NEWS ALERT!  A drug ring has been arrested at Texas Christian University, and four of the "students" involved are members of the school's highly touted football program. Surprise, surprise! The football players involved are pictured below.  They are, from top left moving clockwise, All American linebacker Tanner Brock, offensive tackle Ty Horn, All Conference defensive tackle D. J. Yendry, and strong safety Devin players

TCU chancellor Victor Boschini expressed the hope in a press release that the incident will not define TCU's national reputation.  Oh, no, of course not, Mr. Boschini!  How could drug-dealers, who represent the school in its athletic program, justifiably detract from or otherwise have a bearing upon TCU's national reputation? 

Head coach Gary Patterson subsequently released a statement expressing his disappointment with the players and the other students involved.  "There are days people want to be a head football coach," he allowed, "but today is not one of those days. As I heard the news this morning, I was first shocked, then hurt and now I'm mad." Pardon me for asking, but are we expected to stand up and applaud the coach's righteous indignation?  I apologize for snickering.  

I will interpret Boschini's and Patterson's statements as something other than transparent window-dressing when the football players -- if they are determined to be guilty -- are booted off the team and banned forever from participation in athletics at TCU, and when every single person involved in the drug ring is provided his walking papers from the school along with a "Go to Jail!" card.  I don't really look for any of this to happen; do you?

I can already hear nitwits throughout the media and higher education bemoaning the harshness of my position.  But, now listen, look on the bright side: it's not as bad as it sounds.  Some of these punks might, if they sustain a record of good behavior, earn their degrees behind bars. Those who haven't declared a major yet might choose criminology or criminal justice and view their time in the joint as an eye-opening internship. If one of them happens to be interested in a writing career, I am certain that prison life will provide ample grist for the mill. The incarcerated athletes may even rack up honors on the prison football squad!  Hey, not bad; however, "All TDC" does not have quite the same ring that "All American" has.  Yet that would probably boil down to a distinction without much of a difference.

If the perks of "doing time" turn out to be the subject of student discontent, then I suggest that the complainers be allowed to settle back, become comfortably ensconced in prison life, and carefully hone their skills in the fine art of thuggery.  Our penitentiaries are marvelous places for manufacturing hardened criminals, such as robbers, rapists, murderers, and drug dealers. Who knows, maybe TCU's four "student athletes" can negotiate a few colorful tattoos on their arms and necks.  Body graffiti is every bit as fashionable in prison as in what we know as "civilized society." Am I mistaken about this?

Don't misunderstand me.  I am not against football programs in colleges and universities.  I have always been convinced that football builds character.  Why, some of the biggest "characters" I've ever heard of or read about have played the game.  O.J. Simpson, Rae Carruth, Mercury Morris, Jamal Lewis, and Michael Vick, for starters.  Think about it:  each of these brutes was the recipient of a scholarship. Perhaps one of the most noted "scholar athletes" of all time is Dexter Manley, who attended Oklahoma State University for four years without ever learning how to read or write.  He went on to serve time in prison for drug possession and evidence tampering.  His name appropriately adorns the Washington Redskins' Ring of Honor. 

One shouldn't be too hard on Manley.  He serves as the de facto poster child for college football recruiters everywhere.  Have you listened lately to the troglodytes who are the prized recruits into football programs around the country?  They are monumentally challenged to put a single sentence together.  I can imagine trying to read an essay one of them might write concerning why Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond. 

Just as General George Patton objected to cowards occupying beds alongside soldiers who are wounded in combat, someone of equal courage should object to cretins occupying seats in a university classroom and their coaches being seen on any university campus.  Away with athletes and their mentors in places where people are serious about learning! 

In fact, the time is long overdue when university athletics, as corrupted as they are by huge amounts of money (much of it paid under the table), should be institutionally separated from university life.  Why not allow universities to form professional "minor league" football teams? Players would be paid a salary to compete just as janitors are paid to carry out the trash. The university in turn would be mandated to use the revenue that is generated from the games to enhance its academic and professional programs.  If a player desires to obtain a university education, he would certainly have the money to pursue it, provided he was able to fulfill the various academic requirements of the university.  It might be that, under such a regime, a Cam Newton, Reggie Bush, or Vince Young would play for one school and attend another or none at all.  But no one, thankfully, would have to worry about the academic environment being polluted by persons who don't belong in it.

There is another benefit which would result from my proposal.  Let me share it with you briefly.  As you may know, there are countless nincompoops who have played football in college, have majored in kinesiology ("physical education") or some other marginally academic subject, and have managed through a hook or crook to receive a teaching certificate.  They turn up primarily on the faculties of middle schools and high schools.  They instruct a variety of subjects, although I've never known one to instruct music, English, or  a foreign language.  They seldom, if ever, inspire a love of learning in their students.  That's because -- are you ready to hear the truth? -- they are dullards and deadwood.  Some of these people, who carry themselves well with an air of authority and have learned how to speak without evoking unanticipated laughter, are eventually coronated school administrators. You can imagine the depth of their academic decision-making abilities!  I would be happy to share some stories with anyone who would care to listen. To make a long story short, if football programs are eliminated from universities, the chances will increase exponentially that middle and high school administrators, with a major professional debt to football, will be eliminated as well from educational faculties throughout the country.  Wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air?

Let me be clear.  Many intelligent people have played football and love the sport.  I would not mind, for example, being advised by Dr. Jim Swink for an orthopedic malady or being instructed in mathematics by Dr. Frank Ryan.  My brother once sat beside Dr. Swink at a medical school banquet.  When the conversation turned to football, the legendary running back and physician-to-be was noticeably silent.  He had nothing whatsoever that he wished to contribute to the conversation.  When an acquaintance of mine took a course at Rice University in higher mathematics under Dr. Ryan, I asked if the professor ever mentioned football.  The response was, "Are you kidding?"  For each of these acclaimed athletes, importing football into an academic setting was as incongruous as speaking of sexual conquests in a Sunday School class.  That is exactly how the matter should be. 

 February 19, 2012