Where Higher Learning Really Is

By Norman Chad
Monday, September 11, 2006

In the vast wasteland of Sports Nation, Couch Slouch has been looking for a signpost of sanity. I no longer can root for the teams of my youth. My father went to UCLA, but that's just a football-and-basketball factory with a parking problem; I went to the University of Maryland, but that's just a football-and-basketball factory with a parking and drinking problem.

Both schools, like dozens of others that worship at the temple of Division I dollars, profess to higher learning and the integrity of their "student-athletes," but I wasn't born yesterday on a turnip truck, so whatever academic bunk they're selling, I ain't buying.

Well, thankfully I have found my salvation.

St. John's College in Annapolis has no intercollegiate athletics.

I don't know what the school's nickname is, but the check is in the mail!

Anyway, I'll get back to St. John's in a moment -- heck, I'd enroll there tomorrow, but my SAT scores have a JuCo bent to them -- first, let me get back to the big boys.

College football and college basketball have absolutely nothing to do with college. The "student-athletes" are simply cheap labor for multimillion dollar companies. And with that much at stake, a win-at-all-costs mentality is the rule rather than the exception.

I mean, if Larry Coker -- 54-10 in his time at Miami with a national title -- has one more 9-3 season, he'll be on a raft floating toward Cuba by New Year's Eve.

Sports radio, reflecting our sinking culture, spends entire days advising managers and coaches, berating managers and coaches, firing managers and coaches and searching the countryside for better middle relievers. If they just redirected their energy toward, say, crosswalk-signal maintenance, America would be 2 percent more livable.

(Can you imagine if sports radio debated Ohio State's physics department vs. Michigan's physics department the way it debates Ohio State-Michigan football? "I'm telling you, nobody does quantum theory like Prof. Gilroy in Ann Arbor. And, man, they have a lecturer there, Stewart Stenstrom -- this guy isn't even TENURED -- who brings it high and hard on optical spectroscopy like nobody's business, dude." )

For parts of two centuries now, Couch Slouch has argued that big-time intercollegiate athletics should be dismantled. Nobody's listening.

After I graduated from Maryland in 1981, I annually would receive a fund-raising letter. Each time I wrote back: I will not give you a penny until you eliminate intercollegiate athletics. Alas, I stopped receiving missives seeking money and, eventually, my name was removed from consideration for the school's "Distinguished Alumni" list and I was discreetly asked to make good on all my outstanding parking tickets from my undergraduate years there.

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