Category Archives: Athletics

At a Silicon Valley community centre, Asian ping-pong parents are grooming children for Olympic glory

Patricia Leigh Brown:

Young people who were serious about table tennis used to have to make the trip to Beijing, Stockholm or Moscow to train with world-class coaches. Now they go no farther than the Silicon Valley suburb of Milpitas.
“I’m trying to become one of the greatest players in the nation,” Srivatsav Tangirala, 14, says matter-of-factly between drills at the huge new table tennis facility in the suburb. He and three dozen players, some as young as five, sprint sideways along the edge of the tables, 45 times in a row, perfecting their footwork.
“Lean forward, lean, lean, lean, lean,” their coach implores.
This is the largest training programme for youths in the country, run by the India Community Centre in a region that is 60 per cent Asian. Here, ping-pong parents who grew up with the sport in Sichuan province or Hyderabad are the new soccer mums and Little League dads.

Texas QB Colt McCoy keeps close ties to tiny high school home despite family moving on

Schuyler Dixon:

They call this McCoy Country – or TuscolTa, with a Texas Longhorn “T” dropped in for good measure.
This tiny West Texas outpost is home to quarterback Colt McCoy. It doesn’t matter that he’s getting ready to lead his second-ranked Longhorns against No. 1 Alabama for the national title, or that his dad (a coach) moved the family for another job about the same time he left for Austin nearly five years ago.
“I don’t go back probably as much as I should, but when I do I really enjoy it,” McCoy said Sunday in Newport Beach, Calif., where the Longhorns are based this week. “There’s a lot of down-to-earth people. They really keep in touch with me. They support me. That really is pretty neat.
“I wouldn’t change where I came from at all.”
It’s evident his hometown loves McCoy right back.

Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2009‐10 Bowl‐bound College Football Teams – Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters

Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports [182K PDF]:

Overall academic progress continued while the gap between white and African‐American football student‐athletes increased slightly for the 67* Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools (formerly known as Division I‐A schools) playing in this year’s college football bowl games according to a study released today by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.
Richard Lapchick, the Director of TIDES and the primary author of the study Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2009‐10 Bowl‐bound College Football Teams – Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters, noted that, “The academic success of big time college student‐athletes that grew continuously under the leadership of the late Dr. Myles Brand continued this year and will be part of his legacy. The new study shows additional progress and reinforces the success of Dr. Brand’s academic reform package. This year, 91 percent (61 of the 67 schools), the same as in the 2008‐09 report and up from 88 percent in the 2007‐08 report, had at least a 50 percent graduation rate for their football teams; approximately 90 percent of the teams received a score of more than 925 on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) versus 88 percent in the 2008‐09 report.”
The NCAA created the APR in 2004 as part of an academic reform package designed to more accurately measure student‐athlete’s academic success as well as improve graduation rates at member institutions.
Lapchick added that, “In spite of the good news, the study showed that the disturbing gap between white and African‐American football student‐athletes remains a major issue; 21 teams or 31 percent of the bowl‐bound schools graduated less than half of their African‐American football student‐athletes, while only two schools graduated less than half of their white football student‐athletes.”

Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports

Betsey Stevenson [317K PDF]:

Previous research has found that male high school athletes experience better outcomes than non-athletes, including higher educational attainment, employment rates, and wages. However, students self-select into athletics so these may be selection effects rather than causal effects. To address this issue, I examine Title IX which provides a unique quasi- experiment in female athletic participation. Between 1972 and 1978 U.S. high schools rapidly increased their female athletic participation rates–to approximately the same level as their male athletic participation rates–in order to comply with Title IX. This paper uses variation in the level of boys’ athletic participation across states before Title IX as an instrument for the change in girls’ athletic participation over the 1970s. Analyzing differences in outcomes for both the pre- and post-Title IX cohorts across states, I find that a 10-percentage point rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1 percentage point increase in female college attendance and a 1 to 2 percentage point rise in female labor force participation. Furthermore, greater opportunities to play sports leads to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly for high-skill occupations.

Latest College athletics fiscal data hint at moderation

Gary Brown:

ata from the NCAA’s most recent study on revenue and expenses [6MB PDF Complete Report] at Division I institutions show a slight moderation in the rate of spending in the aggregate within the division and a reduced growth in the gap between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots,” though the gap continues to be wide.
The report summarizing Division I athletics program finances between 2004 and 2008 also reveals that 25 schools – all in the Football Bowl Subdivision – reported positive net revenue for the 2008 fiscal year, six more than in the 2006 fiscal year. Only 18 FBS institutions, however, have reported revenue over expenses when the data from all five years are aggregated.
The findings make NCAA officials cautiously optimistic that the advice from former NCAA President Myles Brand’s Presidential Task Force three years ago to moderate spending is being heeded, though those same officials acknowledge that these data through the end of the 2008 fiscal year (June) do not reflect the subsequent economic downturn that may reveal a different story on spending in next year’s report.

Mesquite ISD a pioneer on dealing with student concussions

Karel Holloway:

With a concussion, there is no obvious injury – no blood, no swelling, no arm at an awkward angle.
Coaches and athletic trainers have to look for subtle signs from an athlete, such as a shake of the head, a vacant expression or a long pause before a football player lines up for the next play.
Until the past few years, a student athlete in Mesquite might have gone back into the game after a quick assessment. But that’s changing as officials realize how common concussions are and how profound their effects can be over time.
“If a kid suffers a concussion in Mesquite, they are going to miss a minimum of two weeks,” said Bucky Taylor, Mesquite High School’s head athletic trainer.

Advocating for Girls’ Sports With a Sharp Tongue

Katie Thomas:

Few girls who play sports in suburban Philadelphia would recognize Robert H. Landau, but many coaches and athletic directors know that spotting him in the bleachers could spell trouble.
With a sharp tongue, a refusal to compromise and a well-honed sense of injustice, Landau is that familiar breed of community activist with a knack for pushing public officials over the edge. His specialty is girls’ sports, and his targets are usually wealthy public schools from the Main Line suburbs that pride themselves on being progressive and fair in offering a rich array of opportunities.
No slight to girls is too small for Landau to take on. His victories range from the momentous to the less obvious, like forcing his daughters’ school district to provide more athletic choices, pressuring leagues to showcase their title games and getting a school mascot to perform at their games.
Landau’s complaint against Haverford High School — over issues like publicity for and scheduling of boys’ and girls’ basketball games — has upset even those who would otherwise support him.

Women’s Sports, Title IX And The Cheerleader Option

Frank Deford:

Purists love to play the game, “Is that a sport?” They’ll ask, is synchronized swimming really a sport? Is a dog show? Is poker? Is Ultimate Frisbee? And, the most controversial of all: Is cheerleading a sport?
But it isn’t just the usual arguments that are raised when cheerleading is the issue. Cheerleading, you see, is deeply embroiled in gender politics, and given the demographics of college attendance, cheerleading is surely going to remain a flashpoint.
It all traces back to Title IX, the 1972 law which mandates that, in sports, athletic representation on campus must mirror student enrollment. As the percentage of collegians tilts more and more female, this means, simply enough, that some men’s sports must be eliminated.
Today, at least 57 percent of all American college students are female, and that number is expected to rise. On average in college, there are already 8.7 women’s teams for every 7.8 men’s teams.

