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posted by King Minos in In The News

"Control" Athletics? Higher Education At Risk!?

January 25, 2013

The university’s athletic interests) are increasingly dominated nationally by media and entertainment organizations and their values. We have worked hard to improve the balance, but it is a constant battle,” said Adams, who steps down as UGA president June 30. “The academic establishment has to control the athletic establishment, not the other way around. Last year’s troubling news out of Penn State made that quite clear.”

http://onlineathens.com/uga/2013-01-24/control-athletics-adams-says-fina...

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Well ... No doubt Adams was preaching to the choir in this annual "State of the University Address" given to well-connected administrators, staffers, and the faculty! Truthfully, his tenure has apparently improved the University mainly by the steps taken to "develop" the state, national and international reputation of U.GA. Of course, improving the reputation has meant funneling ever-larger sums of education dollars into various and sundry internal and external public relations operations; it has meant, as well, re-prioritizing spending away from faculty compensation and in favor of big-time sports programs; building projects; and, corporate compensation and incentives for major UGA administrators and faculty. Finally, and most importantly, let's not forget the two most central developments associated with an improved UGA and University System, generally: 1. A massive state, national and global credit expansion that threw-off ever higher proceeds successfully "captured" by UGA and other colleges and universities; 2. A passive, waxed-fruit Board of Regents and other "heavies" who allowed key visionaries within the System to take more risks and head the system into new but promising and risky ventures and whims;

With regards to the relations between collegiate sports and the original mission of higher education (education), one need not for a second imagine this relationship is defined by those appointed to manage higher education in GA; rather, this relationship is completely and ALWAYS defined by those rare, wise appointees who make up the USG policy-making board AKA "The Board of Regents."

No doubt, MFA suffered the equivalent of a Presidential "near-death" experience when he failed to re-appoint long-time Athletic Director Vince Dooley to another term; importantly, however, it was the Board of Regents who STOPPED the effort, then, to get rid of the college President! Without their help and support, MFA would have had a rather short tenure!

Of course, one might argue UGA, then, would have seen a loss of reputation if not formal accreditation if it appeared the "sports side" of things was running the show! Clearly, this may have been the thinking among the Regents, some political leaders-in-the-know, and a handful of academics and sports-hating liberals around the state!

On the other hand, let's be clear about one thing: In almost every aspect of their operations, the GAA is denoted as superior to the formal academic side of the University. This was true for a long time before MFA, Knapp, and one or two more university leaders; and it is as true, today, if not more so, than ever before in USG history! The Board of Regents, finally, has set "athletics" and many other interests above and before the more traditional role of higher education in GA; and despite MFA's parting shots, there is virtually NO HINT, the Regent's have any intention of clearing the air and recommitting resources towards more traditional ends.

Of course, in the beginning, the reason for sports was as an interesting, positive diversion for students attending the University; historically, for instance, UGA has always fielded competitive sports teams; even when "coaches" were unpaid faculty volunteers and all team players were "recruited" from the real student body!

In fact, even IF the GAA, for instance, were re-attached, formally, to UGA, likely the reputation and performance of sports teams would not diminish! Finally, the inordinate status of UGA football, today, is but one example of countless ways in which the education dollar -- taxpayer funds -- at UGA and around the USG are now diverted into increasingly disparate, privatized and unique efforts, far afield, from the traditional role of higher education in GA, and elsewhere.

THEN, instead of imagining "hedonistic football programs" or the "Bulldawg Nation" as credible threats to higher education in GA, the public need know only one thing: The biggest threat to higher education is the Board of Regents! Along every twist and turn, they have given the final "OK" that has allowed ALL things -- good and bad -- that have taken place! Some would argue, further, the fault lies with the governors who appointed them; or that the fault lies with elected state leaders charged with overseeing the University system in their roles as state lawmakers. All of that, partly, is true!

Football then, to the extent if threatens more traditional views and practices within higher education, is but one of many examples of ideas and attitudes whittling away at traditional educational values and sometimes threatening -- like at Penn. State -- to bring the entire system to its knees!

As noted, other important threats to higher education include, dishonest accounting of funding and spending activities. Examples, here, would include saying raises and bonuses for athletic officials do not negate from University monies available for the faculty and staff. When University leaders say they pay for "lobbying expenses" with private funds, they are not telling the truth. And the long-running "shell game" accounting that buttresses such public statements and private agendas and allows, for instance, for state lawmakers to be told that spending on building projects or other special initiatives do not "take away" monies available for faculty pay and more traditional expenses ... is but the latest and greatest load of hogwash!

Then, the real threat to higher eduction in GA and other states originates with the Board of Regents, or their equivalent. They have backed-up leaders in their risk-taking; accounting schemes; and campaigns of lies, half-truths, etc., necessary to "explain" things to the general public and elected leaders who do not know any better! The Regents -- all while believing they are leading the system to the "promised land" of higher education -- are the ones led, and cajoled, into placing the entire system at risk!

***

Hey, wait a minute? I thought "big-time" sports programs were the real credible threats to higher education! Shouldn't the outgoing leader of UGA acknowledge this, and hint of further, err, "reforms" to address the problem?

Um, it is like this. The Regents wished to give the GAA the berth it has within the state's system of higher education. It was THEIR wish to pay the head coach a gazillion dollars and to pay all the assistant coaches a 1/2 gazillion dollars!

The Regents also WISHED to spend more on corporate-type pay and incentives for higher ed leaders and administrators; retention bonuses and thank you bonuses; and let's not forget the monies paid to Stephen Portch as a "thank you" for "not working here anymore!" They ALSO wanted to spend more money on building programs and LESS money on faculty and staff pay!

They wanted to spend virtually UNLIMITED funds on battalions of PR chiefs and organizations; on lobbying state leaders to get even more money (to lobby with);

In HIGHER EDUCATION in GA, despite the occasional self-serving protests, our leaders in academia and on the Board of Regents are doing exactly what they wish to do and have been doing so for a long time! Maybe football and the GAA were inordinate beneficiaries of their governance, but don't blame the football nation for that!

BLAME the Regents, individually, and as a group! And blame the governors who appointed them; and state elected leaders who were supposed to be monitoring the higher education system; and protecting it from conmen, grifters, interlopers, and excessive risk ...!

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