God and Man at CSU

The only real way to argue for an unnecessary, irrelevant, bankrupting, and bohemoth carbuncle right in the center of your campus is by way of recourse to the divine, and, in particular, to divine retribution. You need to scare people. If they don’t get going and get saved, there will be hell to pay. Without tithing hundreds of millions of dollars (many of them coming from students and taxpayers) toward a new football stadium, you will lose the battle with the devil (opposing teams).

There are of course many ways to argue against such a thing… And what Scathing Online Schoolmarm is going to do this morning is look at point/counterpoint, starting with the God Principle, and then moving on to a more secular stance.

Should Colorado State University build a new football stadium? (Note: There’s in fact no question about it. The stadium – at a school where vanishingly few students attend games despite a more than respectable winning average – will be built. So this post isn’t about urging people not to build the stadium. Although not officially announced, it’s a done deal. This is America.) SOS reviews the writing of Mark Knudson, an advocate, and Deborah Shulman, an opponent. Okay, first Knudson.

His title: PUT UP OR SHUT UP. [O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest!]

CSU athletic director Jack Graham had a vision — a shocking and inspiring vision — when he first took the gig, and he has done a magnificent job of describing that vision. We can now close our eyes (or look on our computer screens) and see the glistening new stadium, blending in as a centerpiece and invigorating the entire campus.

Like Jesus, AD Graham is a radical visionary whose glistening stadium on a hill we too can glimpse when we close our eyes. Also like Jesus, Coach McElwain is beginning to run out of patience with his wayward flock:

How much patience will McElwain be asked to have while he waits for something to actually get done on the vision?

And now the more fleshed out theology:

The issue isn’t whether or not the new stadium is needed. If you know anything about college athletics, you know how badly it is. You know it’s time for the tiny but vocal minority of under-educated opponents to punt.

If CSU wants to remain at all relevant in college sports — remember, there is at least some chance that college football and basketball players might start getting paid in the next few years — then this kind of upgrade is not only needed, it’s critical to simple survival.

If the stadium project doesn’t happen, then it’s just as likely CSU will end up in the lower level Big Sky Conference as it is they will never play in another New Mexico Bowl.

The small-thinking opponents of the stadium can keep talking about dressing up Hughes Stadium and trying to make it look big time, but it never will be. Talking about upgrades to Hughes Stadium is simply another way of saying “putting lipstick on a pig.” Nothing screams “Smallville” like a dirt parking lot — out in the middle of nowhere.

It is so abundantly obvious to sect adherents that a university with a low-attendance football stadium should pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a new one that no argument is needed. Either you see the vision or you don’t. But let me put it this way: Without this stadium, you will die (“survival”). After you die, you will be buried (“a dirt parking lot”) and then go to hell (“the lower level”).

Okay, counterpoint.

Headline: CSU Can’t Afford a New Football Stadium. Not at all catchy or scary. Nothing Sinners in the Hands of an Impatient God about it. SOS fears we are in for a sober, fact-based analysis.

She mentions “millions [in] deficit spending for football.” She reminds us that “faculty had been on a pay freeze for four years” back in 2012 when the AD spent millions and millions on ten football coaches.

More than half the athletic department revenue comes from student fees and university subsidy. The students, faculty and taxpayers pay for football.

In a nationwide trend and at CSU, attendance at football games has been declining. At CSU, athletic ticket sales are less than 8 percent of revenue. Profit or breaking even is an unrealistic goal since most Division 1 schools operate football programs at a considerable deficit and require university subsidy.

The $125 million stadium guesstimate doubled, yet the Board of Governors determined these donors need to raise just half the money, not including costs imposed on CSU and the city. City Councilman Wade Troxell estimated the stadium would impose up to $50 million in city infrastructure adaptations. Taxpayers will cover this cost.

Blah blah. Facts. It’s about vision, baby! Get out of Smallville! Think big!

Why have athletic donors been granted such power and leverage to dictate development of CSU and Fort Collins?

Cuz they got the vision!