Faced with suit, Elmbrook now will allow girls to join hockey cooperative

Amy Hetzner:

Faced with a federal lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, the Elmbrook School District has reversed an earlier decision and will allow students from both its high schools to join a girls ice hockey cooperative.
Brookfield Central High School freshman Morgan Hollowell and her father, James, sued the School District last month after it refused to join a cooperative with other school districts to offer girls ice hockey, even though the district participates in a similar cooperative for boys ice hockey.
At the time, Elmbrook Superintendent Matt Gibson said the district chose not to join the girls cooperative because too few students were interested in playing the sport and it would be difficult for the district to supervise.

New national study finds more than half of cheerleading injuries in US due to stunts

Science Codex:

Whether rallying the crowd at a sporting event or participating in competition, cheerleading can be both fun and physically demanding. Although integral to cheerleading routines, performing stunts can lead to injury. Stunt-related injuries accounted for more than half (60 percent) of U.S. cheerleading injuries from June 2006 through June 2007, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Published as a series of four separate articles on cheerleading-related injuries in the November issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, the study focused on general cheerleading-related injuries, cheerleading stunt-related injuries, cheerleading fall-related injuries and surfaces used by cheerleaders. Data from the study showed that nearly all (96 percent) of the reported concussions and closed-head injuries were preceded by the cheerleader performing a stunt.
“In our study, stunts were defined as cradles, elevators, extensions, pyramids, single-based stunts, single-leg stunts, stunt-cradle combinations, transitions and miscellaneous partner and group stunts,” said author Brenda Shields, research coordinator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

No fit way to treat young athletes

Valerie Strauss:

How many concussions would you allow your child to suffer before you decided that perhaps he or she should retire from the travel soccer team?
In the past month alone, I have heard about several dozen injuries to young athletes, both on school and club teams, and I’m starting to wonder how so many families can be obsessed with sports to the point that a child’s health suffers.
I’ve actually heard parents talk about their children’s soccer concussions as if they were simple headaches: “He had another concussion last week but should be good to go soon.” I know one child who has suffered at least three breaks in his hands from high school football and baseball. His parents know there could be long-term health consequences, but that is less important, somehow, than the glory of youth sports.
There was a story in The Washington Post this month about companies that have redesigned football helmets to cut down on concussions.

Young, Talented and Unhappy Playing Basketball Overseas

Pete Thamel:

Jeremy Tyler came to this scenic city overlooking the Mediterranean as a trailblazer. As the first American basketball player to skip his senior year of high school to play professionally overseas, Tyler signed a $140,000 deal to play for Maccabi Haifa this year. The grand plan revolves around him being a top pick, if not the top pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft.
But after nearly three months of professional basketball in Israel’s top division, Tyler is at a crossroads. Caught in a clash of cultures, distractions and agendas, he appears to be worlds away from a draft-night handshake with Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner.

Wilson High School track athlete killed after football game in Long Beach

Ruben Vives & Ben Bolch:

Friends and family gathered today at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach to mourn the death of a 16-year-old honors student and track athlete who was gunned down as she and her friends were leaving a football game the night before.
Melody Ross, a junior in advanced-placement honors and a pole vaulter on the track team, was randomly hit by gunfire that also injured two young men, police said. It is not known if the shooting was gang-related. No arrests have been made.
Ross was identified by her uncle, Sam Che, who said their family emigrated to Southern California in the mid-1980s from Cambodia. “We escaped the killing fields,” said Che, 36.
Ross was dressed as Supergirl for the homecoming game against Polytechnic High School that was attended by many other students in costume on the day before Halloween. Ross was “an innocent kid” said Mario Morales, the Wilson High football coach.

Football Blowouts: The Art To Winning Big

Mike Pesca:

Every year, one or two high school football games bubble to national attention for the wrong reasons.
This year two Florida teams engaged in a battle — if you can call it that — where the final score was 82 to 0. Then, a few weeks later, the final score in another Florida game was 91 to 0. These are extreme examples, but every week, in nearly every state, teams win by 50 or 60 points.
What does a coach’s halftime speech sound like when his team is losing in a blowout?
What if you were John Petrie, coach of the Plainville High School Cardinals in Plainville, Kan., a couple of seasons back, when, in a game against Smith Center he found his team down 72 to 0 in the first quarter?

Beefing up: High school football players are bigger but not necessarily healthier

Eric Cexheimer & John Maher:

Last weekend, two football teams faced off in a fierce divisional rivalry. Both boasted intimidating offenses built around sumo-sized linemen; half of the two teams’ centers, guards and tackles tipped the scales above 300 pounds.
The teams aren’t from the NFL. They aren’t big-time colleges, or even Division II or III squads. They are the Central Texas high schools of McNeil and Cedar Park. The largest of their linemen is approaching 350 pounds.
Once a rarity, teenaged mega-players have become a common sight under the Friday night lights. “If you were to weigh the lines of high school football teams, they’re significantly higher in recent years,” said Brian Carr, a physical therapist and trainer at Georgetown High School. “Compared to just 15 years ago, there’s a huge difference.”
Doctors and trainers are reporting increases in certain injuries — stress-related muscle and ligament tears, knee strains and foot fractures — that can be directly attributed to the strains placed on developing bodies by extra bulk. Weight-related medical problems are also beginning to crop up among the giant teenagers.

Binghamton Lecturer Critical of Athletics Is Fired

Pete Thamel:

The Binghamton University adjunct lecturer who accused the athletic department of giving preferential treatment to men’s basketball players and pressuring her to change her grading policy for players was dismissed Tuesday.
The lecturer, Sally Dear, who taught human development for 11 years, said she felt the decision was linked to her criticism that appeared in a New York Times article in February.

New Life Where Towns and Teams Are Dying

Jere Longman:

Last Friday, as on all football Fridays at state champion Canadian High School, a black-and-gold flag flew along Main Street outside the City Drug Soda Fountain. A painted sign spelled out Wildcats on the window at Treasure’s Beauty Salon. Up the street, at the Hemphill County Courthouse, Sally Henderson showed off the paw-print design on her black-and-gold fingernails.
Until a nail salon opened over the summer in this tiny, wealthy and ambitious Panhandle town, Henderson drove 45 miles to Pampa or 100 miles to Amarillo to have her nails done for football games and holidays.
“My husband is so glad I don’t have to drive anymore,” said Henderson, 52, a cheery administrative assistant to the county judge and the wife of the county sheriff. “I’d stop and do Wal-Mart, and every time I got my nails done, I’d spend $300.”

