Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Tail Wagging the Dog

There was some head scratching a few years back when the University of Missouri left the Big 12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference.  They had been courted by the Big 10 to join them along with their natural rival Nebraska.  But after this week, it is clear that Mizzou does indeed belong in the SEC--because football obviously rules the campus.

African-American members of the team threatened to boycott all practices and games until Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and school President Tim Wolfe were fired or quit.  This was part of a larger protest on campus by black students who claim their complaints about racism were not being treated with enough seriousness.  Just a day after the boycott was announced, both administrators did step down--and the football boycott is being hailed as the step that finally forced some change.

But when you step back and take a look at the entire situation, why would football players refusing to play be the reason for the resignation of two men who had up until that moment weathered the storm?  Do college football players carry some sort of higher moral authority than every other student on campus?  Did Loftin and Wolfe think "Wow, if we've lost the football players, there is no point in carrying on"?  There had been vocal protests on campus for three months.  Heck, there was one guy threatening to starve himself to death if Loftin and Wolfe didn't quit.  Apparently, that threat didn't carry as much weight as the possibility of canceling Saturday's football game.

And it is in that game that we find the answer to all of those questions.  Missouri was scheduled to play Brigham Young University on Saturday at home.  If the game was canceled, BYU would still get their $1-MILLION payout.  That is how non-conference games are scheduled in college football--the home team pays handsomely for the other school to play on the road.  Without those payouts--which can fund a large majority of the football budget for those small schools the big boys play in September--nobody would give up the potential revenue of a home game and there would be no non-conference action at all.

And speaking of home game revenue.  A canceled contest would also require Mizzou to refund the pre-paid tickets to the 70-thousand or so fans that were coming to the game (given the Mormon Church's history in Missouri, it was likely to be a big crowd).  Add to that the lost revenues for concessions, parking and in-stadium advertising--and you can see where the real "motivation for change" was coming from among administrators.

There was plenty of talk on the sports radio dial yesterday about college athletes "learning what power they hold" and whether more teams who try to exploit that--especially when it comes to getting paid beyond their scholarships and stipends.  What if the Wisconsin Badgers team decided they weren't going to play that game against Alabama at Lambeau Field next year unless the school ended research testing on live animals?  Or Marquette Basketball players stayed off the court until the school removed all references to Christianity from the campus--since that is an obvious micro-aggression against non-Christians? 

There can't be a University President or Chancellor feeling real good about what happened this week down at Missouri--because it has revealed how many schools have sold their souls for the sake of sports.  Maybe the Athletic Director should be the one handing out the diplomas at graduation from now on.

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