Friday Night Saturday Morning

Buy a drink and pull a chair
Up to the edge of the dance floor
Bouncers bouncing through the night
Trying to stop or start a fight

Six University of Notre Dame football players got in so much trouble between last Friday night and Saturday morning that UD is worried they won’t be ready for church today.

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But that’s the least of it. Six players is a lot for a team to lose, and there’s a season of football to be played.

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No, no, calm down. They’ll all be back on the field in minutes. America’s most famous Catholic university offers compassion to its students who carry loaded unregistered handguns, beat up policemen, and resist arrest. After Friday and Saturday, there’s Sunday, when you receive forgiveness.

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So. Six Notre Dame FB players arrested overnight. One more and [Coach] Brian Kelly gets a free sub, I think.

Rick Gregg

‘The NCAA can take away scholarships, wins and championships. On a completely different level, North Carolina is looking at having its soul ripped out.’

Oh yeah? This commentary in the aftermath of UNC’s two-decade-long massive academic fraud ups the the rhetoric-ante and informs us that universities have souls, UNC has a soul, and it’s looking at its soul being ripped out.

Most immediately, the soul-threat the writer has in mind is trouble with a couple of accrediting bodies; but you and I know that beyond a brief probation, UNC will be fine. The NCAA has let it off lightly and so will the accreditors. All will be well. Indeed, UD has no doubt that in a few years things will have so supremely settled down that UNC will be inaugurating an improved academic fraud game plan for its athletes and other interested students.

But this matter of a university’s soul… UD has done some scooting about online, and people do make a habit of assigning souls to universities. The soul seems to be a central meaningful place or group: the library, the faculty. It may be a common faith (Notre Dame’s Catholicism.) Or it may be non-profitness rather than commercialization.

Here’s the Soul Man himself, Cardinal Newman:

[The university] is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation.

Or in UNC’s terms:

It is almost unbeatable in its knowledge of free throws; it is almost its own search-firm in its knowledge of football recruits; it has an almost supernatural advantage in its freedom from standards and integrity; it has almost the repose of sleep, because nothing can enlighten it; it has the beauty and harmony of hunky competitors.

By which UD means that while most writers, after Newman, consider a university’s soul some central meaningful spiritual/intellectual aspect of the place, after UNC, writers will need to take on board the fact that the only soulfully alive place on some campuses seems to be the athletic department. Surely the soul of Penn State, Auburn, Baylor, Alabama, the University of Oregon, and UNC lies somewhere in the vicinity of the locker room. And that is a soul that no accrediting body can rip out. Only a bad coach can do that.

“Yet unlike his predecessor, the Rev. J. Donald Monan, who was widely credited with leading the school out of its financial crisis by enthusiastically promoting both academics and athletics, [Boston College’s current president] is seen by many alumni as less exuberant about building elite sports programs than advancing the school’s academic excellence.”

Things have taken a sinister turn at Boston College, where despite raking in huge yearly sums simply by being in a big-time league, the entire university, starting with its president, is suffering from ACCedia – the dark night of the soul in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Unlike its sister affliction, acedia, which refers to a “gradual indifference to the faith,” ACCedia involves a gradual indifference to being a fan. The money’s still coming in, the games are still being staged, but no one cares, and almost no one shows up in the stands.

Allow UD to draw from her years of experience writing about university football and basketball in order to suggest some reasons for this strange turn of events.

The big glaring reason is this one: You’re either willing to give your full soul over to football, or you are not. You’re either fully committed to your completion percentage, or you are not. You’re either willing to spend most of your school’s money on athletics, admit academically unqualified players, and wrest all control over sports decisions from the school’s president, or you are not. Boston College languishes in a limbo of less than thorough football fervency.

To be sure, BC is doing some things right: It has appointed as the highest-paid person at a Catholic college a man whose every other word, on national television, is fuck. “[The football coach’s] profane sideline behavior [was] most damaging [during] a nationally televised loss to Notre Dame at Fenway Park, first when a camera focused on Addazio shouting the F-word, then when he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for berating the officials.” You want a Christian role model at the very top, a signal lesson in how to behave if you want to earn the lord’s rewards, and Steve Addazio fits the bill.

And you want to schedule hard-hitting games.

In one of BC’s most embarrassing episodes last season, the Eagles defeated a stunningly inferior team from Howard University, 76-0, the game shortened by 10 minutes because of the mismatch.

That’s the kind of gladiatorial combat that puts butts in seats. Another way Addazio is earning his money.

