It was 2009, and UD was so disgusted by what he said that she transcribed the gist of it and put it on her blog. Here it is.

College athletics is today the healthiest I’ve ever seen it. Everything’s looking great. Everyone here should be celebrating the positive values of university sports. We’ve learned we can be the great success we are and at the same time we can govern ourselves. We don’t need to be governed by outsiders. We’ve made incredible progress on all fronts. Enthusiasm and excitement and participation and profit is at an all-time high. Yes, escalating salaries stress the system. Yes, we continue to be challenged with our expenses. But these things are out of our control. Every one of these expenditures is necessary. We live in a market society, and we have to respond to market conditions.

Curley was then athletic director at Penn State. Things were just peachy at Penn State, said Curley. Tomorrow Curley will try telling that to a judge. Peachy! Far as he knew.


If you go to my original Knight Commission blog post, you will see that right after Curley spoke, Robert Zemsky gave him hell. This is what Zemsky, an historian, said:

Trying to describe the place of athletics in the larger context of higher education is like trying to describe a burnt-out desert. You see, this discussion today — it isn’t going anywhere. We came here to talk about cost-containment, and it isn’t going anywhere. And that’s because any sense of values is missing.

Since you people don’t have any values, you put the marketplace up as the only thing that matters. That’s why you’re not ever going to reform at all. You’re part of the general loss of aura, loss of particularity, at our universities in America. Football on your campus is just like the NFL, you say, and, see, you’re proud of it. So what makes you a college? Absolutely nothing.

Used to be universities were supposed to be like churches — separate, special places, dedicated to higher things. They’re not special anymore. They’re just like any other business. So why tenure? Why tax exemptions? Look at Harvard and places like that. University endowments aren’t charitable donations; they’re hedge funds. University presidents make million dollar salaries, just like other CEOs.

It all tears at the fabric of the specialness of the university. You’ve all helped make that happen. Since you’ve been in business, things have gotten a whole lot worse. The university athletics engine will certainly stop running. But it will never reform itself. It’ll just run out of gas.

UD knows why he was so scathing. Like UD, like anyone in that room with even a bit of brain activity, a bit of decency, something short of total cynical venality, he was angry, insulted, and, having been given the floor, he was going to use it.

After Zemsky spoke, the president of the worst university in America stood up.

I resent this negativity. Why, at the University of Georgia we’ve got a heck of a program…


It was an event UD will never forget. Of course Zemsky was numerically overwhelmed by the jockmeisters. The Knight Commission is where the jockmeisters get jiggy, all team spirit and tommyrot. Those of us in attendance who cared about the rot rolled our eyes and groaned as Curley delivered his pep talk. We had been invited to witness the bright-eyed depravity of American university football and basketball, and here it was, in the aspect of this trim elegantly suited man with his Happy Valley patter.

Of course the crucial figure at this event was not this clown, but University of Georgia president Michael Adams. Here after all was an academic figure, the academic figure, the equivalent of Penn State’s president Graham Spanier — Spanier, who will also be doing a song and dance in front of a judge tomorrow. Adams – chief academic officer, gravitas-man, Big Think defender of the athletic status quo.

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3 Responses to “Years ago, UD encountered Tim Curley at a gathering of the Knight Commission in Washington DC.”

  1. veblen Says:

    Things were just peachy at Penn State, said Curley./em>

    Peachy…interesting choice of words there, UD…I wonder, if in fact, he thought things were just Peachy Paterno?

  2. UD Says:

    veblen: I must have remembered that flavor… I read about all the flavors…

  3. charlie Says:

    We had this kind of Curley nonsense trotted out and paraded during the time that University of Oregon was lobbying for the Knight Arena, the most expensive bball venue in America. Our version of Tim Curley was the resident shill/jackass, former U of O president Dave Frohnmeyer, who demanded that this white elephant be built, claiming that McArthur Court, one of the most venerable and singular bball arenas in the nation, was a fire hazard, needed to be abandoned because not doing so would prohibit the school from evolving, that spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a seldom used sports warehouse would make us competitive. The U of O repeatedly lied regarding final cost, and lied as to how much business it would bring to the school and the city of Eugene.

    Now that Frohnmeyer and the rest of the satraps, who flacked for the Wall Street investment houses and building contractors, are gone and secure with their pensions, the truth is that season ticket sales are less than what they were with the “obsolete” McArthur Court, students don’t attend games, few of the bball games sell out. None of the claims that conventions and concert appearances would be book at The Knight have been fulfilled. The situation is so dire that university functionaries defy state public records laws by refusing to disclose ticket sales for basketball games.

    But while we can display a righteous anger at the venality of university functionaries, what does it say of the alumni and student body, in particular, and the taxpayers, in general, that no protest was mounted to counter an apparent lie? What can be said of a citizenry, who seem not to care that k-12 academic achievement is ranked in the bottom 1/3 of the nation, or that many public high schools cannot fulfill their mandated curriculum, but will do just about anything for season tickets to Duck football games? The conclusion is that they’re either ignorant or stupid. Oregonians have prioritized games and getting drunk, (Duck football fans manifest some of the worst game behavior in the country) in lieu of a public university supplying a quality education at an affordable price. Sorry, but we get what we deserve, and if so, then our graduates deserve bankruptcy and debt servitude as their legacy….

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