by Walter Brasch
The $50 million Burton Family Football Complex at the University of Connecticut may be nameless soon. Robert G. Burton, who had donated about $3 million to help fund the stadium, wants his money back and his family’s name erased from UConn football. He also informed UConn he will cancel his $50,000 a season suite in the stadium.
What upset Burton, who had donated about $7 million to UConn, mostly for its football program, was that the selection committee for a new football coach didn’t take his suggestion. Not long after Burton’s tirade, the chairman of the Board of Trustees reached out to “mend fences” to keep money where it belongs—in the football program.
While athletics drives many universities, a few consider sports as supplemental to the academic mission. I believe this is how a conversation went at one college located somewhere in America, where the accreditors were questioning the president.
“How did your football team do this year?” asked the chairman of the accrediting team.
“We were 3-and-6, and very proud of our team,” said a beaming president.
“This is serious. What steps have you taken to replace your coach?”
“We hadn’t thought about it,” said the president, mystified by the inquiry. “Coach Samuels is one of the nation’s most respected organic chemists, teaches a full load of courses, then works out the team an hour or two in the evenings.”
“An hour or two?” said the accreditor, mockingly. “No wonder your school has such a dismal record! Most colleges have twice-a-day drills for two or three hours at a time. The students don’t even go to class in the Fall. Your coaching staff must be lazy.”
“We have only two assistant coaches. One teaches sociology, the other is a speech pathologist.”
“Most colleges have a dozen coaches,” said the accreditor. “How can you not have assistant coaches for ends, backs, and nose guards?”
“We have a good staff in our anatomy and physiology labs,” said the president, adding that with additional assistant directors in Music and Theatre, the college produces some professional-class musical comedies.
“Who cares? How many of your athletes went on to professional NFL careers?” The president diverted the question, and excitedly told the accreditor about alumni who went into the creative arts, others who are leaders in social work and environmental science, and of graduates who are among the nation’s leaders in almost every field of scientific research.
“Business!” roared the Chairman. “How many of your graduates are in high paying business jobs!”
The president thought hard, but could think of only three of his recent graduates who went into corporate business, and then only because they couldn’t get any other job. “Of course,” said the president, “a few dozen of our graduates enter law and med school every year.”
The accreditor’s face finally lit up. “Oh, so you do have wealthy alumni! Why didn’t you say so!”
The president shook his head. “Most of our alumni lawyers are into consumer law, and our med school graduates usually become family physicians or work with the poor.”
“Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.” Also not a good sign was the social atmosphere on campus. “I didn’t see any fraternity or sorority houses on campus. In fact, hardly anyone even knows where the nightly parties are.”
“I guess that isn’t helping our cause for reaccreditation, is it?” asked the president. He didn’t have to ask since the accreditor was now writing furiously.
“Your building fund? Any new recreation or student union buildings?”
“We’re planning a new building to house our community service programs.” The accreditor hardly looked up he was so disgusted. “We had two Rhodes Scholars and one Danforth fellowship last year! One of our profs just won a Pulitzer. Ninety percent of our faculty hold the doctorate!”
“Any of them all-Americans?”
“Our Intercollegiate Debate Team was national champion last year! The Student Social Welfare Club led the fight against conversion of apartments into condos!”
“Redeem yourself with committees,” shouted the accreditor. “Do you have more committees than scholarships?”
“We believe most committees are wastes of time that encourage their members to act in irrational and arrogant manners.”
The accreditor’s aide calmed him down long enough so he could ask a final question. “How much of your budget is spent on sending your administrators and faculty to phony academic conferences to pat each other’s behinds?”
“None,” wept the president, “most of our budget keeps students and faculty current in their fields.”
The accreditor slammed his notebook shut and walked away. The president called after him, “When will we know whether we have been reaccredited?”
The accreditor stopped a moment, turned around, and shouted back, “When you become a real educational institution.”
[You may contact Walter Brasch, recently paroled from a long term confinement as a university professor, at email@example.com]