But utter spiritual alignment with football does not end here. “God does not want you for a fair-weather friend,” as Marilla says to Anne at Green Gables farm, and the Boston College community has not yet learned this lesson. Being a fan is not merely about cheering on wins; it is about cheering on losses as well. If you cannot maintain enthusiastic faith in a team that loses most of its games, you are demonstrating a fundamental incapacity to perceive the divinity of sport.

The solution must begin in the soul – the collective soul of Boston College. UD suspects, for instance, an insufficiency of gridiron liturgy during public worship at BC. At every possible point during the mass and other sacred occasions, football (and basketball, if there’s time) should be invoked. BC has much to learn from Notre Dame here. And from Florida State.

With the lovely Vanderbilt University rape trial as …

background, the film The Hunting Ground begins to generate commentary.

Along with institutions like Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The Hunting Ground” takes on the fraternity system — in particular, Sigma Alpha Epsilon — and even throws down a challenge of a sort for the National Football League with a not-so-subtle suggestion that teams should think twice about drafting one of the top college prospects, Jameis Winston.

Mr. Winston, the Florida State University quarterback, is the focus of one of the film’s more incendiary segments. The Heisman Trophy winner in 2013, he was accused in 2012 of sexual assault by a female student. He has asserted his innocence, did not face criminal charges and was recently cleared of violating Florida State’s student code of conduct by the university. He is widely expected to be among the first several players chosen in this spring’s N.F.L. draft. But “The Hunting Ground,” directed by Kirby Dick, makes a mockery of Florida State’s investigation, and Mr. Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, speaks publicly about the case for the first time in the film, at length.

“‘Fired head college football coach’ is the sweetest gig going.”

Charlie Weis. The now-fired Kansas football coach didn’t do much winning on the field in Lawrence (6-22) — but has any coach ever benefited more financially from not winning?

Kansas buyout. According to published reports, Kansas will have to pay Weis $5.625 million to fulfill his contractual buyout.

Notre Dame buyout. The Fighting Irish canned Weis in 2009 after he went 35-27 in South Bend over five years. According to a USA Today report, the total price of Notre Dame’s buyout (which is ongoing) of Weis will be $19 million.

Almost $25 million. By my figures, that means Charlie Weis will make $24.625 million over the course of his life for not working/getting fired.

If you ever doubted the comprehensive, whoroscope (as Beckett would call it), nature of big-time university football…

… note that when the New York Times went in search of a sage, gravitas-rich voice on the absolutely shocking academic fraud at Notre Dame, they could only find Dave Schmidly.

Schmidly! Dave! Dave – comic-book ex-president of the unbelievably corrupt University of New Mexico; a man who tried hiring his son for a high-level university position [scroll down for some Schmidly posts]; a man drummed out of office by faculty… Yes, get Schmidly on the the phone! He’ll have something sage to say!

And he does. He obligingly knits his brow for the New York Times about how, you know, competition to recruit the best football players “increases the likelihood of people cutting corners.”

Dave would know about that! Why interview lots of people for a $90,000 a year UNM job when your kid’s sitting right here?

… Eh. It’s not as though the NYT could find a clean president of a big-time sports university to interview. It’s more a kind of how far down the list do we want to go thing… Donna Shalala? Yikes. No. Hey, there’s Tressel! He even used to be a coach! … Oh yeah. Scratch that…. Next…?

Football Mass.

At Notre Dame, Touchdown Jesus scores the biggest touchdown of his life.

One of the most twisted locations UD has discovered through following university…

… football is also one of the world’s highest-profile Catholic universities: Notre Dame. ND has long been a very scandalous university sports location. I’m not talking only about several players being under arrest or investigation at any given time – that’s routine. I mean that people there positively worship not only coaches but the very grass their coaches walk upon. This is strange and unsettling behavior.

As was the behavior of one of their football players last month. He was arrested for “head butting and punching vehicles” and then threatening to kill the police who were called to the scene.

Beating up cars, using your head to butt cars… more strange and unsettling behavior at a university that’s really gone over the top in terms of the bizarre and the dangerous.

Their Eyes Were Watching Godzillatron

Football is a religion, they say, and its god, these days, is the Godzillatron, the Adzillatron, the Jumbotron… like the deity, this massive high definition video screen with massive advertisements screaming at you from the moment you enter the stadium to the moment you leave, goes by many names…

Ever since 2009, when the University of Texas got the first one in the country, dozens of other American universities have gotten their own monster video display. The one proposed for a new stadium at the University of Nevada Las Vegas will run the entire length of the field.

