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Thursday, April 06, 2017

Princeton's Bubble

No, Princeton was not a bubble team for either the NCAA men's or women's basketball tournament.  The Ivy winner gets in and, except for the season for last when Princeton got in as an at-large bid, no one else from the Ivies gets in.

And, no, the Ivies don't have an "admissions" bubble.  It's not as if their single-digit acceptance rates (for at least half the schools) will swell to the low twenties because people stop applying to places like Princeton.  So far as anyone can tell, the Ivies are in and will be in as long as in is in, there is an in and they have tons of money.

The bubble can best be explained in this article.  Princeton built Princeton Stadium oh so many years ago (about 20 by my count), and then a wealthy alum named Powers gave enough money to name the football field after him.  Princeton apparently has tried to persuade wealthy alums to give sufficient funds to name the stadium after them, but no one has anted up (in contrast, Penn's stadium is named after its most famous community member, Benjamin Franklin.  Perhaps Princeton should name the stadium after one of its most famous community members -- Albert Einstein). 

What the development office at Princeton did do was to persuade some wealthy alum to donate $3.5 million to put a bubble over Powers Field during the cold-weather months so that various athletic teams can avail themselves of the surface.  You heard right -- $3.5 million for a bubble over a field.  This for a school that has some pretty outstanding athletic facilities already. 

The bubble?  Well, are Princeton's fundamental needs so taken care of that they can luxuriate in raising funds to put a bubble over the football field for $3.5 million dollars.  Sure, we know the game -- if the alum wants to give money to sports, there's no use asking him to endow a chair or to provide scholarship monies for deserving students.  The development office tries to match up desires of alums with needs of the school. 

But a bubble?  There are so many schools in so many communities that could put that same $3.5 million to great use.  Take Mercer County Community College several miles away, an excellent community college that serves a very broad part of the Princeton area.  Imagine what MCCC could do with $3.5 million.  It's hard to say that they would spend it on a bubble for their fields; they wouldn't.  And with global warming, a bubble isn't as needed as it might have been 40 years ago.

There are times that I don't get the Ivies.  I like sports, but to me they focus too much of their attention to playing on the fringes of Division I, trying to win certain win percentage trophies and get their mentions in national publications, all the while donating an extraordinary percentage of their spots to athletes, a much higher percentage than any of the schools that compete at the highest levels of Division I.  And for what purpose?  To mollify alums who keep them rolling in the dough that the sports they played will continue to be prioritized?  To build better people with better endurance and character who will make the world a better place?  Can anyone come close to proving that?  And do the student-athletes have qualifications as good as some of the brightest minds that might opt away from schools like this because they have zero interest in sports?  Might it be better to do away with intercollegiate participation totally and instead focus on intramural competitions that take less time but also could drive school spirit?  Questions abound.

Back to the bubble.  It seems that Princeton's development office has a ton of time on its hands and has obtained targeted gifts for Princeton's most important projects if it had the time to raise $3.5 million for a bubble.  A bubble for a football field. 



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