Seattle schools may lower grade-point requirement for graduation

Linda Shaw:

Seattle Public Schools may do away with a nearly decade-old requirement that all students earn a C average to graduate, and an even-older policy that athletes maintain a C average to play on school teams.
If the School Board approves recommendations endorsed by Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, as well as most district high-school principals and counselors, a D average will be good enough to earn a high-school diploma. Student athletes would need to pass five of six classes with D grades or better.
District officials understand there are concerns about relaxing standards at a time when everyone from President Obama on down is pushing for higher expectations for U.S. students.
And when surveyed by the district last year, a majority of Seattle parents and students preferred to keep the C-average requirement.
But district officials, who plan to talk about the proposal at a School Board meeting tonight, insist they’re not watering down expectations, and the change would mirror what most other districts require.

Texas High-School Athletes Gain Ground in Class

A new Texas law that could double the amount of academic credit high-school athletes receive for playing sports is stoking a long-standing debate in the Lone Star State about whether athletics should count the same as schoolwork.
Texas is unusual in that high-school sports aren’t completely extracurricular. The state has long allowed students who are members of sports teams to take one athletics class during a normal school day, a period that can be filled with anything from watching game films and weight lifting to sitting in study hall.
The state formerly permitted high schoolers to apply only two credits — or two years’ worth — of athletics classes toward the 26 credits needed to graduate. But a law passed by the Texas legislature in May effectively increased the number of such credits that can apply toward the degree to four.
Coaches and athletic directors welcomed the change, which they had sought from the Texas Board of Education for the past two years.
“We think it’s a good idea to allow parents and kids to have some flexibility,” said Robert Young, athletic director at Klein Independent School District.
The Texas State Teachers Association also supported the increase in athletics credits, saying it gives students more opportunities to take classes that interest them the most.

Cold Prospects

The Concord Review
13 August 2009
Today’s Boston Globe has a good-sized article on “Hot Prospects,”–local high school football players facing “increasing pressure from recruiters to make their college decisions early.”
That’s right, it is not the colleges that are getting pressure from outstanding students seeking admission based on their academic achievement, it is colleges putting pressure on high school athletes to get them to “sign” with the college.
The colleges are required by the AAU to wait until the prospect is a Senior in high school before engaging in active recruiting including “visits and contact from college coaches,” and, for some local football players the recruiting pressure even comes from such universities as Harvard and Stanford.
Perhaps Senior year officially starts in June, because the Globe reports that one high school tight end from Wellesley, Massachusetts, for example, “committed to Stanford in early June, ending the suspense of the region’s top player.”
The University of Connecticut “made an offer to” an athletic quarterback from Natick High School, “and a host of others, including Harvard and Stanford, are interested,” says the Globe.
In the meantime, high school football players are clearly not being recruited by college professors for their outstanding academic work. When it comes to academic achievement, high school students have to apply to colleges and wait until the college decides whether they will be admitted or not. Some students apply for “Early Decision,” but in that case, it is the college, not the athlete, who makes the decision to “commit.”
Intelligent and diligent high school students who manage achievement in academics even at the high level of accomplishment of their football-playing peers who are being contacted, visited, and recruited by college coaches, do not find that they are contacted, visited, or recruited by college professors, no matter how outstanding their high school academic work may be.
In some other countries, the respect for academic work is somewhat different. One student, who earned the International Baccalaureate Diploma and had his 15,000-word independent study essay on the Soviet-Afghan War published in The Concord Review last year, was accepted to Christ Church College, Oxford, from high school. He reported to me that during the interview he had with tutors from that college, “they spent a lot of time talking to me about my TCR essay in the interview.” He went on to say: “Oxford doesn’t recognize or consider extra-curriculars/sports in the admissions process (no rowing recruits) because they are so focused on academics. So I thought it was pretty high praise of the Review that they were so interested in my essay (at that time it had not won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize).”
There are many other examples from other countries of the emphasis placed on academic achievement and the lack of emphasis on sports and other non-academic activities, perhaps especially in Asian countries.
One young lady, a student at Boston Latin School, back from a Junior year abroad at a high school in Beijing, reported in the Boston Globe that: “Chinese students, especially those in large cities or prosperous suburbs and counties and even some in impoverished rural areas, have a more rigorous curriculum than any American student, whether at Charlestown High, Boston Latin, or Exeter. These students work under pressure greater than the vast majority of U.S. students could imagine…teachers encourage outside reading of histories rather than fiction.”
That is not to say that American (and foreign) high school students who do the work to get their history research papers published in The Concord Review don’t get into colleges. So far, ninety have gone to Harvard, seventy-four to Yale, twelve to Oxford, and so on, but the point is that, unlike their football-paying peers, they are not contacted, visited and recruited in the same way.
The bottom line is that American colleges and universities, from their need to have competitive sports teams, are sending the message to all of our high school students (and their teachers) that, while academic achievement may help students get into college one day, what colleges are really interested in, and willing to contact them about, and visit them about, and take them for college visits about, and recruit them for, is their athletic achievement, not their academic achievement. What a stupid, self-defeating message to keep sending to our academically diligent secondary students (and their diligent teachers)!!
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

High Schools Seek to Curb Heat-Linked Sports Injuries

Laura Yao:

On a hot day last August, Max Gilpin, a high-school sophomore from Louisville, Ky., collapsed during a preseason football practice. Three days later, he died from complications of heatstroke. His coach, Jason Stinson, was later indicted for reckless homicide in the first known criminal case of its kind.
With high-school football season set to get under way in many parts of the country next month, Max’s story, which received widespread media attention, has spurred a nationwide debate about how far high schools should go to prevent heat-related injuries among their athletes.
Last month, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, which represents accredited trainers with a background in sports medicine, issued new heatstroke-prevention guidelines for high schools. These included recommendations to limit the duration and intensity of practice sessions early in the season and in hot weather.

The 25 Best Foods for Fitness

When it comes to choosing the foods we eat, we have so many choices that it often becomes confusing. As Americans, we are blessed with almost every kind of food imaginable, available right next door at the supermarket. There are, however, some very specific foods that help improve athletic performance. The foods listed below are particular important to keep in your diet. The following foods, in alphabetical order, provide premium fuel for the active athlete.

The Top 10 High School Athletic Programs in the United States

Kevin Armstrong:

In his 11 years as athletic director at the Honolulu’s Punahou School Tom Holden never decorated his school’s gym walls or outfield fences with championship banners. State titles, of which there have been 61 over the last four years, hold a place in Buff ‘n Blue lore, but that’s in the trophy case. “We just congratulate among ourselves,” said Holden, who retired last Thursday. “Nothing public.”
Punahou’s 19 state titles during the 2008-09 school year were a nice retirement gift for Holden. Now he can add being named Sports Illustrated’s top high school program for the second consecutive year. To come up with our top 10, as well as our top programs in each state, we looked for state championships and Division-I scholarship athletes and success on and off the field. Punahou was at the head of the class.
On the mainland, Jesuit High (Portland, Ore.), won seven state titles to rank just behind Punahou. Throughout the country and the District of Columbia, found schools that exemplified excellence in athletics during all seasons. Here is our top 10:

Sports Salaries Show What We Really Value

Allen Barra:

The issue of escalating compensation and rising ticket prices in professional sports has been around for years. But next month it could reach a boiling point when 21-year-old Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, signs for at least $15 million. And that’s just a bonus before salary is even discussed.
The blogosphere and radio call-in shows are already buzzing, with people saying things like “Man, the [Washington] Nationals” — or whatever team ends up signing Mr. Strasburg — “are sure going to have to raise prices to pay for this guy. You’ll be lucky to afford a beer when you go out to the ballpark to see him pitch.”
Well, if you can’t afford to buy a beer at the ballpark then it didn’t do the team much good to sign the player, did it? Sportswriters and radio guys delight in reminding fans that every time a team acquires an expensive player the cost of everything goes up. But that’s just not the way economics works.

