Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recruiting Wars... a question of priorities

Boy does this story take me back to the days when, as a highly-touted "blue chip" high school forestry prospect, several forestry schools were recruiting me for my 4.4 second dash through a dichotomous key and my 800 lb. peavey roll

My dad told University of Minnesota representatives that, "it was going to take more than a scholarship" to get me to wear maroon and gold, and that the forestry school dean was, "going to have to put a smile on his  face*."

I won't go into the sordid details here, but let's just say that money changed hands and leave it at that.  I wouldn't want the U of M to have to vacate the Midwestern Foresters Conclave victories it earned during that time.

My point - and I do have one - is about priorities.  I was no prize addition to anyone's forestry school.  But there are young men and women who are prizes - who could become the next Leopold, the next Carson, the next Goodall.  There are brilliant young people who find it more and more difficult to pay for the education that would allow them to make an impact, to literally change the world.

Meanwhile, if you can throw a football or shoot a basketball you can (allegedly) command a 6 figure income... as a college student getting a free education!!  The argument has always been that having highly ranked basketball and football teams a) carries the financial water for all of the other sports, b) puts alumnae in a more giving mood.  Well, as for a), according to USA Today only 14 universities had self supporting athletics programs in 2009.  Yes the high profile sports turned a profit, but not enough of a profit to support the non-revenue sports (that, among other things, attract accomplished young people actually interested in academics in addition to athletics).  As for b), shame on alumni who make their giving contingent upon touchdowns and three pointers.

Ask yourself this:  when is that last time you placed your faith in an athlete or a team and weren't disappointed - by scandal, by lack of effort, by lack of professionalism... but just plain stupidity?

Universities that somehow couldn't maintain the hybrid oak trials of Helge Ness, or the long term forest research of others, can somehow field money losing football programs with national pretensions.

As for me, from here on out I'm putting my faith in oaks... and the heroes who plant and nurture them.

* Anyone who knows my dad knows what a fundamentally kind person he is, and therefore realizes how hilarious the idea of him shaking down college recruiters actually is.  Turns out the Univ of Minnesota did put a smile on his face - by taking me off his hands just for the cost of tuition!

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