Work and Days

End College Football

College football players are gladiators of sorts. On the one hand, they are vastly underpaid for the risks they take as well as the profits they generate for the university and the scores of jobs they subsidize. On the other, in terms of college protocols, they are pampered and exempt from rules that other students follow. Being exploited and privileged is a bad combination.

For half a century, liberals have pointed out that football players should drop the amateur pretense, join a semi-pro club, and make the money they deserve — given that their admissions, grades, and class attendance are exempt from university rules, and warp the college experience. Why do we treat as a privileged class those who so often do not meet university requirements that are non-negotiable for mostly indebted students without recourse to such lavish scholarships and subsidies? Entire majors, curricula, counseling, and protocols were invented simply to free football players from having to be students.

Athletes are also exempt from the new liberal policing.  The university campus has grown into a scary place, given the Maoist tendencies to go after race/class/gender enemies of the people. But no institution is more guilty of such politically correct crimes than is the football team.

The majority of the African-American players on the University of Missouri team threatened to boycott their next game, unless campus diversity demands were met, including quotas to ensure more black representation on the faculty and staff.

But why then would the football team be exempt from its own ideology?  Did the players assume that their money-generating power made them far more important than the English Department or counseling staff? Did they think they were akin to nuclear plant operators and jumbo jet pilots — or the Democratic primary field — whose tasks are professed as far too important to be adjudicated by non-meritocratic criteria?

Nearly half of the University of Missouri’s players are African-American, four times greater than the black percentage of the general population.

Under the Obama administration’s dictates of proportional representation and disparate impact, publicly funded institutions must ensure racial diversity, even if they are not proven to practice discrimination.

So-called “merit” criteria are no excuse when racial diversity is absent. Nor is the fallback position of “no qualified applicants in the pool.” In college lingo, where are the minority recruiters at University of Missouri to broaden the recruiting base and ensure a fair sample of potential recruits? Why are Asians and Latinos underrepresented? Or for that matter whites as well? Mentoring, outreach, set-asides — could not all these tools of fairness and equality be implemented in the fashion that they are on campuses in general to ensure a richer mosaic? Are the swimming and tennis teams ethnically diverse? The equestrians? Why are the very public manifestations of university life not reflections of university values?

Feminists insist that one in four female students is sexually assaulted on campus before graduation. If that is true, responsible parents have no business sending their kids to a unsafe university like, say, Stanford, where a walk in the quad is supposedly statistically about ten times more dangerous than strolling in downtown crime-ridden East Palo Alto at night. But do feminists target the football team. If not, why not?

Nationwide, there is an epidemic of student athletes being charged with sexual assault (again, true of the University of Missouri football team), at rates far higher than the general student population. In fact, a recent study revealed that the University of Missouri experienced 63 criminal cases involving 46 of its athletes during a recent five-year period. Statistically its athletes are among the most likely of university players nationwide to be charged with sexual assault, and far more prone to be charged than non-athlete students.

Why are these incidents ignored? Has any women’s studies program conducted a study of student athletes to determine whether they statistically assault women, especially involving the use of violence, at higher rates than the general student body? The University of Missouri football team’s threatened boycott should be a wake-up call and teachable moment to reexamine the entire football program there to investigate critical issues such as diversity and sexual assault.

Deans and provosts are often evaluated on the basis of increasing faculty diversity, rather than improving student performance, faculty teaching and research, or graduation rates and employment.

Should coaches not be subject to the same criteria? The coach who goes 2-8, but whose team looks like America (Asian linemen, Latino quarterbacks, female kickers, white punt returners, etc.), in theory should receive a bonus. In contrast, the 10-0 coach, who fails his diversity goals, should be fired for ignoring the disproportionate impact of his recruiting and player-selection criteria that had resulted in massive over-representation of one particular racial group at the expense of other groups who were largely ignored.

The truth is that the university is a dysfunctional institution. Free speech no longer exists. Trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe zones have created a climate of fear and bullying on campus. Affirmative action criteria emulate the abhorrent “one-drop” rule of the Old Confederacy. Campus identity is defined by race and gender, but never class.  Annual hikes in tuition exceed the rate of inflation. Faculty are paid widely asymmetrical compensation for instruction of the identical class, depending on archaic institutions like tenure and seniority. Non-teaching personnel have soared. Graduate PhD programs have proliferated, even as jobs for their graduates have shrunk. Undergraduate university graduation rates have declined. College graduates are assumed to earn high-paying jobs; but the dismal rate of bachelor’s degrees translating into employment commensurate with staggering college costs and student-loan debt would prompt federal investigations of fraud and false advertising in any other institution.

At the center of such chaos and contradiction sits college football — the most hypocritical of all university institutions. It may have survived past liberal criticism that it was a veritable money-making and exploitative industry, run amok and immune from the campus laws that govern faculty and students. But it should not survive present liberal demands for racial diversity, proportional representation due to disparate impact, and zero-tolerance for sexual assault.

(Artwork created using multiple images.)