Rigor Reduction in Sports? An NBA Player Speaks Out!

Kevin Clark:

or some time, coaches have grumbled that the AAU’s emphasis on building stars and playing games over practicing produces a lot of talented prospects who have great physical skills but limited knowledge of the fundamentals. Now some players are speaking out.

By the middle of the last NBA season, as concerns build about his dwindling playing time and rough transition to the NBA, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Michael Beasley of the Miami Heat, finally conceded a fundamental flaw: No one, at any level in his basketball career, had asked him to play defense. And especially not in AAU. “If you’re playing defense in AAU, you don’t need to be playing,” he says. “I’ve honestly never seen anyone play defense in AAU.”

An AAU official declined to comment for this article.

The chorus of critics ranges from AAU player Alex Oriakhi, a McDonald’s All-American center who plans to play for the University of Connecticut, who says shooting guards he’s seen in AAU are in for a “rude awakening” to USA Basketball officials and NBA coaches.

Founded in 1888, the AAU’s first goal was to represent American sports internationally. AAU teams blossomed in many sports, and the organization became a driving force in preparing Olympic athletes. In 1978, the Amateur Sports Act established a governing body for American Olympic sports, usurping the AAU’s role as an Olympic launching pad. Its most notable sport today is basketball, where it counts Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James among its alumni.

I am no NBA fan, having attended my last game, in I think, 1972 – a Milwaukee Bucks playoff game. A one dimensional game is not all that interesting, particularly via sky high ticket prices.

Artificial Turf Gets a Foothold At High Schools Across Region

Daniel de Vise:

In high schools in and around Washington, artificial turf is becoming an athletic status symbol.
Synthetic ballfields can be found at 10 public high schools in the District, seven in Anne Arundel County, four in Fairfax County and three in Arlington County. They have been installed at T.C. Williams High in Alexandria, Richard Montgomery High in Rockville, North Point High in Waldorf and a host of private and parochial schools. This summer and over the next school year, several more high schools will get artificial turf: Chesapeake and Old Mill in Anne Arundel, Lee in Fairfax, Bell-Lincoln in the District, and Walter Johnson and Montgomery Blair in Montgomery.
In most communities, the prospect of replacing real grass with plastic fiber and bits of shredded tire has prevailed with support from coaches and athletic boosters and little public dissent. But debate has emerged in Montgomery over such matters as how the turf deals were structured and whether tire crumbs from the fields might contaminate property nearby.

Scholastic Programs Are Feeling the Pinch as Financing for Sports Dries Up


Tyler Peters has wrapped up his high school athletic career. Now he can only feel sympathy for his friends who are underclassmen at Coral Gables Senior High.
Across the country this spring, the recession has taken its toll on high school athletic programs. As states and school districts have tried to shore up their budgets, Florida has taken some of the most drastic steps.
The Florida High School Athletic Association is considering sweeping, two-year schedule changes with all sports except football canceling some matches, meets or games. The changes were approved earlier this year, but officials backed off the plan, saying they would take it up again at a later date.
A swimmer in high school, the 18-year-old Peters said he might have given it up if his season had been cut down.

A Team’s Struggle Shows Disparity in Girls’ Sports

Katie Thomas:

The Cougars of Middle School 61 had a basketball game in the Bronx, but a half-hour before tipoff, six girls and Coach Bryan Mariner were still inching through traffic in Brooklyn.
A cellphone rang. It belonged to forward Tiffany Fields-Binning, who passed the phone to Mr. Mariner.
“You don’t want her to go?” he said. He peered up at a street sign. “We’re on Atlantic and Flatbush.” He paused. “O.K. O.K. We’ll wait here.”
Mr. Mariner turned off the ignition. “Tiff-a-ny.” He said her name slowly, like a sigh. “You didn’t set this straight with your pop?”
Tiffany stared out a window.
Mr. Mariner turned and assessed the situation: “We’ve got five.”
Five players. No substitutes.

Coaches struggle to find balance between work and family

Tom Wyrich:

Keith Hennig has a 3-year-old boy named Trevor and a 1-year-old named Brady. He wants to watch them grow up. Not in the brief moments between school and basketball practice. Not in the late-night hours when he would get home from a game or an open gym.
“I hate it during the winter season because I leave when it’s dark out, and when I come home it’s dark out,” Hennig says. “It’s almost depressing.”
Long before he led the Kentwood High girls basketball team to the state championship in March, Hennig, only 32, had decided that it would be his last season. But Hennig discovered that, as with any addiction, it’s one thing to decide to quit. It’s quite another to go through with it.
For two weeks after the championship game, he walked past the state championship trophy every day and saw his girls in the halls at Kentwood, where he is a history teacher. He remembered all those moments that made the late nights and early mornings worth it. He was going through withdrawal.

A Mathematician’s Lament

Sara Bennett:

One of the most eye-opening pieces of writing I’ve ever read is A Mathematician’s Lament” How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form by Paul Lockhart. I’ve known Paul since our sons met when they were about eight years old, and I was so happy to hear that his essay (called a “gorgeous essay” by the Los Angeles Times) was printed in paperback form. This book belongs on everyone’s bookshelf.
Here’s how it begins:

A musician wakes from a terrible nightmare. In his dream he finds himself in a society where music education has been made mandatory. “We are helping our students become more competitive in an increasingly sound-filled world.” Educators, school systems, and the state are put in charge of this vital project. Studies are commissioned, committees are formed, and decisions are made–all without the advice or participation of a single working musician or composer.
Since musicians are known to set down their ideas in the form of sheet music, these curious black dots and lines must constitute the “language of music.” It is imperative that students become fluent in this language if they are to attain any degree of musical competence; indeed, it would be ludicrous to expect a child to sing a song or play an instrument without having a thorough grounding in music notation and theory. Playing and listening to music, let alone composing an original piece, are considered very advanced topics and are generally put off until college, and more often graduate school.