“Education Minister Nominee Grilled Over Alleged Plagiarism”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm agrees that plagiarism is a very bad thing, but grilling seems to her an overreaction.

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OTOH, assuming the nominee survives, SOS has doubts about his capacity for logic (a capacity for logic, like a capacity for independent thought, being a good thing in an education minister). When confronted with his spectacularly large plagiarism portfolio, the nominee said:

“(The theses) contain information that is widely available,” he said. “I don’t think that can be called plagiarism.”

This comment put SOS in mind of the Doonesbury collection titled “But the Pension Fund was Just Sitting There”

“I regret being present for certain aspects of the previously referenced trip.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm is a mad fan of super hyper dainty language brought to bear upon the raucously vulgar. It maketh her laugh.

Columbia [South Carolina's] mayor has broken his silence about a business partner convicted this week on felony racketeering charges.

Mayor Steve Benjamin said he regrets going on a trip that included a visit to a Florida strip club with Jonathan Pinson, a former South Carolina State University trustee…

The mayor’s name came up frequently in Pinson’s trial, even though he was never charged. Some of the most salacious accusations came from a developer who testified that he took Benjamin and Pinson to Florida, where they visited a strip club.

“I regret being present for certain aspects of the previously referenced trip. I should have used better judgment,” Benjamin wrote.

Certain aspects of the previously referenced sojourn would have been better… But it’s still great.

“For leadership, it means that the leader who has his or her myopic head in the sand is whistling Dixie in the pine trees,” he said. “They will not survive, they absolutely will not survive.”

An observer struggles to formulate the urgency of the situation for America’s historically black colleges.

It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries …

… of a sham.

In the wake of the latest details about the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Scathing Online Schoolmarm can’t hold back her excitement. Rampant pointless pretentious bloviating – her favorite kind of writing!

The charges against [Coach Roy] Williams will be difficult to prove conclusively. Despite that, it’s now time for the NCAA to send an investigative team to UNC and find out what happened. Otherwise it’s willful ignorance, a sham of an enforcement process for a sham of a student-athlete dynamic. The entire system may be ridiculous. Some rules may be laughable. But it’s much more difficult to be dismissive or cynical about academic fraud — universities do exist to educate — and this is the sort of corruption that poisons the whole idea. If the NCAA won’t act on that, why bother acting on anything?

Coacha Inconsolata at Oklahoma State University

Veteran University Diaries readers know about what Scathing Online Schoolmarm calls coacha inconsolata – that form of local booster journalism that involves portraying football coaches who knowingly recruit dangerous criminals to our universities as suffering saintlike beings whose only motivation in these recruitments is a deep belief in The Ultimate Goodness of Man. When the dangerous recruits start doing what dangerous recruits tend to do – break the law and put everyone in danger – the local booster press doesn’t say the obvious, which is Why do we pay the highest-paid person on campus to cynically, with arrant disregard for the safety of our community, go to a lot of trouble to bring a very dangerous man into our midst? No, no. It always goes something like this:

Coaches like to believe … that they can rescue troubled kids, even save them. It’s a noble premise.

Far from being assholes who don’t care that they are exposing young and vulnerable people to hardened criminals (not to mention admitting people unlikely to take even one course with any academic legitimacy – but that’s a trifle here), these coaches are noblemen, pure of heart, so sure of the glorious transformative power of university football that they are willing to take risks other people won’t – they are willing to say Under the rap sheet of this running back beats the heart of a true gentleman, and though it won’t be easy I’m going to dedicate myself to finding that heart. Because that’s what Oklahoma State’s football team is all about – turning young men around.

And when the entire divinely-kissed scheme fails to work out, what then?

Why, coacha inconsolata, of course. His heart is absolutely broken. He is suffering.

“This incident is not Thomas’ first brush with the law, despite being just 18 years old. This arrest is the running back’s second since March, and according to reports he was also suspended for four games in high school. He had enrolled for the spring semester at OSU, and went through Cowboys spring practices. With Thomas’ behavioral issues appearing to stack up, the threat of his being dismissed from the team seems imminently possible.”

