Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

Academics vs. the business of sports

May 27, 2009

By David Farside

Gov. Jim Gibbons has every agency in the state drawing lines in the political sand protecting their own territory. Revenue shortfalls and his budget cuts have forced educators to either cut programs altogether or reduce existing ones to the “bare bone.”

Last Wednesday at a town hall meeting, Washoe County School District Superintendent Paul Dugan said reductions should not affect teacher salaries but he did offer some alternatives which probably should have been implemented even before the budget crisis.

Dugan is proposing to cut $12 million by freezing vacant positions, probably in what management always labels as “non-essential.” He is also rescheduling the purchase of updated textbooks.

I never could understand why we need to update textbooks to teach elementary school students how to read, write and multiply fractions.

Instead of buying new updated textbooks, maybe we should go back in time and reprint the school books and primers read under the soft glow of candlelight by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams. The old textbooks studied by Galileo, DaVinci, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein might also provide some good basic instruction.

I have to wonder how ancient man built the pyramids of Egypt or modern man harnessed electricity and nuclear energy using pre-2009 elementary school textbooks

Focusing on academics, Dugan suggested a reduction in the holy grail of interscholastic sports by scheduling fewer sporting events and reducing the number of officials employed by the district. However the arts, music and programs for the gifted and talented students will remain in place. And that’s the way it should be.

The basic high school gym class has gradually evolved into the arena of competitive sports and high finance. Beginning in 1859, Worcester Massachusetts High School initiated interscholastic sports. They formed a baseball team and even recruited non-students to join their team forcing school administrators to take control and form their own “students only” athletic department.

In the early 20th century, liberal progressive educators decided high school sports had a useful purpose, providing a social and educational benefit for high school students. Since then, revenue that would normally be used for academics, were gradually siphoned into the hands of aggressive athletic department heads and coaches.

Ten years later, on November 6, 1869 the first intercollegiate football game was played. Rutgers and Princeton butted heads at a college field in New Brunswick, New Jersey before a crowd of almost 100 people. The following year, Columbia joined them and within a few more years most colleges and universities in the east had their own athletic department and competing football teams.

Some arguments for competitive sports have been that sports builds strong bodies, develops character and teaches students how to deal with the pitfalls of life. These same qualities, plus a professional future can be achieved, without an athletic department, by students with a good grade point average and a college degree. Now that we are in an economic crisis, maybe the taxpayers’ money will be spent on more academics and less social playtime for “wanna-be” members of the hall of fame.

But Dugan is not the only administrator focusing on academics at the expense of athletic departments. University of Nevada, Reno President Milton Glick publicly criticized the rising salaries of college coaches in a time when “higher education funds have shrunk.”

Glick pointed out that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari is the highest paid coach in the country, receiving almost $4 million a year. Glick said “that’s wrong.” He’s right!

Glick, who earns $416,000 annually , said he would never pay a coach over $1 million a year. Although there are a few coaches making over $3 million a year, Mark Fox was earning $545,909 plus some benefits before he quit the university and his basketball team — for that million dollar paycheck at Georgia.

Responding to Gov. Gibbons plan to cut 50 percent in the university academic funding while still funding and in some cases even increasing the budget for intercollegiate sports, Glick had a few words for our Republican head of state.

He said it would be “unconscionable” to cut academics and not athletic departments. Admitting athletic programs are important, he noted they are not as valuable as a quality education.

Compared to coaches salaries, President Barack Obama’s salary is $400,000 a year and Joe Biden’s salary is $221,000 annually. U.S. senators and members of the house of representatives earn about $165,000 a year plus benefits and expenses. Majority and minority leaders earn approximately 30 percent more. Maybe, they should have been coaches.

The question is why are college coaches usually the highest paid state employees in almost every state?

Why do they have to make more than the president and vice president of the United States?

Why are athletic departments and sports facilities competing with academics for taxpayers money?

The answer is simple. College sports is a business and has nothing to do with academics.

If sports generate enough revenue to pay for male and female athletes to compete and get a college education that’s fine. However, the taxpayer shouldn’t have to subsidize their athletic programs.

If large universities have successful sports programs and contribute to the academics of the school that’s fine, too. But either way, the business of sports should not be included in the curriculum of the academic world. Sports and academics should function on their own merits.

As Gov. Gibbons looks to trim the budget for education, maybe he should consider that university presidents should not be earning more than vice president and no coach should earn more than the president of the United States.