Horace Mann High School

Imagine that somewhere in the United States there is a Horace Mann (American educator)“>Horace Mann High School, with a student who is a first-rate softball pitcher. Let us further imagine that although she set a new record for strikeouts for the school and the district, she was never written up in the local paper. Let us suppose that even when she broke the state record for batters retired she received no recognition from the major newspapers or other media in the state.
Imagine a high school boy who had broken the high jump record for his school, district, and state, who also never saw his picture or any story about his achievement in the media. He also would not hear from any college track coaches with a desire to interest him in becoming part of their programs.
In this improbable scenario, we could suppose that the coaches of these and other fine athletes at the high school level would never hear anything from their college counterparts, and would not be able to motivate their charges with the possibility of college scholarships if they did particularly well in their respective sports.
These fine athletes could still apply to colleges and, if their academic records, test scores, personal essays, grades, and applications were sufficiently impressive, they might be accepted at the college of their choice, but, of course they would receive no special welcome as a result of their outstanding performance on the high school athletic fields.
This is all fiction, of course, in our country at present. Outstanding athletes do receive letters from interested colleges, and even visits from coaches if they are good enough, and it is then up to the athlete to decide which college sports program they will “commit to” or “sign with,” as the process is actually described in the media. Full scholarships are often available to the best high school athletes, so that they may contribute to their college teams without worrying about paying for tuition or accumulating student debt.
In turn, high school coaches with very good athletes in fact do receive attention from college coaches, who keep in touch to find out the statistics on their most promising athletes, and to get recommendations for which ones are most worth pursuing and most worth offering scholarships to.
These high school coaches are an important agent in helping their promising athletes decide who to “commit to” or who to “sign with” when they are making their higher education plans.
On the other hand, if high school teachers have outstanding students of history, there are no scholarships available for them, no media recognition, and certainly no interest from college professors of history. For their work in identifying and nurturing the most diligent, the brightest, and the highest-achieving students of history, these academic coaches (teachers) are essentially ignored.
Those high school students of history, no matter whether they write first-class 15,000-word history research papers, like Colin Rhys Hill of Atlanta, Georgia (published in the Fall 2008 issue of The Concord Review), or a first-class 13,000-word history research paper, like Amalia Skilton of Tempe, Arizona (published in the Spring 2009 issue of The Concord Review), they will hear from no one offering them a full college scholarship for their outstanding high school academic work in history.
College professors of history will not write or call them, and they will not visit their homes to try to persuade them to “commit to” or “sign with” a particular college or university. The local media will ignore their academic achievements, because they limit their high school coverage to the athletes.
To anyone who believes the primary mission of the high schools is academic, and who pays their taxes mainly to promote that mission, this bizarre imbalance in the mechanics of recognition and support may seem strange, if they stop to think about it. But this is our culture when it comes to promoting academic achievement at the high school level. If we would like to see higher levels of academic achievement by our high school students, just as we like to see higher levels of athletic achievement by our students at the high school level, perhaps we might give some thought to changing this culture (soon).
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®


The Boston Globe has been publishing for 137 years, and the news that it may have to fold has distressed its many readers. Each Fall, Winter and Spring the paper publishes a special section, of 14 pages or so, on notable local public high school athletes and their coaches. There is a mention of athletes and coaches at local prep schools as well.
The latest Boston Globe’s Winter “ALL-SCHOLASTICS” section arrived, with the “ten moments that stood out among the countless athletic stories in Massachusetts.” There are reports on the best athletes and coaches in Skiing, Boys’ Basketball, Girls’ Basketball, Boys’ Hockey, Girls’ Hockey, Boys’ Track, Girls’ Track, Boys’ Swimming, Girls’ Swimming, Preps, Wrestling, and Gymnastics. The Preps and Gymnastics parts consolidate boys’ and girls’ accomplishments, perhaps to save space (and cost).
Each full-page section also features photographs of 9-16 athletes, with perhaps a twitter-sized paragraph on their achievements. In addition, there are 30 photos and tweets about some coaches, spread among the various sports. There are 26 “Prep” athletes mentioned, from various sports, but I didn’t see any “Prep” coaches profiled. For each high school sport there are two “athletes of the year” identified, and all the coaches are “coaches of the year” in their sport.
There may be, at this time, some high school “students of the year” in English, math, Chinese, physics, Latin, chemistry, European history, U.S. history, biology, and the like. There may also be high school “teachers of the year” in these and other academic subjects, but their names and descriptions are not to be found in The Boston Globe, perhaps the most well-known paper in the “Athens of America” (Boston).
It may be the case, indeed it probably is the case, that some of the athletes featured in the Winter “All-Scholastics” section today are also high school students of math, history, English, science, and languages, but you would not know that from the coverage of The Boston Globe. The coaches of the year may in many, if not all, cases, also be teachers of academic subjects in the Massachusetts public and private schools, but that remains only a guess as well.
When the British architect Christopher Wren was buried in 1723, part of his epitaph, written by his eldest son, Christopher Wren, Jr., read: “Lector, si monumentum requiris, Circumspice.” If you wanted to judge his interest, efforts and accomplishments, all you had to do was look around you. His work was there for all to see.
The work of Massachusetts high school athletes and coaches is all around us in The Boston Globe on a regular basis, but the work of our high school scholars and teachers is nowhere to be seen in that public record.
If one seeks a monument to anti-academic and anti-intellectual views and practices in Boston today, one need look no further than The Boston Globe. I read it every day, and I will be sorry to see it fold, if it does, but I will not miss its attention to and recognition of the academic efforts and accomplishments of Massachusetts secondary students and their teachers, because there is none now, and never has been any, no matter how many reports on education reform and academic standards it may have published over the years. If you ask how much The Boston Globe editors (and I am sure The Globe is not alone in this) cares about the good academic work now actually being done by high school teachers and their students in Massachusetts, the answer is, from the evidence, that they do not.

Shorter Florida High School Sports Season

Chris Chmura:

Most high school athletes will spend fewer nights under the stadium lights next year, as the state’s athletic board shortens the season for many sports.
The Florida High School Athletic Association voted Monday to cut costs by reducing varsity seasons by 20 percent and junior varsity seasons by 40 percent. Football and cheerleading are exempt.
“Football is a moneymaker and most others are not,” said Lanness Robinson, Athletic Director for public schools in Hillsborough County.
FHSAA could not provide specifics for the estimated cost savings. A spokeswoman said the board had the backing of school districts and superintendents. She said an across-the-board schedule reduction would spare some sports from total elimination.

End the University as We Know It

Mark Taylor:

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).
Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”
Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization. In my own religion department, for example, we have 10 faculty members, working in eight subfields, with little overlap. And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

Basketball Prospect Leaving High School to Play in Europe

Pete Thamel:

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 high school junior whom some consider the best American big man since Greg Oden, says he will be taking a new path to the N.B.A. He has left San Diego High School and said this week that he would skip his senior year to play professionally in Europe.

Tyler, 17, would become the first United States-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. He is expected to return in two years, when he is projected to be a top pick, if not the No. 1 pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft.

Tyler, who had orally committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has yet to sign with an agent or a professional team. His likely destination is Spain, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest. A spokesman for Louisville said the university could not comment about Tyler.

“Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better,” Tyler said. “If you’re really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys.”

Academic March Madness

Lindsey Luebchow:

There haven’t been many upsets in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, as big name basketball powerhouses have dominated the hardwood. But evaluate the Sweet Sixteen based on the most important academic competition of studying for and obtaining a meaningful degree and you’ll find that most of the top teams wouldn’t even come close to cutting down the nets in Detroit early next month.

