When I was a kid, Dinah Washington had a hit song titled, “What a Difference a Day Makes”. Well, those lyrics ring true this morning because late yesterday, the University of Maryland president, Wallace Loh, reversed course and fired head football coach DJ Durkin. Loh did so without consulting with the Board of Regents which had directed him to reinstate Durkin as of yesterday; he simply informed the Board of his decision and acted on it.
While my instinct here is to praise Dr. Loh for demonstrating integrity and leadership in that action, there is a little voice in the back of my head saying:
- What the Hell took so long?
The only new information that came forth in the last 24 hours relative to this matter is that students and players supported the idea of getting rid of Coach Durkin and to say that was the information that tipped the scales begs credulity. Students do not run the university – or at least they are not supposed to. I do not know why the narrative there is that it was the expression of various student bodies on campus that opened Dr. Loh’s eyes to the fact that he was in the middle of a mess that would fester unless he made a clean break with coach Durkin.
So, let me congratulate Dr. Loh for doing the right thing – – finally. However, to get an understanding of the dynamics ongoing at Maryland related to this messy situation, I strongly recommend that you read this column by Barry Sverluga in today’s Washington Post. I have said that this is a sordid situation; Barry Sverluga will fill you in on some of the details as to how we got to this point.
One of the underpinnings for the Maryland Mess as pointed out by Sverluga is the chasing of athletic dollars. Interestingly, as this comes to light at Maryland, a related situation seems to exist at Northern Illinois University – whose football team plays in the MAC and not the Big-10. According to the student newspaper at NIU, the school bought back more than $250K worth of tickets to their home football games to inflate attendance figures. Why did they do that? Well, it seems that in order to retain one’s status as a Division 1-A football program, a school must have a certain minimum attendance at their games – – and NIU was going to fall short. That would mean some sort of “decertification” and that would mean loss of football revenue from playing on TV on Wednesday nights against other MAC schools and loss of money from corporate sponsorships etc.
- [Aside: If you ever bother to tune in on a Tuesday or Wednesday night to a MAC football game, you might conclude that most of the other schools in that conference are doing the same thing NIU has done. To say there are 10,000 people at most of those MAC games would mean that you believe that Caspar the Friendly Ghost and all his buddies bought tix and are sitting in those broad open swaths of seemingly empty seats.]
The common thread between what the college newspaper reports about NIU football and the Maryland Mess is that both schools are chasing dollars. The difference is that in Maryland the environment boiled over and resulted in the death of a “student-athlete”; at NIU, the only casualty is a financial one as $250K that could have been used to do something constructive for the institution was spent on tickets that no one wanted to buy.
Please keep these situations in mind the next time NCAA president, Dr. Mark Emmert, stands up and tells you that intercollegiate athletics are about enhancing the college experience for the student-athlete. I will join you in giving him a chorus of raspberries when he does so.
Since the last two items have been football-related, let me deviate from normal practice here and talk about tonight’s Thursday Night Football game. This game probably looked very enticing to the suits at FOX and NFL Network back in August; the Niners would be in the middle of a decent season with Jimmy G at the wheel and the Raiders would be experiencing the glory associated with “Gruden 2.0”. As they say in Australia:
- Yeah … NO!
There have been plenty of bad match-ups on nationally televised NFL games in the past. This one may be on the Mount Rushmore of bad games of that type. The combined record of the two teams is 2-13.
- The Niners’ only win came at the expense of the Lions (meh!) and the Niners’ have already lost to the Cardinals twice (yuck!).
- The Raiders’ only win came at the expense of the Browns in OT (meh!) and four of their losses have been by 14 points or more (yuck!).
As the good folks at FOX and NFLN prepare to bring us the game with all the pre-game and post-game blather, I beg them to avoid a tempting storyline for tonight’s game:
- This is NOT a “Battle for Bay Area Bragging Rights”.
- The ONLY thing tonight’s winner can claim is that they are the “Least Worst Team in the Bay Area”.
- I do not expect you to be so direct/blunt about it, but please do not try to glorify this game as anything more than a fetid pool.
And there is another football-related thing to consider this morning. The NY Giants – talk about an NFL team that is worthy of being labeled an environmental hazard – have to deal with their backup QB being arrested earlier this week for disobeying a police officer’s traffic instructions and almost hitting the officer with his car. After the arrest, it turns out that Kyle Lauletta has done this same thing before but was merely given a traffic citation for that incident; evidently all he did then was to disobey the directions and did not come close to running over the officer. I guess the only good thing for Giants’ fans to think about here is that Lauletta did not ask the officer at the time of his arrest:
- “Do you know who I am?”
Switching to baseball for a moment here, I ran across this item in Gregg Drinan’s excellent blog, Taking Note. There is a link to his blog over on the right side of this blog under the heading “Columnists I Read”.
“Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers went 18 innings and took seven hours 20 minutes to complete on Friday night. It took longer to play that one game than it did to play the entire 1939 World Series when the New York Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds with the four games taking a combined 7:05.”
Finally, since I mentioned Mount Rushmore above in the hackneyed metaphor of the top 4 whatevers in some random category, here is an observation from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle that has been sitting on my clipboard waiting for an appropriate time to close a rant with it:
“You know what’s on my Mt. Rushmore of famous landmarks? You guessed it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………