football players. [Read more...]

Progressivism and college football

George Will reviews The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football by Brian M. Ingrassia, in which we learn that big-time intercollegiate football grew out of progressivism and its vision for higher education:

Higher education embraced athletics in the first half of the 19th century, when most colleges were denominational and most instruction was considered mental and moral preparation for a small minority — clergy and other professionals. Physical education had nothing to do with spectator sports entertaining people from outside the campus community. Rather, it was individual fitness — especially gymnastics — for the moral and pedagogic purposes of muscular Christianity — mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.

The collective activity of team sports came after a great collective exertion, the Civil War, and two great social changes, urbanization and industrialization. . . . .

Intercollegiate football began when Rutgers played Princeton in 1869, four years after Appomattox. In 1878, one of Princeton’s two undergraduate student managers was Thomas — he was called Tommy — Woodrow Wilson. For the rest of the 19th century, football appealed as a venue for valor for collegians whose fathers’ venues had been battlefields. Stephen Crane, author of the Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage” (1895) — the badge was a wound — said: “Of course, I have never been in a battle, but I believe that I got my sense of the rage of conflict on the football field.”

Harvard philosopher William James then spoke of society finding new sources of discipline and inspiration in “the moral equivalent of war.” Society found football, which like war required the subordination of the individual, and which would relieve the supposed monotony of workers enmeshed in mass production.

College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses. [Read more...]

Penn State’s punishment

The NCAA did not kill off completely Penn State’s football program, as was widely expected, but the sanctions for the child sexual abuse scandal and its coverup were pretty harsh:

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement Monday morning that the program would be hit with a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. He called the case “unprecedented.”

In addition, the school will be forced to cut 10 scholarships for this season and 20 scholarships for the following four years.

The move essentially bumps Penn State down to the scholarship levels of schools at the lower Football Championship Subdivision.

The school will be forced to vacate all wins from 1998-2011, a total of 112 victories, and serve five years of probation.

The loss of victories means Joe Paterno is no longer college football’s winningest coach. He was fired in November during the scandal after 409 wins at the school.

Because of the length of the punishment, all current Penn State players and incoming freshman will be free to transfer to another school without penalty.

Is this an example of completely justified outrage taking the place of justice?  Normally, guilty individuals are punished, and surely those who knew about Coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex with little boys and did nothing about it need to be called to account.  But the Penn State players, students, and alumni didn’t know what was going on.  Why are they being punished?  Or is there corporate guilt, in which every member of an institution has a share in its transgressions?

If part of the problem in the cover up was the cultural climate of football uber alles, the corporate guilt would extend far beyond Penn State, to big time football universities as a whole and to the NCAA itself.

Also, is the NCAA acting beyond its jurisdiction?  Penn State did not violate any of the rules that the NCAA is supposed to enforce (such as recruiting violations, paying players, and the like).   Isn’t child abuse a matter for the criminal justice system and civil courts to take care of, rather than a sports organization?

And what kind of punishment is it to forfeit 13 years worth of games that have already been played?  It isn’t as if an ineligible player contributed to illicit victories that might otherwise be losses if it were not for the infraction.  How does that punishment have to do with the crime?

Don’t get me wrong:  I am repulsed by what happened at Penn State and want it addressed in the strongest possible way.  I just don’t understand the  NCAA action.  What would be better?

A college football playoff is in the works

The BCS conferences have reportedly agreed to devise a four-team playoff for the college football championship:

College football is on the verge of finally having a playoff, its own version of the final four.

For the first time, all the power brokers who run the highest level of the sport are comfortable with the idea of deciding a championship the way it’s done from pee-wees to pros. And the way fans have been hoping they would for years.

“Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday.

They want to limit it to four teams. That’s for sure. Now they have to figure out how to pick the teams, where and when to play the games and how the bowls do or do not fit in. The new postseason format would go into effect for the 2014 season.

As for the 14-year-old Bowl Championship Series, it’s on life support. Any chance that it survives past the next two seasons? “I hope not,” said Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, who pitched a four-team playoff four years ago but was shot down at this same hotel beachside hotel.

“This is a seismic change for college football,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said after the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director wrapped up three days of meetings in south Florida.

That Hancock actually used the word playoff when describing what was being considered alone signaled a shift in thinking for the BCS. In a memo leading up to these meetings, the term “four-team event” was used to describe creating two national semifinals and a championship game.

via Finally? BCS on verge of becoming 4-team college playoff, though plenty of details to workout – The Washington Post.

OK, but the little question of how to arrive at the four playoff teams has got to be resolved, given that there are 11 conferences at the table.  It sounds like BCS will just do their polls/computer thing to arrive at the final four, just as they have been doing to decide the bowl match ups and the championship, so that the controversies will continue.  Still, a four-game tournament would be exciting and an improvement.

Does anyone have any ideas about how else to determine the top four contenders?  How about just have the conference winners of the Big 12, the Big 10, the Pac-12, and the SEC play each other and be done with it?

We’re #1

My alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, is rated #1 in all four of the major preseason polls for NCAA football.  I’m realizing that I’d better brag now, before the games actually start, since, if history is a guide, the Sooners’ pre-eminence is likely to fade once they actually start to play some games.  Still, I am proud.   The four polls also agree in ranking Alabama #2.  After that, opinions differ.

Check out the polls:  2011 NCAA College Football Polls and Rankings for Week 1 – ESPN.  Where do you think the prognosticators get it right and where do they get it wrong?  And before the games actually begin is the right time for predictions:  Who do you think will end the season as th #1 team?


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