Friday, February 20, 2015


Yesterday, the University of Colorado Regents met in Boulder, and one of the sessions was on Intercollegiate Athletics.  The CU-Boulder AD gave a typical shock-and-awe, look how great I am doing presentation, which was followed by the significantly more modest presentation by the CU-Colorado Springs AD. 

Perhaps the most insightful, and troubling, observation was made by Chancellor Pam Shockley from the CU-Colorado Springs campus.  In her comments to the Regents, she said that she fears an "arms race" in Division II athletics that is similar in nature but on a smaller scale than the "arms race" in Division I athletics.  AD Rick George's presentation could be labeled Exhibit A for the demonstration of the misguided and generally uselessness of "pursuing championships" by throwing money at athletic facilities and the elusive "student-athlete."  [Just to clarify, there really are some athletes who  are also accomplished students, but they tend to be the exception rather than the norm among the participants in Division I football and basketball]. 

After presenting the data demonstrating how well the student athletes are doing academically, and how well they are attended to regarding their studies, he launched into his breathless presentation of the $143,000,000 expansion and renovation of athletic facilities, shown in this sketch: 

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the project is for the benefit of football, while the other sports will enjoy some of the trickle-down from the new indoor practice facility, shown on the left, and the new training and sports medicine facilities. More details can be found here.  Interestingly, I got to tour the 'old' football facilities a couple of years ago and considered them palatial when compared to some of the other facilities on campus - see below.

So - what's the point?  It's the same old canard that CU cannot compete effectively in the PAC 12 because the limited and outdated facilities cause highly talented athletes to go elsewhere.  Tell that to cross country coach Mark Wetmore.  Wetmore's office is in a backwater space in the dingy and dark Balch Fieldhouse.  It's not the facilities that attract some of the top runners in the country to CU, it's the outstanding coaching and the tradition of excellence that brings them in.  Wetmore's teams have won multiple national and PAC-12 championships, and hundreds of other team and individual honors.  Admittedly, cross country is not a facilities-intensive sport, but the point is that facilities don't build champions - effective recruitment, training and coaching build champions.

Balch Fieldhouse - Home of National Champion Runners & Coaches - Built in 1937

But - who is it that really cares about championships?  Regents, Presidents, Athletic Directors and all of the attendant athletics staff, and Chancellors and fund-raisers who woo athletics-crazed donors.  Who doesn't care?  Most professors and many students. 

Why?  At the beginning of all of my classes, I make it clear that it is possible, although not probable, that every student in the class can earn an A.  Exceptional performance is rewarded accordingly.  (I generally don't point out to them that they could all possibly earn F's :-).  In academics, it is not student versus student, with an equal number of winners and losers - it is individual students mastering the subject matter.  Intercollegiate athletics are nearly diametric to this fundamental mission of the university.  Regents, Presidents, etc., seem not to understand that athletic competition is a zero sum game - for every PAC 12 team that wins, another PAC 12 team loses.  For every 15-2 team, there is likely to be a 2-15 team.  And there is only one champion among the 12, and there will be only one football champion among the 120 Division I FBS teams, and 1 basketball champion among the 351 Division I basketball teams.

Another thing that is totally out of wack in Division I football and basketball is that it is now considered career advancement by moving from the ranks of professional sports to university sports. Of course the driving factor now is the money.  I have previously written about Rick [aka Dick IMHO] George's sweet deal [Money for Nothin'] to move from the Texas Rangers to CU, and most recently, CU hired an San Fancisco 49ers coach as an assistant football coach for $500,000 per year - highest in the history of CU.

I think that it would be great if the CU Regents, administrators and other powers-that-be torched football and [sadly as a Hoosier] basketball.  Can you imagine how great the remaining teams would be if the resources were re-directed their way??!!  The University of Alabama-Birmingham is the latest addition to the long list of schools that have eliminated Division I football.  Universities need to get out of the business of being minor-league development tools for professional teams.  Of course I know that there is not a snowballs chance that this will come to pass, but one can dream......


RIP said...

Am too tired to comment now, but will later.

RIP said...

Now that I’ve had my nap, need to mention that the highest paid State of Indiana employee, year after year, is the Indiana University basketball coach. Lol! Am not averse to millions being spent on athletic programs and facilities as long as they are self-supporting through ticket sales and alumni donations. When the programs start losing money and cost the taxpayer millions, then the program needs to be abruptly put to death.