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FOOTBALL: Game raised to cultish level

Letter by Alfred K. LaMotte, Steilacoom on Nov. 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm with 55 Comments »
November 11, 2011 2:37 pm

Football is America’s campus religion. There are major American universities known for nothing but their football programs. Football controls their financial life.

When scandal and crime touch the Church of College Football, the institution’s first response is often to cover it up, to protect the priesthood of coaches. Is it any wonder our academic standards have fallen behind other nations, when we venerate football above scholarship?

College football is not too big to fail. We must not allow academic institutions to elevate the cult of football above learning and justice.

Leave a comment Comments → 55
  1. aislander says:

    Actually, faith in liberalism and redemptive government is the real cult in America. Judges and lawyers are its priesthood, politicians the extended trinity, and bureaucracy the catechism…

  2. I see Mr. LaMotte’s point to a degree, but like you aislander, I’m inclined to think that a lot of people fail to recognize the ways in which we are turning the government into “church” in this post-Christendom world. We look to it for guidance, for assistance and for assurance. We grow dependent on it only to realize it is a terrible foundation on which to build hope.

    The most evangelical people on the planet right now are probably environmentalists, and again, they look to government in the way some people look to the Vatican.

  3. aislander says:

    Thanks, sozo, but it was a very flawed analogy. I’m tired and was in a hurry, but I can’t resist taking a shot at F.Lamo…

  4. bobcat1a says:

    When you guys despise the government, you despise WE THE PEOPLE, deny it as you might.

  5. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Uhh, backhoe light, I don’t see anything that would lead an objective observer to believe that either sozo or ai “despise the government”.

    After all, I don’t “despise” my belly, but it’s way too big right now too.

    See, the problem is that “We the People” and “government” are not necessarily one in the same these days.


  6. aislander says:

    I don’t despise “we the people,” bobcat1a; I despise “you the parasites…”

  7. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    As for ‘ol flamotte, How ’bout them geoducks!

    Imagine, a Quaker, a teacher of world religions at that most prestigious bastion of rational thought and higher (thinking Cheech and Chong here)… education – THE Evergreen State College would write a LTE condemning college football.

    I think bB would agree, there are a few religions that may want to do a quick house cleaning and say a few Hale Mary’s before joining in you latest crusade, Fred. In the mean time you should remember that higher education – not healthcare – has been the run-away leader in out of control cost over the last 30 years – and that does not include, nor is it the result of the combined salaries of any given coaching staff.

    So what could it be? Remind me again, Fred, what exactly are we paying you (for)?

  8. aislander says:

    Evergreen is going to reinstate its football program as soon as their “crack” engineering department can get woven hemp to stay inflated so the oh-so un-PC pigskin can be dispensed with…

  9. In our dreams perhaps bobcat.

    For one who claims to speak for love and compassion, it often seems as though Mr. L. carries a lot of bitterness, dare I say hatred, for certain people, or at least for the demonic caricatures he has created to represent them.

  10. Interesting how so few of these posts have anything to do with the subject of the letter – instead, focusing upon the (prolific) writer of the letter.

    Historian Page Smith, in his “Killing the Spirit: Crisis in Higher Education” demonstrates that the rise in collegiate football coincides with the movement away from the classical Liberal Arts approach where the professors had direct contact with their students as their primary function to the research institution model where the professors were cloistered in their labs and shoved the students off on their graduate assistants. Smith concludes that the function of football was(is) to distract students from the realization that they are being cheated from a quality education.

  11. often seems as though Mr. L. carries a lot of bitterness, dare I say hatred, for certain people, or at least for the demonic caricatures he has created to represent them.

    Not sure how a letter commenting upon a culture that protected a child rapist who used his “charitable organization” as a recruiting tool for his victims provoked this response from you sozo. Seems you have created quite a caricature of the letter writer.

  12. bBoy, Perhaps I’m guilty of that to a degree, based on the many letters he’s sent in, and if I’m mistaken, I’ll own it. Did you note that I said I agree with this letter, to a degree? Probably missed that.

    Anything can be elevated to the level of idolatry.What shall we make of the cosmetic industry, the toy industry, the music industry? How is it that a young man like Michael Jackson can acquire and use deadly drugs for virutally his whole life without fear of legal action?

    The sports insanity worldwide frankly mystifies me, but I’m not prepared to label college football and its loyal fans a cult. To demonize players and fans in this way seems reckless IMO.

  13. NickDixon says:

    “but I can’t resist taking a shot at F.Lamo”

    This is a classic example of how people are willing to ignore the real issue – a raped child – for the pleasure of thinking “I gotcha”.

