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It should be schools of thought, not football

By NORMAN CHAD
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.

(My favorite college football quotation comes from writer-philosopher Elbert Hubbard, who observed, "Football: A sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.")

Boston University and Northeastern didn't drop football because they suddenly got religion, they disbanded the programs because they were not making money. Indeed, I'm still waiting for a big-time division I school to step up and say, "We are giving up football simply because it is a misallocation of resources, not to mention it doesn't have a dang thing to do with education."

Which brings me to my misguided alma mater, the University of Maryland.

The Terrapins intelligentsia currently is debating the future of football Coach Ralph Friedgen. Frankly, I don't care if Friedgen wins or loses games. What I do care about is: If Maryland fires him, it will owe Friedgen $4 million for the next two years of inactivity, and if it doesn't hire coach-designate James Franklin to take the job by 2012, it will owe him $1 million.

According to my math, that would be $5 million paid to two men not to coach the team. Geez. We'd be better off hiring 200 janitors not to clean.

Why is the university throwing around these astronomical numbers just for the sake of beating Florida State?

It's time to stop trying to make money off a hollow sporting pursuit. Yes, some of us love autumn Saturdays and March Madness, but at what cost?

Can't someone -- and, I swear, I'd bunny-hop from College Park to College Station if Maryland President C.D. Mote Jr. did this -- stand up to athletic excess and stand up for academic excellence?

I mean, how hard is it to hold a pep rally for the agricultural school?

Ask The Slouch

Q. Might you explain to me under what set of circumstances Jay Cutler could be one of the captains of the Chicago Bears? (Matthew Barnes; Noblesville, Ind.)

A. If Cutler is on a desert island with an actuary and an aardvark, maybe he's a team captain there. In no other possible scenario should he be a captain.

Q. What do you think are the qualifications for being an instant replay official that sits up in the booth during an NFL game? (Dan Meyer; Buffalo)

A. All right already, I can take a hint -- I'll apply for the position ASAP.

Q. When you are in Las Vegas, does anything really happen that needs to stay there? (Ben Semiatin; Wheaton)

A. Well, whether it needs to or not, my money stays there.

Q. Do you plan to release your wedding videos individually or all at once in a collector's edition? (Jon Bell; Spotsylvania, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.comand, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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