Sunday, November 05, 2006

Go Big Red

Jim watches Nebraska defeat MissouriPending further discussion of the University of Nebraska's symposium on the modern legacy of William Jennings Bryan, I thought I would shamelessly post an item on how I spent Saturday, November 4, and a few thoughts I had regarding collegiate athletics.

Full disclosure: Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and hospitality shown by Nebraska's College of Law, especially Susan Franck, I had a great time. Evidence of this appears above right, where I am depicted with the gavel exchanged each year between Nebraska's Black Masque chapter of Mortar Board and the University of Missouri's Mortar Board chapter. Because the Huskers defeated Missouri's Tigers 34-20, the gavel will stay in Lincoln until next year's Nebraska-Missouri football game.

Huskers volleyballAfter football, Susan Franck escorted our entourage to a women's volleyball match between Nebraska and Oklahoma. The top-ranked Huskers swept the no. 17 Sooners, 30-19, 30-26, 30-27. Nebraska has won five national championships in football (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, and a 1997), but the women's volleyball program is arguably even more dominant in its sport than the football team. Unless I misunderstood or miscounted the banners in NU Coliseum, the Huskers have won every Big 8 or Big 12 championship in women's volleyball since the 1970s except in 2003.

On this forum, Dan Farber has questioned whether sports have social value. He asked the question in the context of whether governments should subsidize sports arenas and direct other benefits toward professional sports teams. The case favoring a robust culture of collegiate athletics, it seems to me, is considerably stronger:
  • Yes, there are abuses in college sports, as there are elsewhere in university administration and in professional sports, but the scholar-athlete ideal is extremely appealing. Fostering physical fitness is a proper part of education, and athletic prowess is a form of intelligence in its own right.

  • Human beings are tribal creatures. They like belonging to groups. Within the range of affiliations that humans can assign to themselves and to others, sports team allegiances are generally benign and, in most cases, affirmatively healthy. Being part of Husker Nation for the weekend certainly buoyed my spirits.

  • Huskers footballIn a series I will be developing at MoneyLaw, I intend to explore in greater depth how heavily universities, including law schools, depend on nontuition sources of revenue. Like it or not, and many university professors don't, alumni donations hinge heavily on the success of university sports teams. But university income from whatever source derived is just that, income. Within the specialized realm of law school administration, I imagine that most law schools would be ecstatic to enjoy even a fraction of the loyalty that undergraduate institutions seem to inspire in their graduates.
All of which, at least on this glorious weekend that I've been privileged to spend in Lincoln, Nebraska, translates to a simple message:
Go Big Red!


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