Nah! The latest arrest was only for armed robbery and attempted murder! Wait til he actually kills someone!

Oklahoma State, which so avidly recruited the running back to its freshman class, has this to say:

An OSU athletic department spokesperson said a press release concerning the arrest would be posted as a general statement but is not expecting one to be issued at this time.

A general statement regarding the arrest… Hm… We see that one of our freshmen has been arrested for attempted murder… Hm…

But not at this time! No, not yet! Let’s wait until all the facts are in. Otherwise, we’re rushing to judgment, like those guys on our recruiting staff who said Whoa, maybe not this guy… Only eighteen and look at his priors…

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Sportsprose-wise, there’s some great shit here:

The accusations levied against Thomas are significant, and one can only assume that Oklahoma State might have second thoughts about him if he is ultimately charged.

Thomas has a ton of talent, but OSU can’t afford much bad publicity in the wake of an extensive expose released by SI.com regarding the football program last year. [Oy, don't make me read all five parts again! Short version: OSU football stinks to high heaven.]

There is no question that Thomas deserves his day in court, however, he is faced with an uphill battle. This looks bad for him regardless, but perhaps he will be able to learn from it and become a better person moving forward.

What’s not to like in this prose, Scathing Online Schoolmarm would like to know? The last paragraph puts four cliches in two sentences and leaves us feeling warm and runny at the thought of how much OSU’s man is going to learn from having tried to murder someone.

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Only for those who think they can handle it: UD‘s chronicle of the last few years of sports life at one of America’s largest toxic dumps, Oklahoma State University.

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“For more on your favorite athletes and their troubles with the law, visit us at thefumble.com.”

“Before you can win, you have to believe you can win. That starts at the top, with coaches and administrators, and pulses into the hearts and minds of each athlete, like a surging river feeding into the ocean.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Wow.

Don’t you think it’s pretty remarkable that we’ve got an entire column in the Washington Post dedicated to arguing against the proposition…

… that a particular sport makes you more likely to murder? Who said football makes you likelier to murder? UD chronicles the notable violence of the game and the off-field violence of some of the players… And since her blog is about universities, she regularly registers her incredulity that many American universities all but define themselves in terms of a game that notoriously damages the brain; but she has never suggested a link between football and murder.

Why then, in the context of Aaron Hernandez (who graced the University of Florida), does the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins feel compelled to write the following:

Initially, Hernandez’s arrest provoked a number of commentators to associate his violence with NFL. But it doesn’t follow; if there was a real association between football and murder, there would be more Hernandezes. There is a huge difference between men who are talented at a violent game, and a man who is simply, viciously, senselessly violent. If Hernandez is guilty of these additional murders, all it proves is that NFL executives were as fooled as the rest of us by the blankness of his face.

I think this paragraph is worthy of a Scathing Online Schoolmarm scathe. Let’s see how Jenkins does what she does.

Initially, Hernandez’s arrest provoked a number of commentators to associate his violence with NFL. But it doesn’t follow; if there was a real association between football and murder, [Uh, hold on. Note how Jenkins subtly shifts from violence in her first sentence to murder in her second. I'm not aware of people saying football makes you a murderer. I'm aware of plenty of people pointing out the obvious, whether it's boxing or hockey or football: Sports that put an amazing premium on brutality are likelier to attract and cultivate violent people.] there would be more Hernandezes. There is a huge difference between men who are talented at a violent game, and a man who is simply, viciously, senselessly violent. If Hernandez is guilty of these additional murders, all it proves is that NFL executives were as fooled as the rest of us by the blankness of his face. [This is a version of what SOS calls coacha inconsolata. Poor naive NFL executives! Can't read faces! Because what you're looking for in an NFL player is a warm vulnerable approachable sort of face.]

In a subsequent couple of paragraph, Jenkins attempts to refine her argument. Let’s scathe that one too.

