Friday, June 10, 2011

Football and Enlightenment


John Brummett grouses about Hendrix adding football on a non-scholarship basis. He writes "It is a basic truth, one of inverse proportionality: The less progressive and enlightened a place, the higher the salary of the university football coach and the better the team.

There is no need to call names, like Alabama and Saban, or South Carolina and Spurrier, or Arkansas and Petrino, or Ohio, especially Ohio, at least lately. "

If by "enlightened and progressive" one means a place that gives a quality education as demonstrated by having had graduates and research departments which have added much to mankind's body of knowledge and store of both intellectual and technological wealth, then Brummett is his usual self. Which is to say that he is wrong.

By that definition, Arkansas has contributed more than Arkansas Monticello, or even Arkansas State, or even Hendrix for that matter, to the progress and enlightenment of mankind. Some of that simply has to do with size and scale of course, but that was not what Brummett was arguing. He argues an inverse correlation between progress and enlightenment and quality of football program. I would argue a positive correlation between size of the school and quality of the program, or as former Texas coach Darrell Royal put it "the big ones will always eat the little ones."

Speaking of Texas, that is a place known to have both strong football and academics- sort of like the new PAC 10 powerhouse Stanford. Michigan, the program that has had the most wins in college football, has a higher reputation of educational excellence than Michigan State. Penn State is considered by many to be above Pitt on both the educational and football ladder. Nationwide you will see a positive correlation between a school's educational accomplishments and its football program because excellence is a habit. By Brummett's standard, the online University of Phoenix ought to be the most "enlightened" and "progressive" of them all!

You might point to a number of small private schools which have excellent academics and little gridiron tradition. This is more a function of the superiority of private education to government education. Government education tends to get captured more quickly, and used as a political tool to the detriment of the open and honest inquiry fundamental to true learning. The correlation between excellence is not big football or little football, it is government control vs. freedom. The fair comparison is between government controlled universities and by that standard the correlation is to the reverse of what Brummett claims. The bigger and better the football team, the bigger and better the university in educational reputation. Texas beats Texas El Paso, on the field and off.

On the other hand, if by "progressive" and "enlightened" one means handicapped by a truncated liberal-materialist PC view of the world imposed to the exclusion of other views, then it is true that the more "progressive and enlightened" a school is then the worse its football team will tend to be. It's education will be worse too, because modern liberalism, with its choking pressure to conform rather than question, is a drag on true education. Such schools will excel only at indoctrination.

One can spout PC clap-trap all day in the sheltered ivy towers of a university, but football does not allow such unreality to prosper. In football, if your game plan is not as realistic as those of your competitors, you lose. Right and wrong ideas can be measured out on the scoreboard. "Progressive and Enlightened" misperceptions about who man is, and what truth is, cannot survive the honest tests of courage, skill, planning, and teamwork which football represents.

And since modern progressive thought tries to create its own reality by shouting down negative feedback rather than adjusting to actual reality, they have no sound mechanism by which to correct their mistakes. Post-modern progressivism does not debate ideas, it simply smears opponents with name calling and labels. Slaying the messenger does not undo the truth content of the message, any more than cheerleaders braying out an insulting cheer about the other school wins football games. "Progressive and enlightened" thought of the PC variety is not a mechanism to better function in the real world, but an attempt to make an imagined world the real one. Its hard to build something that functions competitively in the real world- like a football team, on that basis.

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