In response to COVID-19, if higher education is forced to stay focused on its mission and reduce its extravagant expenses on athletics, then it will be one of the few benefits to come out of this global catastrophe.Ahem. It could happen.
First was an announcement from the Ivy League, which became the first Division I conference to suspend football for the fall:
The presidents said in a statement that sports could not be played under campus-wide policies that include restrictions on student and staff travel, social distancing requirements and limits on group gatherings.Of course, Harvard and Yale are not the champs who win the ultimate prize.
“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk,” the statement read.
And then the Ivy on the west coast, Stanford, had more news:
Stanford will discontinue 11 of our varsity sports programs at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year: men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling.Yes, synchronized swimming. You read that correctly.
And you know well where you have watched synchronized swimming. In Hail, Caesar ;)
Ok, you perhaps have not watched that movie. But, surely in the summer Olympics. Yes?
In the US, universities are the prep schools for wannabe Olympians! And, Stanford is a leader in that:
USC topped the list at every Summer Games from 1928 through 1964 (tied with Cal in 1948). UCLA’s run went from 1968 through 2004. Stanford had the most in 2008, 2012 and 2016.Now, it does not mean that Stanford coaches only US athletes for the Olympics. Nope. Athletes come from all over the world to "study" at American universities so that they can get access to all kinds of personnel and infrastructure support. Remember the scene in Bend It Like Beckham where the young women celebrate getting the soccer scholarship to an American university?
This bizarre aspect of American higher education investing gazillions on athletics is truly an awful American Exceptionalism! I will quote this again:
In no other country’s university system, after all, does sports play anything like the central role it does in American academic life. Men do not go to Oxford to play cricket; the Sorbonne does not field a nationally celebrated soccer team. Even in the most sports-mad countries, sports is sports and education is education. That’s a better system.Will the novel coronavirus eventually lead American universities to a better system? I am not holding my breath on that!