What’s strange about the massively expensive Adzillatron is that everyone hates it; and indeed many people point to it as contributing in an important way to the emptying out of the university stadium. Where’d everyone go? Why are many students – even at places like the University of Alabama – not going to the games, or going but leaving early? Tons of explanations have been offered, but UD thinks that the phenomenon of the Godzillatron, while only part of the answer, is an illuminating focal point for any discussion of the terrific fiasco for which contemporary American university football is headed. Of course one has to toss into the too-disgusted-to-attend mix all the scandals – criminal, hemorrhagic, sexual, academic – plus all the overpaid coaches and castrated presidents blahblah… But the heart of university football is the stadium experience, and if that experience had been able to retain a shred of authenticity, the fiasco might have been averted.

Here’s what happens at a [Mississippi State] football game these days: 3rd & 7, we’re on defense, tie game, offense calls timeout. [Colubus Ortho Harlem shake, Kiss cam]. Everyone’s attention is drawn to the jumbotron, away from focusing on the task at hand – getting our defense pumped to stop the other team!

I don’t need a bunch of distractions. I’m there to watch a football game.

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[University of] Michigan football fans don’t just love football. They love Michigan football — the history, the traditions, the rituals — the timeless elements that have grown organically over decades. They are attracted to the belief that Michigan football is based on ideals that go beyond the field, do not fade with time, and are passed down to the next generation — the very qualities that separate a game at the Big House from the Super Bowl.

After the 2013 Notre Dame game, [our Athletic Director] said, “You’re a 17-18 year old kid watching the largest crowd in the history of college football with airplanes flying over and Beyonce introducing your halftime show? That’s a pretty powerful message about what Michigan is all about, and that’s our job to send that message.”

Is that really what Michigan is all about? Fly-overs, blaring rock music and Beyonce? Beyonce is to Michigan football what Bo Schembechler is to — well, Beyonce. No, Michigan is all about lifelong fans who’ve been coming together for decades to leave a bit of the modern world behind — and the incessant marketing that comes with it — and share an authentic experience fueled by the passion of the team, the band and the students. That’s it.

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Coach says: Thou shalt have no other Godzillatrons before me. Narcotic simulacral standardized screen gigantism is the heart of the postmodern doctrine being preached… Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled… But keep thine eye upon the Godzillatron which I have given to you and thine lip upon the fruit of the vine which also I have given unto you, and rest in the arms of the Lord forever… And yet in their ornery unpredictable way Americans are beginning to break away from the faith. They seem to be experiencing it as inauthentic. Not the true faith.

Football: By Far, The American University’s Most Popular Activity.

[T]he fiasco over locker-room bullying between the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito reminded everyone this season how eccentric football now is culturally — not because of a hidden health problem, but just in its explicit, inherent violence. The battle fought in the press between the players’ “sources” unveiled football as a dark, subterranean hive of old-school warrior values and character-building sadism. Taunts and racial imprecations were openly justified, the way military floggings once were: as salutary hide-tougheners.

It’s funny to watch jock schools like Colorado and Chapel Hill hyperventilate about their integrity when football, in all its dark subterranean hiviness, is such an important part of their institutions.

This blog has duly chronicled several sadistic university football coaches (basketball too, of course, but we don’t want this post to get too long) – men who, with each new revelation of their treatment of players, get fired and then passed off to a new school.

Maybe football should be spun out and – in accordance with its actual nature – made just one more non-academic bloodsport:

It is interesting how the increasingly popular spectacle of mixed martial arts (MMA) competition so quickly secured a perimeter of social acceptance for itself. MMA is not only violent; it is violence. But the risks are blatant enough for us not to pity the competitors. (Their locker rooms are probably pretty crude places, too.) Football players, by contrast, are not supposed to be pure, uncivilized instruments of brutality. They are supposed to be technicians, strategists, artists whose work involves only a limited element of cruelty.

Moreover, they are nurtured in a system of universities as “student-athletes,” and a corrupt, increasingly bizarre system at that. The game grew out of educational establishments in the first place. No one is trying to integrate MMA with the curriculum at Notre Dame or Harvard; MMA was invented too late for that.

Think of this observation when you read (as you often read) commentators arguing that the solution to the problem of corrupt university football is to make football an academic major. As the game gets more and more purely violent, its claims to intellectuality, disciplinarity, grow.

Here’s a remarkable point/counterpoint on university football from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch…

… a West Virginia newspaper.