    Rather disgusting.

  14. NickDixon says:

    “How is it that a young man like Michael Jackson can acquire and use deadly drugs”

    As long as the subject is brought up –

    How can a woman like Cindy McCain become addicted and steal narcotics from a non-profit and never serve a day in jail?

    The answer to both questions is “money”

  15. NickDixon says:

    I note that several find a need to attack the letter writer, regardless of the content of his letter.

    I’m guessing that “principles before personality” is not a well known phrase in this arena.

  16. The answer to both questions is “money”

    ding, ding, ding, ding…..we have a winner!

  17. nwcolorist says:

    Let’s keep in mind that sports and physical education were an important part of the classical systems of Greece and Rome. Our current educational system is based on the classical model.

    IMO, balance is the key.

  18. aislander says:

    I can’t help but have a little fun with F.Lamo’s earnest toolishness, but have yuh read any of, say, xring’s comments, which are obviously meant to be taken seriously? His Harry Reid-like personal attacks festoon this board like so many mis-aimed arrows…

  19. nwc – there is a huge difference between physical education and big-time college football

  20. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Smith concludes that the function of football was(is) to distract students from the realization that they are being cheated from a quality education.

    bB, please tell me you don’t really believe this crap.

    So… little Johnny flunked out of college and is now camping at his local OWS tent city because he watched too much football as a result of poor tutelage from grad assistants who were standing-in for professors who couldn’t be bothered with teaching?

    LOL, must be true – rolls right off the tongue.

  21. ThinkerDem says:

    Let me make it simple for you folks who are stomping all over the writer: When any organization or program and those who run/manage it is raised to a such cultish level of veneration that criminals like Sandusky are protected for the “good of the institution”, that is abhorrent–yes, even when it is a church, like the Roman Catholic Church, or slpinter Mormon groups that serve up young girls to older men who cloak their lechery in “faith”! There are many universities that worship at the shrine of the goalpost, and I would not be surprised at all to hear of criminal coverups done to protect their football programs.

  22. aislander says:

    Wow: talk about an oxymoron…

  23. So tell me Vox – what is your thesis why colleges went into semi-pro sports? How do sports serve their mission?

  24. nwcolorist says:

    bB, I’m aware of the difference between physical education and college sports. That’s why I said balance is important.

    And BTW, where is the evidence that college sports is damaging to higher education.

  25. And remember vox, in the service of football many colleges introduced remedial classes for athletes who couldn’t meet the minimum entry standard and many (most?) “student-athletes” don’t graduate.

  26. nwc – lowered entry standards, additional resources spent on remedial education…..there are two examples.

  27. And then there are those pesky student riots……

  28. nwcolorist says:

    The lower entry requirements and remedial education have more to do with the failure of the public schools than sports.

    Again, where is the actual evidence that college sports have any negative impact on higher education?

    In a large university like UW, just what percentage of the students do you think are caught up with the Husky football. I would guess maybe 25 -30% maximum.

    This issue is being exaggerated by Mr. LaMotte

  29. Dave98373 says:

    I don’t know how you connect religon to PSU. Focus on the conduct of the perverted.

  30. tet – what, exactly, does your very long post have to do with football, student riots or child rape?

    Opposing health care means you oppose Obama

    I didn’t realize that being a Christian Scientist means you oppose the President.

  31. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    bB, I think you know that anyone with enough time to persist could find a theory, or develop a metric to link dog doo-doo to artistic achievement – or anything to anything, for that matter. And I find it interesting that you had to go back 21 years to find an unproven theory linking college football to the end of the era of classic higher education. Keep your eye on that shiny object, bB.

    So tell me Vox – what is your thesis why colleges went into semi-pro sports?

    That would be your slightly overwrought theory, bB. As a well-known contributor, here, once said I am not your research monkey – prove it yourself.

  32. vox – I shared with you the conclusion arrived by a respected historian.

    You have misinterpreted it – Smith stated that big time sports were brought into academia to distract students from the FACT that colleges had switched their emphasis from the classic Liberal Arts approach where the primary role of the faculty was teaching to the current Research model where teaching takes away from what the faculty are actually expected to do. He did not state that football is the cause of this, merely a method – like ancient Rome’s bread and circus strategy – to obscure the fact.

    Now, whether or not one believes that the current Research system (which has trickled down the state Land Grant colleges that originally had the charter to be teachers’ colleges) is better than the original small, highly selective, private, denominational, Liberal Arts model is open for debate, but Smith’s dates are correct – football came to college soon after research became a priority.

