Norman Chad: Colleges should aspire to be schools of thought, not football

Monday, November 30, 2009

In 1997, Boston University dropped its football program; last week, fellow Boston school Northeastern University did the same. Dare I say, Boston now might be the most livable city in America.

Perhaps the most unpopular position I've always taken is this one: Big-time college football and basketball should be disbanded. When I was at the University of Maryland 30 years ago, I proposed replacing intercollegiate athletics with intramural sports.

I was shouted down and ridiculed back then, in person.

Now I am shouted down and ridiculed, on the Internet.

They call it progress.

College football has absolutely nothing to do with college -- this is unofficially the 783rd time I've said this. It is a business in which athletes posing as students wear school colors for the sake of alumni gratification and TV money.

The games are played on campus, lending them a false whiff of Jeffersonian, body-and-mind Utopia on the hill.

(My second-favorite college football quotation comes from former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins, who observed, "College football: I do not see the relationship of those highly industrialized affairs on Saturday afternoons to higher learning in America.")

Q. What do UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-San Diego, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount, University of the Pacific, St. Mary's, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, Pepperdine and Chico State have in common?

A. They are all California colleges that have dropped their football programs.

Loyola Marymount -- then known as Loyola University of Los Angeles -- did it in 1951. Those folks were ahead of the curve and, as a result, "College GameDay" has never set foot on campus.

Heck, I thought I moved to Southern California for sun and surf; as it turns out, I moved out here because we are free of the hypocrisy and mythology that is college football.*Exception: USC and UCLA, two cesspools of misplaced priorities -- and guaranteed impropriety -- in terms of big-time athletics. USC spends $20 million annually on its football program, UCLA spends nearly as much. Somehow, these two well-regarded institutions of higher education are comfortable taking the well-fixed low road to athletic glory.

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