Fewer people know the names of the recent Nobel laureates than the starting quarterbacks for Division I college teams. To find out why, I went to Green Valley College where the regional chief accreditor, unable to find a tailgate party, was grilling the president.
“How’s your football team doing this season?” was the first question.
“Our football team?” asked the president.
“Yes, your football team. The most important part of any major college.”
“We’re 1-and-5 and very proud of our team,” said a beaming president, noting the players had the fewest penalties of any team in the conference.
“You have a full allotment of NCAA scholarships and you’re still only 1 and 5?”
“We diverted our athletic scholarships to academic scholarships.”
“This is serious. I assume you’re planning to replace your coach.”
“We hadn’t thought about it,” said the president, mystified by the inquiry. “Coach Samuels is one of the nation’s most respected environmental physicists, teaches a full load of courses, and then works out the team an hour or two in the evenings.”
“An hour or two?” said the accreditor, mockingly. “No wonder your school has such a dismal record! Most colleges have twice-a-day drills for two or three hours at a time, and then spend the rest of the day in the weights room or watching game films. The students don’t even go to class in the Fall. Your coaching staff must be lazy not to work your athletes more.”
“We only have two assistant coaches. One teaches sociology, the other is an anthropologist.”
“Most colleges have a dozen coaches,” said the accreditor. “How can you not have assistant coaches for ends, backs, and nose guards?”
“We have a good staff in our anatomy and physiology labs,” said the president, adding that with additional assistant directors in Music and Theatre, the college produces professional-class musical comedies.
“Who cares? How many of your athletes went on to professional NFL careers?” The president beamed, and excitedly told the accreditor about alumni who went into the creative arts, others who are leaders in social work and environmental science, and of graduates who are among the nation’s leaders in almost every field of scientific research.
“Business!” roared the Chairman. “How many of your graduates are in high paying corporate jobs!”
The president thought hard, but could think of only a half dozen of his recent graduates who went into corporate business, and then only because they couldn’t get any other job. “Of course,” said the president, “a few dozen of our graduates enter law and med school every year.”
The accreditor’s face finally lit up. “Oh, so you do have wealthy alumni! Why didn’t you say so!”
The president shook his head. “Most of our alumni lawyers are into consumer law, and our med school graduates usually become family physicians or work with the poor.”
“Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.” Also not a good sign was the social atmosphere on campus. “I didn’t see fraternity or sorority houses on campus. In fact, hardly anyone even knows where the nightly parties are.”
“I guess that isn’t helping our cause for reaccreditation, is it?” asked the president. He didn’t have to ask since the accreditor was now writing furiously. “Your building fund? Any new recreation or student union buildings?”
“We’re planning a new building to house our community service programs.” The accreditor hardly looked up he was so disgusted. “The average SAT of incoming freshmen is 1200,” blurted the sweating president. “We had two Rhodes Scholars and one Danforth fellowship last year! One of our profs just won a Pulitzer. Ninety percent of our faculty hold the doctorate!”
“Any of them All-Americans?”
“Our Debate Team won the national championship last year! The Student Social Welfare Club led the fight against conversion of apartments into condos!”
“Redeem yourself with committees,” shouted the accreditor. “Do you have more committees than scholarships?”
“We believe most committees are wastes of time that encourage their members to be arrogant and act irrationally.”
The accreditor’s aide calmed him down long enough so he could ask a final question. “How much of your budget is spent on sending your administrators and faculty to phony academic conferences to schmooze and pat each other’s behinds?”
“None,” wept the president, “our budget usually goes to improving instructional supplies to keep our students and faculty current in their fields.”
The accreditor slammed his notebook shut and walked away. The president called after him, “When will we know whether we have been reaccredited?”
The accreditor stopped a moment, turned around, and shouted, “When you become a real educational institution.”
Walter Brasch is author of Fracking Pennsylvania, Sinking the Ship of State, and several other books.