Higher Ed Watch’s third annual Academic Sweet Sixteen examines the remaining teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to see which squads are matching their on-court success with academic achievement in the classroom. And for the third consecutive year, academic indicators produce a championship game match-up that isn’t on anyone’s radar: Purdue versus Villanova, with Purdue’s 80 percent graduation rate trumping Villanova’s 67 percent. The University of North Carolina and Michigan State, meanwhile, round out the Final Four with graduation rates of 60 percent.

Allonzo Trier Is in the Game

Michael Sokolove:

After school on a recent afternoon, Allonzo Trier, a sixth grader in Federal Way, outside Seattle, came home and quickly changed into his workout gear — Nike high-tops, baggy basketball shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt that hung loosely on his 5-foot-5, 110-pound frame. Inside a small gymnasium near the entrance of his apartment complex, he got right to his practice routine, one he has maintained for the last four years, seven days a week. He began by dribbling a basketball around the perimeter of the court, weaving it around his back and through his legs. After a few minutes, he took a second basketball out of a mesh bag and dribbled both balls, crisscrossing them through his legs. It looked like showboating, Harlem Globetrotters kind of stuff, but the drills, which Trier discovered on the Internet, were based on the childhood workouts of Pete Maravich and have helped nurture his exquisite control of the ball in game settings — and, by extension, his burgeoning national reputation.
One of the Web sites that tracks young basketball prospects reports that Trier plays with “style and punch” and “handles the pill” — the ball — “like a yo-yo.” He is a darling of the so-called grass-roots basketball scene and a star on the A.A.U. circuit — which stands for Amateur Athletic Union but whose practices mock traditional definitions of amateurism.

Keeping coaches in check

Rosanlind Rossi & Steve Tucker:

Chicago public school coaches are in for a crackdown under a proposed city policy that explicitly bans everything from pushing, pinching or paddling athletes to “displays of temper.”
The massive overhaul of the Chicago Public High Schools Athletic Association bylaws follows allegations that began emerging last fall that at least four CPS coaches had paddled or hit athletes.
The new policy creates the possibility that coaches can be banned for life for just one rule violation. Previously, such punishment followed only “knowing and repeated” rule violations.
It also mandates annual coaching training, requires that all coaches undergo criminal background checks and fingerprint analysis, and establishes a “pool” of thoroughly screened candidates from which principals must now pick their coaches.
Prohibitions against corporal punishment and even “forcing a student to stand or kneel for an inordinate time” were listed elsewhere in CPS policy, but after the paddling scandal, CPS wanted to take a clear stand against a wide variety of corporal punishment, said CPS counsel Patrick Rocks.

Nine Mouths to Feed

Mike Tierney:

Travis Henry was rattling off his children’s ages, which range from 3 to 11. He paused and took a breath before finishing.
This was no simple task. Henry, 30, a former N.F.L. running back who played for three teams from 2001 to 2007, has nine children — each by a different mother, some born as closely as a few months apart.
Reports of Henry’s prolific procreating, generated by child-support disputes, have highlighted how futile the N.F.L.’s attempts can be at educating its players about making wise choices. The disputes have even eclipsed the attention he received after he was indicted on charges of cocaine trafficking.
“They’ve got my blood; I’ve got to deal with it,” Henry said of fiscal responsibilities to his children. He spoke by telephone from his Denver residence, where he was under house arrest until recently for the drug matter.
Henry had just returned from Atlanta, where a judge showed little sympathy for his predicament during a hearing and declined to lower monthly payments from $3,000 for a 4-year-old son.

Sun Prairie sells naming rights to baseball field

Gena Kittner:

With the announcement of the new Summit Credit Union Baseball Field, Sun Prairie has likely become the first Dane County school district to sell the naming rights for a specific school facility.
And the high school’s varsity baseball field could be just the beginning: District officials want to sell naming rights to everything from the classrooms and the cafeteria to trophy cases and field lights at the new high school slated to open in the fall of 2010.
“Our goal is to have as many of the big items named before the school opens,” said Jim McCourt, Sun Prairie School Board treasurer and member of the Naming Rights Subcommittee.
The subcommittee has a tentative goal of selling more than $3 million in naming rights. However, district officials say business or individual monikers would be presented tactfully, such as a plaque bearing a person’s name on the back of an auditorium seat or above a classroom doorway.
“It’s not like we’re going to have banners all over the school,” McCourt said.
On Tuesday the district announced Summit Credit Union as the first company to be granted naming rights for a district facility, under the new policy to allow for names of businesses attached to facilities, in exchange for donations.
The School Board approved the naming rights agreement with Summit on Monday night, which will be in effect for 20 years. The credit union donated $99,537, which pays for about a third of the cost of the field that will have artificial turf on the infield.

Records show Waunakee School District didn’t slow drinking party investigation

Matthew DeFour:

In the weeks following an underage drinking party near Waunakee in September 2007, rumors swirled about why the School District didn’t move more quickly to discipline football players who were involved.
Though the insinuation in some circles was school officials were dragging their feet to keep Waunakee at full strength in the playoffs, recently released documents show the district investigation was delayed at the insistence of a Dane County sheriff’s detective investigating criminal activity at the party.
State law allows law enforcement agencies to release reports that could help school officials discipline students, but individual police departments set their own policies and not everyone agrees on the best policy.
If a police agency is stingy with how it chooses to share information, it can delay the school’s ability to mete out swift punishment intended to deter underage drinking in the first place.
In the case of the Waunakee football players, the district got mixed messages from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

Coming to Attention: Basketball at St. Johns Military Academy

Art Kabelowsky:

They are young, but they’re not children.
They’re from all over North America, but right now they’d just like to challenge for basketball championships at a boarding school in Delafield.
They’ve found a place that has given them a chance to make something out of their dreams.
That’s why kids like Carlos Toussaint and Kevin Mays and Devin Johnson and Isaiah Gray are attending St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy.
And their approach to school and basketball is why the Lancers are off to a 6-0 start this season, with nothing but bright skies in the forecast.
“The scary thing is that we start three sophomores and a freshman,” St. John’s Northwestern coach Brian Richert said. “The sky is the limit as to what these guys might be able to achieve down the road.”
But to one, Toussaint, it’s all about this year. He’s the Lancers’ only senior starter, and his statistics match his impressive basketball pedigree.
Toussaint’s father, Jorge, is the president of Federacion Mexicana de Basquetbol, the Mexican Basketball Federation. That’s the organization that organizes national teams at various age levels, up to and including the Olympics, and hires coaches who then select the various squads.