Given football’s savage nature it’s tempting to draw a correlation between the NFL and violent crime. Throw in the fact that a lot of high-profile athletes have an undeniable romance with guns. Reuben Fischer Baum, a data cruncher who posts on Deadspin.com, found that NFLers are twice as likely as their male peers to be arrested on weapons charges.

But football by itself is not the culprit. In fact all of the rules of the game are oriented around preventing harm, and penalizing willful injuries. It’s a game of controlled violence, not uncontrolled. As Grossman has written, “the purpose of play is to learn not to hurt members of your society and members of your own species. In a basketball game, or a football game, when one of the players is hurt, the play stops.” A far more likely culprit is the sustained desensitization of video games and other forms of glorified media violence. Grossman argues these are “murder simulators” that actually award points for killing.

SOS loves this. Jenkins cannot avoid stating the empirical obvious truth at some point. Yeah, NFL’ers (and college football players) tend toward really incredible rates of violence. (It’s been a constant argument on this blog that the professional leagues are free to deal with the gun shit, etc., as they would like; but it’s obscene for universities to recruit it, valorize it, and expose their students to it.) But it ain’t the game! It ain’t that these players have been systematically rewarded – with incredible money and acclaim – for their bulk, their menace, their violence, as football becomes more and more violent. No. It’s… video games!

After all, football is fine; football has way non-violent rules.

This point reminds me of something Mr UD routinely does at the beginning of his Comparative Constitutional Law course. He reads to the students a truly inspiring Constitution. Beautifully written, guaranteeing all of the country’s citizens all sorts of excellent rights. Mr UD then asks his students to guess which country’s Constitution this is. They guess various advanced European democracies.

“Sorry, no. North Korea.”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says:

When it comes to the sort of writing people do about university sports, she is often at a loss. Here’s what she means. Here’s a post in Forbes - respectable magazine – about noisily pious Jim Tressel, the compleat coach-hypocrite. (Search my Tressel posts here. ) Tressel, as UD predicted, is now a university president. Let’s take it nice and slow through this piece about Tressel, written just before he took the presidency of Youngstown State.

What does it mean when arguably the most successful coach in the history at one of the most historically ideal football colleges would rather not ever coach again? It’s not like Jim Tressel has no tread on the coaching tire. His football engine has plenty of horsepower. Before being derailed by tattoo-gate at OSU, Tressel’s accomplishments were the envy of every one of the 100+ D-1 coaches in America, save maybe a few.

Okay so the writer’s going to explain to us why despite plentiful coaching opportunities Tressel’s not going to coach anymore. The writer’s going to tell us it’s because the conditions of university football coaching are so horrible these days. And that Tressel’s rejection of the position is… representative of a trend? And so we should… worry that we’re making university football coaching so horrible that we’re in danger of … running out of coaches?

Or wait. Is there any sign at all that coaching jobs are going begging? Why, no. That salaries are tanking? Or even doing anything other than escalating a mile a minute? No. Salaries are insane, and jobs are hotly contested. In fact, coaching is so high-profile and admired that a football coach – Jim Tressel – has just been given the presidency of an entire university.

True, he was “derailed” by a very bad scandal under his watch recently. But note the “derailed by.” This certainly wasn’t about (to pursue the author’s train metaphor) Tressel being asleep at the wheel… Or, even worse, looking the other way… No… It simply happened. To him.

The writer reviews Tressel’s many games won record and then wonders why he’s left coaching for administration.

It’s really no mystery. Because of the scandal that happened to him, he’s banned from coaching.

He probably would not have been in academic administration at all if the NCAA had not forced him out. He was officially and publicly banned from athletic-related positions as part of the OSU punishment, or as many allege, the over-punishment. Despite the lack of a lifetime ban, Tressel reportedly just said he has no plans to ever coach again.

The evil NCAA which despite a thing just having descended upon Tressel without his being at all involved has “forced” the man out – an “over-punishment,” many allege. But anyway it wasn’t a big deal at all because Tressel didn’t get a lifetime ban…

He could probably make millions annually as a head coach. He will likely make hundreds of thousands less if he becomes president at YSU. He probably loves football and the youth who play it far more than herding pompous professors and administrators.