It begins with a July 6 letter from good ol’ Wade Gilley, president of Marshall University (background on Marshall here) in the ‘nineties. Wade went on to head the University of Tennessee but had to leave onaccounta he did a few things that seem like they didn’t sit well with other people there. Yeah, ol’ Wade had to scoot.

Now Wade’s letter is a model of its type. What you got here is the good ol’ boy reminiscing bout the good ol’ days when men was men and Marshall was a beautiful paradise of football, football, and football.

I … remember being invited to a national meeting of 20 university presidents and 20 Fortune 500 corporate CEOS in the late 1990s and hearing many positive remarks about Marshall. In fact, Father Malloy, the president of Notre Dame at that time, approached me at a reception and said, “Wade, some of us were just talking about the success of your football program and we were wondering just how it happened.”

And that’s just one story about rich important people flocking around me wanting to know my secret of success!

After sharing more stories about how fantastic football is for universities, Wade concludes:

And there is no doubt that football, which is largely self-supporting, has been and will be a positive factor in promoting Marshall’s national image.

A little nay-saying (“Self-supporting? Hardly.”) does pop up among the commenters, but a July 13 opinion piece from a Marshall finance professor really puts the kibosh on the thing. Dallas Brozik is a hard-nosed guy and he ain’t having any of it.

Despite the fact that one of his students, on Rate My Professors, says Dallas doesn’t like English majors, Dallas writes really well. Let’s see how he does it, step by step. Scathing Online Schoolmarm will interrupt his piece with comments in parenthesis.

 

 

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Wade Gilley’s recent letter concerning the ongoing discussion about the Marshall University budget was quite interesting. [Now usually SOS complains about the profoundly uninteresting word interesting. But Dallas here’s going to use it slyly, in the manner of Oscar Wilde…] Just as a magician uses sleight of hand to mislead the audience, those who wish to keep the university budget a black hole keep spreading misinformation.

I have no doubt [Brozik will repeat the formulation I have no doubt throughout his piece.]   that Dr. Gilley met with folks at all levels who commented on our football team, which at the time had a winning record. Sports always makes good small talk. I have no doubt that we had the best athletes and coaches despite the legal and criminal records of some of these individuals.  [Note how slyly Brozik has already gotten two points across:  Gilley’s a maundering fool; and the teams he’s teary-eyed about were pretty smelly.]

I have no doubt that Dr. Gilley met a person whose daughter had chosen to go to law school at a certain university, supposedly because of the school’s athletic program. I also have no doubt that I would not want this person to represent me in a court of law unless it is about sports law.  [Brozik’s calm, reiterated I have no doubt is wonderful.  It signals a kind of elaborate emotional self-control, a determination to be gentlemanly and long-suffering about Gilley.]

Dr. Gilley has no doubt that the football program has been an important factor in the increase in enrollment at Marshall. Dr. Stephen Kopp became president on July 1, 2005. For the academic year 2005-2006, the official enrollment of the university was 13,920. The official enrollment for 2012-2013 was 13,708. This implies that the football program, or whatever, created negative enrollment growth.  [Oh, don’t confuse me with numbers!  And that or whatever is wonderful too  – another sly polite little suggestion that Wade is somewhat whacked out.]

Dr. Gilley has no doubt that the football program has been a very positive economic growth factor for Huntington. Since Dr. Gilley’s time, the population of Huntington has decreased and many businesses have closed. The 2012 State of Well-Being Report from Gallup-Healthways ranks Huntington as 188 out of 189. Check the want ads section of today’s paper to see how many job openings exist and at what levels. There has been no economic miracle in Huntington over the last several decades, football or not. [You can see ol’ Wade putting a hand over each ear at this point and saying LALALALALA I can’t hear you I can’t hear you…]

Wade Gilley left Marshall under his own cloud [We won’t even go into his University of Tennessee cloud.]; why he wants to get involved in this discussion is strange. He has no dog in this fight. He is old news. He admits he has little insight into the current budget situation, but he has no doubt that a football program which is not self-supporting promotes Marshall’s national image. Dr. Gilley is entitled to his opinion, but opinions are like bellybuttons; everybody has one but very few should be aired in public.  [SOS would drop the way down-home belly button thing.  Brozik doesn’t need it; and it breaks his terrific tone of restrained contempt.]

