The good folks at the University of Tennessee — Motto: “Football Is First, Felonies Are Secondary” — made a two-pronged announcement last week that sent me into an offseason college athletics convulsion.
The university announced that the football team’s 2016 season opener against Appalachian State was being moved from Saturday, Sept. 3, to Thursday, Sept. 1, to accommodate the SEC Network.
That’s the first prong, and I can live with that — we all make accommodations for TV; for instance, I removed Bosch’s “The Garden of Delights” from my den to make room for a Samsung 55-inch flat screen.
The university also announced that, because the game will be on a weekday, it is closing most school offices and canceling classes Sept. 1.
That’s the second prong, the type of tail-wagging-the-dog, jock-culture-run-amok prong that sends me running to my MacBook Pro Notebook With Retina Display to type in the words as fast as I can think of them.
The school says it is canceling classes “to accommodate the traffic, parking and security measures that accompany any game day.” Sure.
Actually, rather than canceling classes, I just would have held them during game stoppages — I have a friend who earned his MBA at LSU during replay reviews at home games.
Here’s a statement from Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart explaining the decision (italics mine):
“I believe that everyone involved in the ongoing collaboration that led to this logistical conclusion feels good about the fact that we were able to meet our collective priority to not interrupt the academic schedule on that Thursday.”
Ongoing collaboration? Logistical conclusion? Collective priority? I believe if you simply replaced each of those expressions with the term “bunch of malarkey,” the statement makes more sense.
Speaking of collective priority, let’s briefly talk about Tennessee’s collective priority.
Last year, a spring 2013 internal memo from a Tennessee vice chancellor was leaked to the Tennessean, saying the athletic department refused to address an “inordinate number of disciplinary cases involving athletes.” The 38-year university employee blamed the president, chancellor and athletic director for creating a culture that placed the school’s institutional integrity “at peril.”
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit was filed this year, alleging the school has violated Title IX policies and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes; eight unidentified women are listed as plaintiffs.
And last summer, newspaper reporter Mike Rosenberg compiled college football’s top 25 in reported player arrests over the last five years — Tennessee was No. 10 with 19.
(Eleven of the SEC’s 14 teams cracked the top 25; Alabama, disappointingly, was only No. 12 nationally.)
But, hey, why not give everyone a day off from the faded ivory towers in Knoxville?
The game will start at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time — that’s 7:30 at night. I know game-day traffic can be bad, and I know everyone wants to get to Neyland Stadium early to tailgate, but my MapQuest app indicates you could attend a full day of classes, get into your Buick by 5:15 and still make it to the parking lot in time for two Lynchburg Lemonades before kickoff.
By the way, classes are still scheduled the day after the game, which happens to be the Friday leading into Labor Day weekend.
I just don’t see a lot of Volunteers making it to their 8 o’clock Intro to Database Systems class that morning.
In defense of Tennessee administrators, to make up for the lost academic day, it should be pointed out, they are adding an extra day of classes at the end of the semester. That would be Thursday, Dec. 1, which then will push final exams to Saturday, Dec. 3, which happens to be the date of the SEC championship game this season.
And what if Tennessee makes it to the title tilt?
NO FINALS THIS YEAR, BABY!!!
Q. Ichiro Suzuki just bested Pete Rose’s hit total of 4,256, but 1,278 of them came in the Japanese league. So isn’t Rose right to argue he’s still the Hit King? (Steve Binder; Indianapolis)
A. Rose should simply celebrate Ichiro, not disparage him. Plus, Ichiro will never surpass him in the categories that define Charlie Hustle — autographs sold, bets made and lies told.
Q. How do you explain Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully’s recent in-game rant against socialism? (Mike Hamilton; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Maybe he ordered a Cuba Libre, and it never came.
Q. What is Spuds MacKenzie doing in retirement? (Jeff Hazle; San Antonio)
A. I believe he has his own daily Fox News Channel talk show following “Hannity.”
Q. Did you take as many steps down the aisle(s) as LeBron James takes in the lane? (John Huber; Montgomery Village)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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