Right, so he began by saying coaching is really shitty now; his headline calls present-day coaching “unattractive.” Yet Tressel’s salary as a coach would be in the millions, so that doesn’t sound unattractive. And the wonderful “youth” who populate bigtime university football (we’ve followed this splendid crew on this blog for years) are ever so much more attractive than “pompous” professors… Yet despite the great kids and the great money, Tressel isn’t coaching. Why, why, why? What’s wrong with present-day coaching?

You see why SOS has such trouble with this sort of writing? The reason Tressel’s not coaching is because he can’t. It’s like asking why oh why has Steven Cohen stopped managing investments the way he used to? He could make millions (billions) at it. There must be something really unpleasant about being a fund manager…

But the reason Cohen isn’t investing is that the SEC has banned him from managing outside money. Tressel’s not coaching because he can’t, and Cohen’s not investing because he can’t. What Tressel is doing right now is what we call slumming, pulling down a few hundred thou making speeches at a school until his ban ends. Tressel’s story tells us absolutely nothing about coaching, so one wonders what this writer thinks he is arguing.

Okay, so here’s the guy’s concluding paragraphs. This is where he nails his argument.

So why would he do something he loves less for far less money? Could it be the administration of big time college football takes all the fun out of the pure coaching of the athletes? Could it be that the media, alumni, and crazed fan pressures is so unsettling to his lifestyle that he would rather forfeit more money just to avoid it? Could it be heading a relatively small obscure school where he once coached, and is still loved, worth more than one of the premier coaching jobs in the country? Is part of the fallout from the NCAA’s decreasing stability and integrity and the increasingly sophisticated athlete pool make coaching less attractive?

Okay, big breath. One thing at a time. The concept here is “the pure coaching of the athletes.” The idea here is that something, again, happened to Tressel and the other purists – the guys who are doing it for the love of the game and seven million dollars a year plus free cars and country club memberships. The forces of evil – beyond the NCAA – are the media, alumni, and students. They happen to the purists, who are trying to protect their quietude from the masses.

Do coaches basically run the NCAA? Shh. Don’t tell the Forbes guy.

Do coaches and their staffs do everything but attach electric cattle prods to students to get them crazed about games? (Even Saban at Alabama has to do it.)

Is the increasingly sophisticated athlete pool a function of increasingly sophisticated coaches creating a system indistinguishable from the professional leagues?

So here’s the Forbes writer’s conclusion:

If all the answers to the above questions are “Yes”, then there is more than a canary in the coal mine. There may be more career college coaches leaving earlier. Perhaps current and prospective coaches alike view big-time football coaching as less desirable. No business or industry likes trending instability and insecurity, and resultant insomnia. Increasing comparisons between high coach salaries and low waged or no-waged players they exploit has a consequence, even if only raised in polite debate.

Yes, Tressel is representative. Tressel is telling us that something is terribly wrong with coaching and if we’re not careful coaches will become university presidents. He warns us that other coaches will leave coaching early. But again, Tressel’s early departure was involuntary. He. Was. Banned. “Perhaps current and prospective coaches alike view big-time football coaching as less desirable.” Than what? Evidence for this? “Increasing comparisons between high coach salaries and low waged or no-waged players they exploit has a consequence, even if only raised in polite debate.” He basically ends with this. And what the fuck does it mean? Coaching is unattractive and coaches are leaving in droves because… they make so much relative to players? No. Because people are increasingly noting the disparity between their millions (there’s that moral purity again… the pure coaching of the athletes…) and the players’ nothings? And only raised in polite debate? SOS is sorry. She just doesn’t get it. She does not get what that means. Only raised in polite debate… What is that? What’s he saying? What’s his whole post saying??

When caught plagiarizing…

… admit you cut corners and pledge never to do it again. Very simple. Your public statement should have two sentences, tops.