Singing Our Song

6 November 2008
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
My name is Lindsay Brown, and I am the chair of the history department at St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. I have been thinking about the role of academics and athletics in college placement for some time, and being at a boarding school I wear many hats and so see multiple sides of this issue. I do a great deal of work with athletes that I coach in the sport of rowing, helping them to be recruits for college coaches. I began talking to people and commenting about how I had never done any recruiting for our top history students, and that there was a significant contrast between athletic and academic interest in the admission process for colleges.
With these vague thoughts, I decided to write something, possibly to send to some publication(?) or maybe just to do some therapeutic venting on my keyboard. I sent a draft of my thoughts to several of my colleagues, including our librarian who is a relentless researcher. In response to my short essay, she sent me your article on the “History Scholar” on very similar ideas–I guess I wasn’t as original as I thought! But I wanted to send you my thoughts, ask if you had a moment to give me any feedback, and then also ask if you think it was acceptable for me to potentially send my essay out–where exactly I’m not sure.
In any case, I was impressed with your work and your information on this topic.
Many thanks,
Lindsay Brown
St. Andrew’s School
My essay is copied below and attached:
The headlines are meant to grab our attention and alert us to a crisis in education: “High school graduates are not ready for college” or some variation on this idea that college freshmen can’t do the work their professors demand of them. Colleges and professors lament this situation, and, in a related vein, often complain that athletics and athletic recruiting are running out of control to the detriment of the academic mission of their institutions. And not just the big schools that compete for national championships in football or basketball are sounding this alarm; even top tier, highly selective colleges and universities sing a similar melody. What should happen to correct this situation?
Ironically, I would like to suggest that colleges look to their athletic departments for inspiration and a possible way to improve the academic strength of their student body.

Continue reading Singing Our Song

At Pinnacle, Stepping Away From Basketball

NEWARK, Del. — Students kept filing into the tiny hideaway gym at the University of Delaware, but most seemed interested in swimming and the fitness center, not volleyball. Only 150 or so fans attended Wednesday’s match, 200 tops, family and friends tucked into a small set of bleachers.
Elena Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 middle hitter, took her position near the net and played the way a novice does, dominating at some moments, uncertain at others. She spiked the ball ferociously to end the suspense in a three-set victory over Villanova, but it remained jarring even for her father to see her in the tights and kneepads of volleyball instead of the flowing shorts of basketball.
“If Tom Brady was your son, you would really enjoy that he was a darn good Ping-Pong player, but you’d feel like, Why’s he playing Ping-Pong?” Ernie Delle Donne, a real estate developer, said, referring to the New England quarterback.
Only months ago, Elena Delle Donne was the nation’s top female high school basketball recruit, a signee with the University of Connecticut, an expected central figure in what many predict will be the Huskies’ sixth national title season in 2008-9. After two days of classes last June, though, Delle Donne acknowledged what few athletes of her visibility have ever acknowledged publicly — she was burned out on basketball at 18

Packers Launch Anti-Steroid Initiative in 7 Wisconsin High Schools

Green Bay Packers:

The Green Bay Packers will partner with seven Wisconsin high schools to implement the NFL ATLAS & ATHENA Schools Program, a nationally-acclaimed initiative designed to promote healthy living and reduce the use of steroids and other drugs among high school athletes.
The high schools, Ashwaubenon, Columbus, De Pere, Gibraltar, New Holstein, Two Rivers and West De Pere, will complete the program sessions during the 2008-09 school year. The schools were chosen based on interviews with program administrators and school-wide commitment from the principal, athletic director and coaches.
This local opportunity was created as a result of a $2.8 million grant from the NFL Youth Football Fund to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The Green Bay Packers, other NFL teams and the NFL Players Association all contribute to the NFL Youth Football Fund. The NFL grant is one of a series of improvements to the NFL and NFL Players Association’s policy and program on anabolic steroids and related substances. It will be used to disseminate ATLAS and ATHENA to 36,000 high school athletes and 1,200 coaches in 80 high schools during the 2008-2009 school year. Participating teams include the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, and Washington Redskins.

Give Education a Sporting Chance

Frederic J. Fransen
Center for Excellence in Higher Education
Perhaps it’s time for college fundraisers to come clean about the differences between giving to colleges and universities and giving to their athletic programs.
When donors give to athletics their gifts may produce visible results (a winning season, perhaps, or an NCAA tournament spot), but such gifts do not help colleges achieve their primary mission: the education of tomorrow’s leaders.
Not that there is anything wrong with giving to athletic programs, but a spade needs to be called a spade.
We’ve all heard the rationalizations. College athletic programs — especially big-time football and basketball — boost school spirit and spur alumni giving.
College athletic programs give some students a shot at a college education they wouldn’t get otherwise. And sports competition helps us become well-rounded individuals. None of these points is inherently untrue. They’re just irrelevant.
Americans, through tax dollars, tuition, and philanthropy, support some 2,500 public and private four-year colleges and universities for a reason: to educate those who will lead and sustain us in the future.
As much as I might enjoy the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts, their services are fundamentally unnecessary for the survival, prosperity, well-being and enlightenment of the country.
Yet, 26 percent of all dollars donated to Division I-A colleges and universities now go to athletics, according to an analysis published in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Sport Management. In 1998, the comparable figure was 14.7 percent.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported late last year that overall spending on sports has been growing “at a rate three times faster than that for spending on the rest of the campus.” And for most schools, according to recently released NCAA research, sports program costs exceed revenues. Only the top athletic powerhouses make money — and, frequently, only when they win.
Where’s the money going? Mostly, the money goes to build new stadiums, arenas and practice facilities to showcase the schools’ gladiators.
Schools in the six top college athletic conferences received more than $3.9 billion in donations for athletic facilities from 2002 to 2007 alone, the Chronicle of Higher Education says.
The question that needs to be asked is why are schools spending big bucks on athletic facilities for a relative handful of semi-pro athletes when academics should be their focus?
One reason many philanthropists choose to give to college athletics is because they know what they are getting. Who can blame them?
When you donate a large sum of money to support University of Wisconsin athletic programs, you do so because the Badgers have a winning tradition and you hope your gift will help produce additional championships.
When you write the same check to the English or history department, you may never know where the money went.
If education is to be the primary focus of our colleges and universities, officials involved in the “rainmaking” process need to do a better job of demonstrating to donors what their educational gifts accomplish in an equally transparent and powerful way.
They do higher education a disservice when they spend money excessively on the game, while shortchanging the end game: a highly educated workforce to face the competitive challenges of the 21st century — and a tolerant and enlightened public capable of making intelligent personal and political choices.
That’s what we need. And that’s what a new field house doesn’t buy.

Ruling: Madison district must reinstate athletic directors

Andy Hall:

The Madison School District must reinstate four high school athletic directors and “make them whole for any financial loss, ” according to an arbitrator ‘s ruling made public Monday.
Arbitrator Milo Flaten ruled the district violated its contract with Madison Teachers Inc. a year ago when it replaced the four athletic directors — who were union members — with two managers hired from other school districts.
In the decision, dated Friday and released by MTI on Monday, Flaten wrote that under its existing contract with MTI, the district promised that “athletic directors in the four schools would be represented by the union and that they would be members of the bargaining unit. No amount of reassignment of duties or creation of superficial boundaries can change that.”
MTI Executive Director John Matthews on Monday estimated the decision could cost the district more than $230,000.
Of that amount, each of the four former athletic directors would receive about $8,000 apiece — the extra compensation the four, who still work for the district, would have received this school year as athletic directors.

