By Steve Sailor | On Monday, America’s undergraduate college system melted down in three humiliating incidents.
At Yale, in a brouhaha over Halloween costumes that has been dragging on for a week and a half now, a distinguished professor apologized for defending freedom of speech and thereby triggering a black coed to screech obscenities at him. This sorry incident called to mind the struggle sessions of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when the national leader encouraged self-righteous young nitwits to force scholars to wear dunce caps.
At the U. of Virginia, the fraternity libeled by Rolling Stone’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely last year in her wildly popular but demented fable about a fraternity-initiation gang rape on broken glass filed suit against the magazine and author for $25 million. The national excitement generated last November by this story that a teenage girl actually dreamed up to make another boy jealous may make for an interesting legal battle. Is it okay for Erdely to not notice that Jackie’s tale about her pretend boyfriend-rapist Haven Monahan was absurd because the reporter (and, evidently, millions of other people) really wished this Night of Broken Glass were true?
And at the U. of Missouri, the college president and chancellor resigned in the face of a strike—backed by coach Gary Pinkel—by black football players agitated over Ferguson and similar racial pseudo-events.
“Americans love a winner. And the easiest way to win at college football is to recruit violent young men other coaches wouldn’t dare bring on campus.”
The football coup at the U. of Missouri was particularly intriguing because the sport has such power in American universities, but much of it plays out beneath the surface. For example, a few years ago, the president of Ohio State, E. Gordon Gee, was asked if he was going to fire the Buckeyes’ scandal-plagued but victorious coach Jim Tressel. “I just hope the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” he replied.
Football players themselves tend to defer to adult authority figures. They are organization men, not rebels. For instance, there hasn’t been an NFL strike since 1987, which explains a lot about why professional football players are poorly paid relative to baseball, basketball, and even hockey players. And college football players aren’t paid at all, except under the table.
So my initial guess would be that the Mizzou uprising reflects a power struggle that remains opaque to outsiders.
But the recent history of Missouri football ought to teach us something about America in 2015.
Americans love a winner. And the easiest way to win at college football is to recruit violent young men other coaches wouldn’t dare bring on campus. For example, although Coach Gary Pinkel is being praised for backing his players in their crusade to have the college president fired for being white, he’s presided over at least two major rape scandals.
When his star running back, Derrick Washington, was accused of rape during the 2008 season when he scored 19 touchdowns, Coach Pinkel let him stay on the team until he was arrested just before his senior 2010 season for assaults on two more women (one of them his university-provided tutor).
As the initial acclaim for Erdely’s concoction demonstrated, many Americans desperately want to believe in tales of white frat-boy rapists. In contrast, practically nobody is happy about documented cases of black football-star rapists.
For the benefit of readers from the rest of the world who don’t understand the peculiar nature of American college football, let me explain that American football is a game built around what 1960s science writer Robert Ardrey called the territorial imperative.
Football teams act out a very literal metaphor of military conquest, struggling to conquer terrain from each other with the percentage of the 100-yard field left to subjugate immediately calculable.
And as with almost all team spectator sports, territorialism is at the heart of college football’s appeal to rooters. While satirists have long prophesied that sports teams would soon be named after corporations rather than places, examples, such as the Nippon Ham-Fighters, remain strikingly rare. (No, this Japanese baseball team doesn’t fight ham, they are owned by the Nippon Ham conglomerate.) Instead, corporations attempt to latch onto preexisting regional loyalties by buying the naming rights to the stadiums of beloved local standard-bearers.
Very few college football teams have national appeal: Notre Dame, with its “subway alumni” among Catholics of Eastern cities, is close to being the exception that famously validates the rule. Conversely, colleges with national academic ambitions have largely de-emphasized football (such as Harvard and Yale) or dropped it altogether (U. of Chicago).
With its immense local wealth to draw upon, Stanford has recently returned to the ranks of football powers. But even in Silicon Valley, college football has a blood-and-soil tie: The key donor behind Stanford football’s rise, John Arrillaga (who has given Stanford $251 million), isn’t a tech billionaire, he’s a real estate man.
Instead, the 128 top-tier college football teams typically represent states, such as Missouri.
But players don’t have to be from the local turf. In fact, coaches are rewarded for recruiting distant stars. One of the paradoxical lessons of 20th-century spectator sports was that territorialism is such a powerful instinct that fans will accept ringers from anywhere in their hunger to see their home team win.
Yet high school football prospects tend to see themselves as defenders of the home ground, so they are much easier to recruit by colleges in their own region. It’s only natural: In virtually every culture, a large fraction of young men want to defend (and perhaps expand) the home turf. So high school football stars tend to stick fairly close to home.
Thus college football has some resemblance to the origins of European club soccer in that it grew from the grass roots instead of being imposed pre-designed by a league. On the other hand, while soccer was traditionally a working-class game self-organized by neighborhood males—and thus soccer fans continue to worry European elites as a potential source of populist resistance to open borders—American college football is very bourgeois. Only fans of televised golf skew more Republican than viewers of college football.
Now, though, the most gifted football players tend to be black. So a system inherited from the days of Frank Merriwell and Dink Stover at Yale that’s built around purported student-athletes doesn’t work very well.
In particular, because young women tend to like young men who are good at beating the other side, white coeds and black football stars are a combination that leads to a lot of rape charges. The U. of Missouri football program, for instance, is notorious for assigning jock-crazy coeds as tutors. The female prosecutor in Derrick Washington’s trial observed:
Too many tutors were having sex with the athletes.… The university has created this environment. When you put a room of athletes together with attractive girls, some of whom like to sleep with athletes, you are just asking for trouble. It creates a sexually charged environment, and athletes get an opinion of girls that is skewed…
Sexual assault of various flavors, such as teammates joining in or attacks on sleeping roommates, is a recurrent problem with college football. But because it’s largely a black vice, it’s hard for modern Americans to talk about—in contrast to the sins of Haven Monahan.
What can be done? Coaches in big-time college football will always have incentives to bring scary bad guys onto campus and connive to keep them there. Coach Pinkel at Missouri, for example, is paid $4.02 million per year to win.
After going 23–5 over the past two seasons, Pinkel is having a harder time of it this year, however, with his Tigers only 1–5 in the tough Southeastern Conference. That might be relevant to the threatened strike. “If we were 9–0, this wouldn’t be happening,” said one white player.
This Missouri strike is reflective of a general trend that’s beginning to show up in high school football: While football remains overwhelmingly popular as a spectator sport, it will likely fade as a participation sport. In California, a state that regularly contends with Florida and Texas for sending the most high school football players to the NFL, it’s starting to become a pattern for bad high school teams to forfeit the last few games of the season because they can’t get enough players to suit up.
Fans need to come to grips with the realization that big-time college football is going to downsize eventually. There are currently 128 FBS teams, four times as many as the NFL’s 32 pro teams. Reducing the number of teams that compete in the top tier from 128 to 64 wouldn’t eliminate college football’s problems, but would at least cut them in half.
“Diverse” means formerly White… –Bob Whitaker
Bob Whitaker: A true American and former Reagan Administration appointee.
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