December 23rd, 2013
“[T]he rampant cut of nonrevenue sports at universities has become a disturbing trend.”

From the New York Times:

… Sports like rowing … are left to suffer.

Last year, the University of Maryland cut seven varsity sports. In 2006, Rutgers chopped six. The week that Temple announced its cuts, Robert Morris, a private university near Pittsburgh, announced that seven varsity teams were on their way out.

Obviously, none of the sports on the block were football or basketball…

What kind of a business case can you make for a sport like rowing, which is not even one conducive to spectators (because the course is 2,000 meters long), much less one that makes no money for the university? Well, a weak one, if any. But that’s the whole point of amateurism, the quality that is supposed to fuel college sports in the first place.

… But is this latest round of cuts the end at Temple? What if the football team doesn’t start generating big bucks, enough to sustain the smaller programs?

You have to wonder if we will wake up one day, glance at the sports offered at the Temples, the Marylands and the Rutgerses of the world and see two words left: Football. Basketball.

Keep the American university a lean mean money-losing machine. Without revenue, more and more courses will go online. Eventually the only non-virtual campus activities will be football games and post-game riots.

December 23rd, 2013
UD’s off to Cambridge…

… for Christmas. She’ll blog from there.

December 22nd, 2013
For-Profit Online University…

… a grand new American tradition.

December 22nd, 2013
Football, the University of South Florida, and Mental Retardation.

“[Skip] Holtz and Jim Leavitt are the only coaches in USF history and both were fired,” a sports writer explains, blandly enough.

Hired, fired, big deal. The only two coaches you’ve ever had, both fired. So what. Sunrise, sunset. To everything there is a season. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

But when you actually pursue the narrative behind this bland fact, the bland fact of having had two football coaches in your school’s history, and having fired both of them, you begin to grab hold of the de profundis primitivism of so many American university football programs as they pump out losers, bullies, thieves, and litigants, one after another… All welcomed with pomp and excitement and even love…

The second-in-the-series is particularly cherished, by contrast with the scurrilous cur first-in-the-series, the villain we so wanted to love, in whom we invested our deepest hopes.

Trying to compare Holtz and Leavitt is like trying to compare Auntie Em with Cruella de Vil or Flounder from The Little Mermaid to the shark from Jaws. It’s like the difference between Mom’s homecooking and prison food.

Jim Leavitt was fired for punching players.

Skip Holtz prefers hugging them.

Holtz, if you couldn’t tell, is my new favorite college football coach in the state. Why? Because he makes my job easy, that’s why. He’s friendly and fun. He’s accessible and approachable.

USF’s Holtz was Francis to Leavitt’s Benedict. Adenauer to Leavitt’s Hitler. Ford to Leavitt’s Nixon. Our long national nightmare is over. Morning in America. Hugs all around.

But then the head of the university’s board of trustees had his meltdown.

The one-line email was fired off at 3:26 p.m. Saturday, within a minute of the end of USF’s humbling 37-28 loss at Temple, and it was sent to the chief of staff of USF president Judy Genshaft.

“Disgusting and unacceptable,”
it read.

Always wondered what the board of trustees of a university does, didn’t you? Goes to football games, gets pissed when the team loses, orders the president to fire the coach. Uh, y-y-yessir! Right away! Only it’s gonna cost a shitload in buyouts… And uh don’t forgot how much the lawsuit from the scurrilous cur cost us…

Throw money at him! Whatever it takes! Lose the fucker!

What if we, uh, get audited? There are laws, you know…

The University of South Florida overpaid three top administrators — and committed $1.7 million too much in severance for former football coach Skip Holtz, according to a state audit released this month.

According to Florida law, the school is allowed to pay administrators $200,000 from state funds for salary, bonuses and cash-equivalent compensation. That rule was broken in three instances, the audit found…

Auditors … took issue with the $2.5 million over five years that Holtz is being paid after he was fired a year ago. University employees’ severance pay can’t exceed 20 weeks of compensation, according to state law.

However, USF has contended the money is for damages, as spelled out in Holtz’s contract — not severance. The millions are required because Holtz was fired without cause, USF replied.

The Auditor General disagreed and concluded simply that the university should “ensure that future severance payments comply” with Florida law.

Now the University of South Florida pees itself with excitement upon the advent of its third savior. Throttlings, hugs, audits all around.

December 21st, 2013
La Kid Warbling For the President …

… at Christmas in Washington last week (she’s the blonde in the upper row).


The guy in front is Pat Monahan.

Click on the image – the setting is the National Building Museum – for a closer view.


UD thanks Koneti.

December 20th, 2013
UD, Holidays.

I can’t recall the mental trail that got me there, but yesterday, for the first time since the 1970’s, I listened to Steve Goodman’s song, Spoon River.

I saw myself in the living room of the Evanston apartment I shared with two other Northwestern University students.

Goodman was a Chicagoan; he performed in Evanston all the time.

I saw myself sprawled in front of a record player. I must have been doing that thing I’ve done since I was five years old with music I like: Listening to it obsessively, for hours. In the windows of the room there was sunlight and snow.

