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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

College sports are too important

Do we really need 34 college football bowl games? Going to a bowl used to be an honor set aside only for the most elite teams. There were four major bowls: Orange, Cotton, Sugar, and the most important of all, the Rose Bowl. There were two other bowls one step below those four: The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. The Gator and Tangerine were played just after Christmas and the other four were played on New Year’s Day.

If a team wanted to play in those bowls they had to have a record of 10-0 or 9-1 which was typical in the era of 10 game seasons. Only the best of the best played in a bowl game. Today, a team can make a bowl with a 6-6 record and at the rate the bowls are proliferating, teams with losing records will soon be eligible.

I realize it is all about the money as most of the bowls have sponsors now. Some are pretty comical. Remember the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl? The Papa John’s Pizza Bowl? My favorite this year was the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

I think the next new bowl should be the Dakota Beer Who Cares? Bowl to be played outdoors in Fargo, North Dakota on New Years’s Day. A great match could be Slippery Rock Teachers College vs. Alabama School of Cosmetology. It would probably be as interesting as the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho between Maryland 8-5 and Nevada 7-6.

My next statement will probably have some of you in an outrage but here goes: I think collegiate sports have become too big a deal. Coaches are now recruiting kids from junior high school for college teams. That’s how important winning has become. I haven’t heard of any coaches going after kids for their academic achievements but, of course, who cares about that?

The Ivy League has the right idea, they offer NO athletic scholarships. If you want to play football you simply go out for the team; everybody is a "walk-on." Academics is the name of the game at schools like Harvard, Yale, and Penn. Sports are fine but they are secondary.

I remember many years ago when Harvard and Princeton were playing for the Ivy League Football Championship. The Princeton quarterback was the best player on either team and he didn’t play in that game. Why? Because he had to spend that Saturday at the library to finish an important paper that was due the following Monday.

To the football freaks, that probably sounds ridiculous. To me, I admired that kid. Colleges are for academics first, not sports. For the sports fans who need a team to root for, there are plenty of professional teams out there who play for a living. Pick one and let colleges do what they are best at: academics. Who knows? Maybe we will catch up with the rest of the world academically someday.

My alma mater is The University of Cincinnati. Once a basketball power, Cincy now is among the "also rans." Why? Because a new school president (Nancy Zimpher) insisted that the players actually attend class, obey the law, and know how to read and write. Many fans thought it was an unreasonable request!! This is not unusual in college sports.

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