A writer for the Auburn Citizen wrote this last year, and ever since then UD‘s been chewing on it. In particular, when UD reads about big-time football schools like the University of Hawaii, Western Michigan U., and Eastern Michigan U. — all of them perennially in the news for bankrupting their students and keeping their schools down in order to subsidize shitty coaches and put on games no one attends — UD ponders that “meaningless” thing.

The pathetic state of EMU in particular has attracted the attention of the national media. Singling out that school, an HBO show called The Arms Race featured the following facts:

At Eastern Michigan, the sports program lost $52 million over the past two years according to Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor at that school. Plus the school football team has not a winning season in nearly a couple of decades and regularly posts the smallest attendance figures in all college football.

(That amount by the way is nothing next to national joke Rutgers, where “in the last 12 years, the school’s athletics department has lost $312 million.”)

The leadership of all of these universities — president, trustees — goes ape-shit whenever anyone suggests that the all-consuming activity that has basically killed their school is meaningless. (Faculty and students, two groups immiserated by athletics, feel differently, but who listens to them?) The ferocity of their unanimous response to suggestions that they lead their university in a more meaningful as well as fiscally responsible direction tells you that for these people taking down a university through the removal of all revenues via football is obviously patently totally on the face of it worth it.

So what is the transcendent meaning they attach to what looks to the rest of us like suicide via sports?

UD thinks a hint can be found here:

It is as though they see a successful sports program as a winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket. Never mind that millions of lottery ticket holders lose.

UD thinks a more vivid and valuable analogy would be to the cargo cult phenomenon. Long ago in our ancestral past, godlike men appeared and won games and there was jubilation among the people. Then the big men went away.

Ever since, we have built gleaming stadiums and training facilities to induce them to reappear.

They will reappear.

We will never give up.

This is the meaning of our life.

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5 Responses to ““I think that a university with a Division I sports program cannot, by definition, be considered ‘great.’ In such a place too much time, energy, attention and resources are given to big-time entertainment that is essentially meaningless.””

  1. Anon Says:

    The typical D1 football team represents less than 3 percent of what happens at a major university. Yes, too many people make too much of that part of campus life. But, the idea that there is not an enormous amount of great things happening at these universities is as ludicrous a thought as has ever been thunk.

  2. charlie Says:

    I highly doubt that an enormous amount of great things are taking place at a typical D1 campus. I am sure that a hell of a lot of student loans aren’t being paid….


    Whether great,good or middling things are going on at unis, it’s becoming evident that fewer of those participating can pay for any of it, no matter the quality….

  3. UD Says:

    Anon: Less than three percent calculated how? In budgetary terms only? Ludicrous.

  4. Mr Punch Says:

    So … MIT, Cal Tech, Chicago … any other nominees? Even Hopkins is all-in on lacrosse. Blinkered view here.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Mr Punch: Not sure of your point – the category is Div I football, basketball.

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