People never learn this. Ye olde ego seems to make it impossible. Instead of a brief apology, you get Surprenants. Surprenants are named after ex-Manchester University professor Annmarie Surprenant, who was found to have slapped A‘s on all her student exams and returned them without mussing one eyelash in actually looking at them. (This class management method is especially popular now that online courses are the rage. Venetia Orcutt, an ex-colleague of UD‘s at George Washington University – chair of its physician assistant program! – did nothing for the entire duration of two online courses and awarded all of her students A’s.) Cornered, Surprenant went on and on about her glorious misunderstood being:

I am quite politically incorrect, outspoken and have never adhered to the oft-repeated and probably excellent advice to ‘watch your back’, because I believe watching one’s back will never move us forward.

This makes me an easy target for a certain type of person. Half-truths, false accusations and malicious gossip readily ruin one’s reputation in the eyes of that certain type of person. But in the end it is your work that stands.

Moving us forward… But my work will stand!

And now you’ve got Deborah Martinez, a University of New Mexico public radio reporter who plagiarizes her stuff. Here’s her apology:

“I’ve earned four Associated Press awards over my decades-long broadcast career, producing hundreds of stories with the aim of telling the truth,” she writes in an email … “I made a mistake and was disciplined for it and KUNM and I now move forward with the same goal of informing the public in an open and honest way about news that affects them.”

Moving forward again! Always moving forward!

Scathing Online Schoolmarm doesn’t know quite what to say about people who allow the same self-regard that got them into trouble to generate the apology for having gotten into trouble. This isn’t really about helpful editorial hints. Character is destiny.

“[Tom] Perkins continues to insist that The [San Francisco] Chronicle had a vendetta against [Danielle] Steel, whom he says he speaks to every day, although they are divorced. He insists, for example, that The Chronicle best-seller list does not include Steel’s books. However, the list only includes books sold in San Francisco, which may not be Steel’s demographic.”

LOL. Only the best writers manage to make their point in this elegant off-hand final phrase of the sentence way. Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: BRAVO.

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Perkins, by the way, has the floor (post-Kristallnacht) and clearly intends to use it. Here is his latest proposal.

In order to vote, he proposed, everyone should have to have paid at least $1 in taxes.

“And those who have paid a million dollars in taxes,” he continued, “should have a million votes.”

He said later he was just kidding, but the comment has hit the airwaves hard (sample headline: TOM PERKINS CALLS FOR END TO UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE).

This idea of his – a million points of votes – for some reason reminds me of a proposal UD herself has put forward for years, but no one will listen to her. It came to her one summer morning as Les UDs were crossing the long, long Chesapeake Bay Bridge on their way to Rehoboth Beach.

Instead of each car paying whatever it is – ten, fifteen dollars – to cross the Bay, UD proposes that each car pay fifty thousand dollars. During the time the car is on the bridge, this money will be invested. (High-speed computers.) When the car gets to the end of the bridge, if the investment has paid off or broken even, all the money will be returned to the driver. Any profit will go toward maintenance of the bridge.

What is “tragic”? What sort of event can we truly call a “tragedy”?

Is authentic tragedy, as George Steiner has argued, dead in the modern world? Do we overuse the word, attaching it to routine or random bad events, etc?

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Say what you will about the fate of the tragic in our time — When you happen on a headline that truly does describe, with chilling concision, a tragedy, you’re called upon to take note.

From today’s LA Times:

PRICELESS CORVETTES SWALLOWED BY
MASSIVE SINKHOLE AT KENTUCKY MUSEUM

Euripides! Thou should’st be living at this hour.

Highly Suspectible.

Without access to clean needles, users are suspectible to deadly infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm shares a rather charming writing error.

The Times Public Editor Needs an Editor

It’s free rein; not free reign (the NYT might have fixed it by the time it appears here).

But, while acknowledging that Times columnists appropriately have very free reign in choosing subject matter and commenting on it as they see fit, I am troubled by the same questions raised here by Dr. Rasmussen.

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