Dr. Kopp promised “transparency” in April.  [Only in his last paragraph does Brozik turn to Marshall’s current football-concussed president.  Nice move.  It puts MU’s latest loser squarely in the company of Gilley.]  He still has not opened the books for review, even though state law requires him to do so. The current problem is one of accountability for state funds and the tuition and fees paid by students. Those who try to frame this as an anti-sports question are either misled or trying to be misleading. The budget for Marshall University is important to the entire community, and that budget should be examined. The time for opinions is over. It is time for action. It is time for Dr. Kopp to live up to his promise of transparency and open the books.

‘”We will pray for this man as we pray for so many others who are at their wits’ end,” he said.’

Notre Dame’s rector says exactly the right thing in the wake of Dominique Venner, a far-right activist protesting France’s legalization of same-sex marriage, having stuck a gun down his throat and fired in front of schoolchildren visiting the cathedral. It takes a special sort of madman to make a bloody spectacle of himself in a church full of children.

A Scholar and a Gentleman

[A University of Notre Dame hockey player] was asked to leave Brothers Bar and Grill Sunday night after patrons accused him of taking beer from their tables. [Police say the player] punched the [restaurant’s] 35-year-old manager in the face and stepped on her head when she fell.

Everyone’s a little bit sociopathic…

… I guess. When we were at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland decades ago, UD‘s then-boyfriend, David Kosofsky (brother of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick), took it into his head that we should pretend to be Israelis. Little UD must have passively gone along, but the evil genius was David; and UD remembers how horrified and trapped she felt when she realized that the inane scheme was working all too well — that people at the school indeed assumed he wasn’t lying (what kind of a freak would lie about such a thing?) and in a kindly way inquired about their backgrounds, asked if there were special foods they should prepare for them at dinner, wondered if they’d been traumatized by that country’s difficult history, etc., etc.

UD felt shame. She insisted that David figure out a way to stop the game.

To this day, UD can’t enjoy the whole Sacha Baron Cohen thing, where you laugh at the efforts of well-meaning people to be polite and understanding toward some fake identity you’ve made them believe in. The word for this is cruel, and it’s not exactly news that everyone has the capacity to be cruel, and that some people have a large capacity.

As to the Manti Te’o hoax at Notre Dame, UD can only say what she’s said for so long in this blog category (hoaxes are so common, they’ve got their own category on University Diaries): The world is full of vaguely sociopathic game-players, and, you know, let the buyer beware. Walk down your street of dreams – don’t let me stop you – but do yourself a favor and wonder occasionally if the uncannily exact match between certain inspirational stories on offer (see also Lance Armstrong) and your desires in regard to inspiration is just too close for credibility.

I’m a sap too – I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. But as an inveterate hoax-watcher, I do begin to see patterns.

‘In newspaper coverage of a 2006 suspected rape involving Mankato hockey player suspects, journalist Myron Medcalf, after referring to the hockey team’s high game attendance, included the following quote: “’It’s too bad either way justice has to take so long,” said Joe Frederick, a Mankato city councilman who has season tickets for men’s hockey.”‘

This thoughtful take on the Steubenville lads reminds UD of something she’s noticed about local coverage of university athletes who’ve been arrested for sexual assault or hazing or DUI or theft or gun play or whatever.

Katie Heaney wonders why reporters often devote a couple of sentences at the beginning of the article to the charges themselves, and then spend the rest of the piece talking about how the team’s defense is going to be weakened while the guy’s on trial, but there’s this other guy, a freshman, and this might be a huge break for him and he might rise to the occasion… Reporters often jump right to the win/loss implications of a sudden, er, removal of a key player from the lineup. They’re writing a sports piece with a bit of crime attached to it.

In the case of Steubenville’s multiple accused athletes – high school guys about to go to the universities that recruited them to play football – Heaney asks

[D]o we need to know how many state championships they’ve won? Do we need to know how much the suspects, if convicted, will be missed by their teammates and fans?

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This goes to the rape culture of certain towns and schools – a culture whose existence these places indignantly deny. Pathetic Penn State will insist to its dying day that Sandusky was a grotesque anomaly, that nothing in its engrossing pleasure in violent games had anything to do with current events there. Notre Dame looks the other way. Montana looks the other way…

UD isn’t sure why it’s so difficult for these places to own their violence. They produce violence all the time – on the field, off the field. Steubenville produces young men – local heroes – who film themselves being violent. Football gets more violent by the day, and these places are right there, fashioning young men fully up to the challenge of brutalizing and being brutalized at the highest levels.

Think of the post-nuclear athletic games in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach if you want a sense of where these places are headed: “They’re doing it because they like to do it, honey.”

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