I certainly learned the piece, since I sang along without hesitation yesterday, every word, every inflection, intact.

All of our lives were entwined to begin with.

The union’s preserved.

I tried to entwine with Goodman’s singing. I’m a good vocal mimic.

I thought of his early death, his leukemia. Cool Hand Leuk, he called himself.

The morning is heavy with one more beginning.

But his most famous songs were about evenings: This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.


This, though, this moment of mine at the laptop, 2013, was high noon, the living room windows showing sun and no snow. The semester’s classes were over; grades had been entered.

The holidays meant UD could sit quiet and alone in her house and ponder and feel the flow of her life.

It was Goodman who made her feel this, who pressed upon her the specific depth of the river, and for this she was immensely grateful.

December 20th, 2013
Newspaper Poem

[A poem made up of phrases from a newspaper article.

For the original article, go here.]



Vaguely Decasyllabic Newspaper Poem

Ancient Herculaneum was chic.

Well-furnished rooms, with views out to the sea.

Mosaic scrolls, monastic libraries.



Unlock the scrolls of Herculaneum!

But the scrolls tend to go to pieces.

The ink is dull black and iridesces.



Some pieces, the eye can make out nothing.

Black lines on a pale grey background,

Black dust of the scroll powdering.



Not all the villa’s scrolls have been unrolled;

The scrolls are tightly wound and creased.

Still…  orphan fragments make a text:



hold power… think… with a moderate force






Fiber; sand; the structure of papyrus…

What further scrolls remain there still?

Early editions of Aeneas…




December 19th, 2013
Well, if you put it that way…

Those who think [University of Alabama football coach Nick] Saban is overpaid should consider the Seattle Mariners’ recent deal with infielder Robinson Cano for $240 million over 10 years. Does anyone think Cano is three times more valuable than Saban? Hardly.

And Cano is just one measly position. Saban’s coach. Right now he gets (when you throw in everything) something approaching ten million a year from the university. Which is too low when you consider the context.

[We] are nearing the point when top-level college coaching is a more lucrative gig than coaching the pros. That is astounding, in a sense — pro teams play more games, they get higher TV ratings, and they don’t have to support academic advisors or pay for volleyball scholarships.

In another sense, though, this is perfectly reasonable. Pro teams have so many tools they can use to improve. They can sign free agents, acquire draft choices or pour money into scouting. Some pro teams see coaches more as an extension of the front office, charged with implementing the philosophy (and following the advanced stats) preferred by the general manager.

College athletic departments, as currently constructed, don’t have as many tools. They can build new facilities to attract recruits, but that is way more expensive than hiring a coach like Saban (who would demand new facilities anyway). They can pay recruits under the table, but there is some risk involved, and some are reluctant to do it because it is against the rules. Besides, the mechanics of under-the-table payments are complicated. You can’t really write a check from a university account, make it out to a defensive end, and hope nobody finds out.

The whole university… conceit… puts special burdens on football programs, for which coaches should expect hardship pay. And now that, moneywise, there’s no difference between professional and non-professional, we’ve removed barriers to fair compensation. In the case of Saban, then, if we use the Cano standard of comparison, one billion over ten years seems appropriate.

UD thanks Andre.

December 18th, 2013
Dressed down…

… but still sent up.

Brown University’s highest profile trustee sees another one of his employees go to prison. Is Brown’s Steven Cohen next? Will he preside over that university’s decision-making from prison?

December 18th, 2013
Read My Latest Inside Higher Education Column…


December 18th, 2013
Margaret Soltan Featured…

…in this interview about MOOCs.

December 17th, 2013
Where’d all the money go?

If you’re the faculty at Western Michigan University, you’d really like to know.

Or, I mean, you do know.

“Every department is hurting — bleeding faculty,” said [history professor Lewis] Pyenson. “We’re not going to be able to hire brilliant young professors. Older professors who know how to teach are going to retire. There likely will be shotgun marriages for departments.”

Pyenson contrasted the cuts in the College of Arts and Sciences with the amount spent on men’s football, saying that in a time of financial crisis, “what goes on in the classroom is clearly more important than what is going on at the 50-yard line. We should be fostering the mind instead of knocking kids senseless on the football field.”

December 17th, 2013
Of course, no model of sex segregation…

… is as powerful as Saudi Arabia’s.

December 17th, 2013
Albuquerque’s Own Rob Ford…

… keeps his job as superintendent of schools despite a domestic violence incident, and despite sending out a series of disgusting tweets about the state’s education secretary. The school board loves him and is keeping him until at least 2016. Although it’s not extending the contract, it has made clear that because it continues to love him, it will review its non-extension decision.

Why does it love him? Because he fanatically opposes the ed secretary’s efforts to do something about the fact that New Mexico perennially ranks close to dead last for educational achievement.

Don’t nobody get to fuck with that.

December 17th, 2013
Find them by seeking out those silent figures at the way back.

[Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss] are among the most outspoken of the “new atheists”: scientists and other intellectuals who have tired of having sand kicked in their faces by the priests and mullahs of the world. So the scientists are indeed mobbed like rock stars at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside, they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted by counterprotesters chanting, “Where are your women?”

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