  33. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    And remember vox, in the service of football many colleges introduced remedial classes for athletes who couldn’t meet the minimum entry standard and many (most?) “student-athletes” don’t graduate.
    … lowered entry standards, additional resources spent on remedial education…..there are two examples

    Can’t speak for “many colleges”, so let’s just take as an example, the university I happen to know a bit about; the University of Washington. The following are admittance categories for all student athletes at the UW:

    Newly admitted student-athletes will fall into one of three admission categories:
    1. Routine admission
    2. Priority admission
    3. Special admission

    Up to 100 new freshmen and transfer student athletes from the ‘priority’ and ‘special’
    categories may be enrolled over the course of an academic year. (See Addendum 2 for
    policy criteria governing international student-athletes.)

    1) Routine Admission
    Routinely admitted freshmen and transfer athletes are those admitted without
    consideration of their recruited student-athlete (RSA) status. The category includes
    RSAs who apply late, but are routinely admissible. Late applicants are not included in
    the 100 spaces allocated for priority and special admission athletes.

    2) Priority Admission
    Recruited student-athletes considered for priority admission have Higher Education
    Coordinating Board Admission Index (AI) numbers of 28 or higher, have at least an 80%
    or greater chance of achieving at least 2.00 GPA by the end of their first academic year at
    the University, and are not regularly admissible based on comprehensive review results.
    This category also includes students with up to one year’s deficiency in the social
    sciences. Applicants eligible for priority admission must, however, satisfy the
    University’s mathematics and foreign language core requirements for admission.
    The Admission and Graduation Sub-Committee shall be provided at the end of each
    academic year with progress and retention reports for all ‘priority students’.

    3) Special Admission
    Freshmen recruited with an academic profile which predicts less than an 80% probability
    of attaining a freshman-year GPA of at least 2.0 (currently represented by an AI number
    below 28), recruited transfers with GPAs below 2.30, and applicants with mathematics or
    foreign language core deficiencies will be considered ‘special admits’. The total number
    of admissions from this category shall be limited to 30 students per academic year.


    You will note that a maximum of 100 student athletes are admitted each year from the Priority and Special categories, with a maximum of 30 from the Special category. This out of a total enrollment of nearly 45,000. And they are not limited to the football example you cite.

    Without bothering to go into race, gender, class, background, etc, I would simply like to know what your objections are, to exposing these 100 kids, per year, to one of the finest educational opportunities in the world? Remember, these kids would have zero chance of enrolling without student athlete status.

    And considering the miniscule percentage we are talking about here, I think your claim of wasted resources is specious – especially given the amount of non-student athletes also required to take remedial courses at the collegiate level.

    What happened at PSU is tragic and unacceptable – regardless of whether it occurred in the athletic department, or the mathematics department. But to try to bring up this age-old elitist faculty vs college athletics argument – especially in a day and age when so much more money is going to academia – is extremely lame.

  34. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    … Smith’s dates are correct – football came to college soon after research became a priority.

    Again, speaking of one university of which I am most familiar with academics and athletics:

    Husky football was initiated as an official intercollegiate activity of the UW pre-20th century. The modern Husky stadium (phase one) originally opened for the 1920 season, with a seating capacity of 30,000 – this when the population of this state was considerably smaller. One could easily argue that the current capacity of 72,000 is vastly under-seated when compared on a proportional basis of population, present day to 1920. I don’t think this is an unusually early beginning to college football at a majority of colleges and universities across the land.

    Heck Edmunson Pavilion opened seven years later in 1927, seating 7900 (today’s capacity is 10,000). It is clear that college athletics were a pretty big deal even back then.

    So… in your and Mr. Smith’s opinion, this charade to which you subscribe began in the early 20th century… right?

  35. Football is a show that people pay to watch, and so it brings money to the school. Yes, it is a cult to a few, but so is anything, really, and flamotte paints with a broad brush. Most people, football fans or not, see the idiots at Penn State for what they are.

  36. citizen65 says:

    One person has allegedly commited several crimes. I believe our society says a person is innocent until proven guilty (of course I could be wrong). Some people have already decided a person who was aware of the alleged crime is already guilty. Makes you think. If you are powerful, you are guilty unless proven innocent. Sounds a bit like Mr. Cain’s situation. Of course the alleged crimes by the person that actually commited the alleged crimes are horrible. Still makes you think.

  37. Cult-like conduct can be found in lots of places: music (what would you call the Jerry Garcia groupies?); The kingdom of celebrity in Hollywood (how embarassing is this as representatative of America?);religion (of course); environmentalism (Green Peace warrirors!). If child abuse is being covered up in any “community” that community has lost its way. It so happens this debacle shines a light on college sports. That doesn’t make college sports in general evil.