High School Football: Silence on Concussions Raises Risks of Injury

Alan Schwarz:

To Kelby Jasmon, there was only one answer. The question: If he received yet another concussion this football season, while playing offensive and defensive line for his high school in Springfield, Ill., would he tell a coach or trainer?
Jasmon, with his battering-ram, freshly buzz-cut head and eyes that danced with impending glory, immediately answered: “No chance. It’s not dangerous to play with a concussion. You’ve got to sacrifice for the sake of the team. The only way I come out is on a stretcher.”
Jasmon, a senior with three concussions on his résumé, looked at two teammates for support and unity. They said the same thing with the same certainty: They did not quite know what a concussion was, and would never tell their coaches if they believed they had sustained one.
Matt Selvaggio, who plays with Jasmon on both lines, said: “Our coaches would take us out in a second. So why would we tell them?”
Many of the 1.2 million teenagers who play high school football are chanting similar war whoops as they strap on their helmets. They either do not know what a concussion is or they simply do not care. Their code of silence, bred by football’s gladiator culture, allows them to play on and sometimes be hurt much worse — sometimes fatally.

More on the MMSD Golf Team Consolidation

Bill Cooney:

In an anticipated move, Big Eight Conference athletic directors unanimously voted to reject the Madison School Board’s proposal to consolidate prep boys golf teams beginning next spring.
With a 9-0 vote, it was agreed that combining athletic teams was strictly a participation issue as opposed to a financial one, Madison Memorial athletic director Tim Ritchie said Thursday.
“Our numbers are good for golf,” Ritchie said.
The idea of combining teams from Madison Memorial and Madison West, as well as teams from Madison La Follette and Madison East will not be proposed to the WIAA because the conference did not agree to it, Ritchie said.

Where is Sport Steering Youth?

Lance Pugmire:

For generations it has been one of the great American axioms, accepted truth on diamonds, courts and gridirons everywhere: Sports builds character, instilling the values of teamwork and good sportsmanship.
But amid fresh headlines of alleged cheating in auto racing, continuing controversies over steroid use in baseball, track and cycling and ugly brawls among basketball players comes a nationwide survey suggesting a decidedly darker vision of sports.
“There is reason to worry that the sports fields of America are becoming the training grounds for the next generation of corporate and political villains and thieves,” says Los Angeles ethicist Michael Josephson.
The latest two-year study of high school athletes by the Josephson Institute found a higher rate of cheating in school among student-athletes than among their classmates. It also found a growing acceptance of cheating to gain advantages in competition.
Josephson’s report, based on interviews across the country with 5,275 high school athletes, concluded that too many coaches are “teaching our kids to cheat and cut corners.”

Parents vs. Coach

C.W. Nevius:

Parents interfering in their kids’ sports is nothing new. But a group of parents at Castro Valley High is taking it to a new extreme.
What started as a group of unhappy parents griping amongst themselves has ballooned into multiple investigations, an observer attending every girls varsity basketball practice and a committee that will pick the team.
It’s the kind of over-the-top behavior that’s increasingly common — parents running on the field, screaming from the sidelines and, in the worst cases, punching out officials. It happens when well-intentioned parents let their protective instincts for their children overwhelm their good judgment.
In Castro Valley, the club wielded by parents is legal clout.

The Ballad of Big Mike

Michael Lewis:

When he did this, Mitchell opened the book for him. She didn’t care much about football, but she fairly quickly became attached to Michael. There was just something about him that made you want to help him. He tried so hard and for so little return. “One night it wasn’t going so well, and I got frustrated,” Mitchell says, “and he said to me, ‘Miss Sue, you have to remember I’ve only been going to school for two years.”’
His senior year he made all A’s and B’s. It nearly killed him, but he did it. The Briarcrest academic marathon, in which Michael started out a distant last and had instantly fallen farther behind, came to a surprising end: in a class of 157 students, he finished 154th. He had caught up to and passed three of his classmates. When Sean saw the final report card, he turned to Michael with a straight face and said, “You didn’t lose; you just ran out of time.”

From Lewis’s new book: The Blind Side.
Jason Kottke has more.

Successful First Day of MSCR’s Extramural Programming

Message to the School Board from Lucy Chaffin, MSCR Director:
On Saturday December 3, 2005 we held the first day of games for the new 9th and 10th grade extramural basketball league. We had 71 participants for a total of 8 teams and roughly 100 spectators including parents and friends of players. All participants, coaches and specators were very respectful and well behaved and created a fun and recreational atmosphere for the day. Skill levels of participants varied greatly and all students received equal playing time.

Continue reading Successful First Day of MSCR’s Extramural Programming

MSCR High School Extramural Program Position Announcement

The Madison School District has two positions for the new High School Extramural Program at MSCR. The purpose of this position is to develop, promote and coordinate after school clubs and extramural sports at two regular high school sites and for one alternative high school. Lucy Chaffin wrote: Hi everyone, I would really like to get the word out about these two positions open at MSCR. Please pass along and post at any place you feel is appropriate.

Continue reading MSCR High School Extramural Program Position Announcement

Goodbye Freshman No Cut Sports

The school district comments line ( for school board members has been getting several messages regarding the “Freshman No Cut Sports Program.” Regardless of what happens with the operating referendum on May 24th, this particular program will cease to exist. The Freshman No Cut Sports program has been a staple in the school district for over 20 years. This program is indeed another causality of the state imposed revenue caps. Unfortunately because of the school district’s severe budget constraints, I find it very difficult to justify the programs continuance in its current form.

Continue reading Goodbye Freshman No Cut Sports

Madison Schools Proposed Athletic Field Fees

A reader forwarded me comments that were sent to the Madison School Board regarding the proposed athletic field fees:

As you would guess, many of us who have watched a soccer game, t-ball game or football game and enjoyed the unencumbered spirit and play of our children and have personally mowed the grass, or lined a field, you may oppose the school board proposal of a user fee for the athletic fields during non-school hours.
I sent a letter to the comments section of MMSD school board. Send yours to: comments@ at
My letter to the school board stated:

Continue reading Madison Schools Proposed Athletic Field Fees

September 20, 2004 MMSD Board of Education Meeting Audio/Video Clips

Barb Schrank collected video & audio clips from last nights Madison School District Board of Education Meeting:

  • Don Hunt: Retired West High School Art Teacher Fine Arts Statement [MP3 1.4MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Barb Schrank Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.6MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Mariel Wozniak Fine Arts Presentation [MP3 1.9MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Juan Lopez lecture to Ruth Robarts [MP3 2.7MB] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]
  • Athletic Fees Presentation [MP3] [Quicktime Video] [Transcripts: html | PDF]

Lee Sensenbrenner summarized the meeting as well.

Lower Athletic Ticket Prices – Keep Extracurricular Athletic Budget As Is

What Short-Term Option Would I Suggest for Board Consideration? � I would lower the ticket prices to last year�s prices and include volleyball and swimming. Why – families with low or tight budgets are the ones being disenfranchised, and I believe that the drop in attendance will all but wipe out any potential gains from increased ticket prices. I would also not add any additional funds to the athletics budget and have the District Administration, Athletic Directors, Booster club representatives, parents, kids need to come together to review and to prioritize the extracurricular sports budget.

Continue reading Lower Athletic Ticket Prices – Keep Extracurricular Athletic Budget As Is