SportsProf

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Heavens To Betsy

Or, actually, goodbye Betsy.

Betsy Hoffman, that is, the now-former President of the University of Colorado. I had blogged on the topic last June, after all of the awful information came out about the football program at Colorado and the Buffaloes' recruiting tactics. I thought at the time that President Hoffman was unaware or ill-informed or had turned a blind eye toward the situation. While I honestly hate to see anyone lose a job under any circumstances, I think that Colorado needed a new person running the show. There is just too much baggage in Boulder for Colorado, and the university needs a fresh start in this area and a new president in whom parents of teenagers can have ultimate confidence when they send their kids to college.

If any good comes out of this whole affair, it should be the following:

1. No team or person should become bigger than the institution of which it is a part. The Colorado football program shouldn't be bigger than the university and should be accountable up the reporting chain at the university. After all, the trustees and administrators run a school, not the boosters, the advertisers and coaches and kids who get the school publicity. Dave Arsenault has put once-woeful DIII Grinnell's hoops team on the map, and my guess is that while he's a celebrity there, in the proper context he's just one of many coaches at that wonderful small college. Which is as is should be. Temple now has a big problem because it has failed to reign John Chaney over the years; it's a similar problem to what Indiana had with Bob Knight. Hopefully, other schools with problems akin to Colorado's will clean up their acts as well.

2. The university administration runs the show. Period. That's a corollary of point 1, but this means that the kids who play revenue sports know that they are accountable and that they cannot get away with transgressions that the ordinary kid cannot. Privilege without accountability is a recipe for disaster, and all major colleges should understand that by now.

3. Anyone wanting to become a university president should make sure that the revenue-generating sports are accountable to the university administration and that they don't get a free pass as to conduct from board members, boosters or big alumni donors. This is absolutely critical. The U.S. is in need of better leaders, better teachers, better engineers, better mathematicians, better scientists and a better workforce in an ever-competitive world. While it's nice to have a good tailback, there is a glut of them in the NFL draft this year. A university president's mission has many parts to it, one of which is to help make the entire world a better place. A university, and its trustees, should keep on reminding themselves of that. And any candidate for university president should not have to compromise the integrity of the entire institution simply to win one more game and qualify for a BCS bowl.

4. University trustees should walk the talk as to running clean programs and not programs to which the university is beholden or of which the university community is afraid. The administration of the university runs the day-to-day operations, and my guess is that the long-term goals of a university are served by a president with a clear vision of the institution's future and not with one who seemingly shows up at sporting events and nowhere else with students. After all, no one wants his school to get the NCAA's death penalty or to become the punchline of a joke the way Colorado had become (Eli Manning had joked last year that he had fun on his recruiting visit there). The trustees owe their communities much more than a bowl appearance on New Year's weekend or a Sweet 16 slot.

Why? Because the average kid, the average alum, doesn't play on the teams, and because that person will much more appreciate learning a skill set and making connections than whether the football and hoops teams were successful while he was an undergrad. Sure, the teams' records are part of the overall experience, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

The be-all and end-all have been, and always should be, education.

After all, it's college sports we're referring to, with the word "college" coming first.

The sad part is, there are still a bunch of schools out there who need to remember that.

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