  38. aislander says:

    The exemplars of cult-like behavior are the true believer at the various occupy camps. The speak and repeat thing is just plain creepy, as are the waggling fingers. It calls to mind a mob of zombies slavering bile and groaning, “We are the ninety-nine; we are the ninety-nine…”

  39. The speak and repeat thing is just plain creepy, as are the waggling fingers.

    Once again….the protestors utilized creative problem solving to deal with the various municipalities’ attempts to subvert freedom of speech and assembly through noise ordinances that prevent the groups from having amplification. By repeating what a speaker has said it is amplified by multiple voices. The finger wiggling thing is, again, a way of communicating with a large group without the aid of technology.

    What strikes me as creepy cultishness is how you are repeating almost verbatim what I have already read on various “conservative” blogs….

  40. what’s football?

  41. football? Yeeeesh….sounds like a severe, crippling, orthopedic condition that causes a limp!

  42. ….or gives a bizarre satisfaction to those who find pleasure in knuckle dragging neanderthals!

  43. The NCAA delivered some encouraging off-the-field news for major-college football Wednesday: Player graduation rates improved by three points in the past year, to an all-time high of 69%.

    The rate for black players, a longtime concern, jumped five points to 61% of those who entered school in 2003, the association’s latest study showed.

    But the annual academic scorecard was less flattering to many of the sport’s top-tier programs. Seven of the top 10 — including No. 1 Auburn, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Boise State — and 16 of the top 25 in the current Bowl Championship Series standings fell beneath the sport’s four-year average. Oklahoma and Arizona graduated fewer than half of their players.

    The numbers also were low in the other marquee college sport, men’s basketball, where three of last season’s eight NCAA regional finalists and more than one in five programs overall had four-year rates beneath 50%.

    Those multi-year averages count players who arrived on campus from 2000-2003, giving them six years to earn degrees.

    Props out the the NCAA for increasing the requirement upon student-athletes actually getting an education (unfortunately much of the onus is put upon faculty who have to sign-off every week on atheletes’ progress in classes).

    But…it isn’t surprising that the top tier sports colleges don’t fare as well.

  44. And….six years to earn a four year degree isn’t exactly efficient.

  45. Given what I have observed about college graduates in recent years, bragging on completing a degree program is…well, in many cases nothing to brag about. Seriously, I am sometimes shocked by the lack of skills among college grads as well as the lack of critical thinking. The standards seem to have gone down gradually over the years to an abysmal level, and of course there’s the party line indoctrination issue that has become the norm in college.

  46. aislander says:

    I haven’t visited any conservative blogs, beerBoy. Those are my own disparaging comments…

    (I should have written “…as IS the finger waggling…”)

  47. yah sure, ya betcha!

  48. aislander says:

    You seem to visit conservative sites MUCH more often than I do, beerBoy, but just as you appear to want to keep tabs on the opposition, so do I. Truth to tell, I don’t need anyone to point out the creepiness extant at LRV venues…

  49. ai – I regularly visit a Libertarian site – not to check up on the opposition – but because I agree with some of what they have to say.

  50. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    bB, even if you wanted to cherry-pick top-tier football programs to make your point, you should remember that fully 79% of all student athletes graduate, and even the low marks cited by your link (and in the actual NCAA report it links) are not far off the national graduation rate average for all 4-year colleges of 57.2%.


    And, if fact the NCAA grad rate average for all football players, and all basketball players is higher than the grad rate average for all 4-year institutions, combined – not to mention 2-year.

    You could argue this proves the charade, but otherwise you are throwing the baby out with the bath when you bring up graduation rates.

  51. Amen!

  52. Vox – today it seems to be We The Corporations.
    Or in recent street slang – We the 1%.

  53. aislander says:

    So…xring…do you think “street slang” is focus grouped–as, I am sure, the “99%/1%” has been? Now WHO likes to focus group stuff? Answer: NOT (in this case) Frank Luntz…

  54. It’s not just the football program, University and not-for-profit org that have been supporting Sandusky over the victims:

    Ex Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of molesting and raping numerous young boys, has been let out of jail on a 100,000 dollar unsecured bail by a judge who volunteered with Second Mile, the foundation Sandusky founded.

    This sick excuse for a ruling also let Sandusky out of jail with no ankle device to monitor his movements.

    Essentially, a man accused of child rape has been let out of jail on absolutely unheard of stipulations for such a heinous crime by a judge who worked directly with the mans “charity.”

  55. NickDixon says:

    did anyone notice that kids were raped?

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