Game Day

The university of Michigan, like many other universities, is very centrally focused around football. On Saturdays the Ann Arbor population essentially triples. Walking outside on the morning of game day you see a stream of people decked out in maize and blue making their way to Hill Street. On the surface game day is a crazy, wonderful and fun ritual. However what lies underneath? It’s easy to see why the university places such a high importance on a game. It brings in money—a lot of it. But what does it say about the values of the school?IMG_8835

Louis Menand has three theories of education:

One: The goal is to split people up into the best, the average, and the weak. With this theory it does not matter what kind of classes people take.

Two: The goal is to produce competent citizens. Students must take the same types of classes in order to give them the necessary background to be a part of society.

Three: The goal is to produce workers. High school gives everyone a general education, so according to this theory college should give students the skills necessary for a job.

Each of these theories has a valid point—they all in some way work to prepare students for the world after college. In each of these theories either the student or the society benefits from college. It is therefore not surprising that none of them say anything about the importance of sports at the University. In fact, the importance that sports currently hold seems to work against all of Menand’s theories.

The head football coach at the University ofMichigan makes over $4 million annually. He makes more than five times the amount the president of the university does. Not only that but he makes more than twenty-six times the amount that the average full time professor at the University of Michigan makes. These numbers alone send a very distorted idea of where our priorities lie.

The school throws its time, energy, and resources into sports. With all of this money, football is able to become a big production in a beautiful stadium. The University makes it a big production, and so the students treat it that way. There is so much hype leading up to a game—hours of drinking, tailgating, dancing and partying. The players spend hours a day practicing and leaving everything on the field. The coaches put their focus on winning the game. They sometimes focus on this even more than the players’ well beings. How can these values produce students that fit any one of Menand’s theories?

If the school were to put half the resources it uses on football into education, things would be dramatically different. Not only would classes themselves be different, the whole mentality would be different. Students put so much focus into football and other sports, because the University does the same. It sends the wrong message. If this message were to change, the whole student body could change along with it.

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7 thoughts on “Game Day

  1. Interesting article! I also think that our head football coach makes a little too much money, especially when we compare it to the average salary of our professors. I had no idea that the difference was that large (could you provide a source with those statistics)!

    And I also believe that sometimes we put too much emphasis on football and our social lives. The classic counter-argument is that football illustrates the legacy of our history, traditions, etc. And football is the “Michigan Difference.” But I also believe that many students here would perform so much better if they focused more on school. They wouldn’t necessarily have to stop going to football game (I mean, we all deserve a break), but the partying and drinking needs to decrease.

    I think a good way to fix such problems would be for the University to organize more pre-game and post-game activities. That way, students can still enjoy themselves on Saturdays, but it would be at a much safer level and at more reasonable hours. That would be a start.

    With regards to putting in more of our funds towards education, I am not too sure that the teaching quality would change around here. Professors are already very busy with their own work, so dedicating more time towards their students would be very unlikely, even with a salary increase. Just a thought! Still an interesting article!

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  2. I think your argument has some very valid points, and is overall very well written, but I would like to take a look at it from an avid sports fan.

    People involved in athletics make way too much money as it is. That is professionally and collegiately (albeit just for the coaches in college). However, that is what our society has come to. Sports has a big pull on the heartstrings of fans not only all over the country, but all over the world. It allows us to have a distraction from the common day-to-day struggles almost everybody has. Whether that be in college, taking a quick study break to relax and have some fun, or in the real world, allowing yourself some time for leisure.

    I think that what the University of Michigan is doing is acclimating itself to the society in which we live. By pooling a lot of money for the athletic department, they are also able to make a lot of money through TV deals, ticket sales, and all the other facets of televised sports. The money made from these deals can help bolster not only the athletic department, but the education at the University as well. Also, having such widely respected teams and cultures here, the University gains a lot of publicity which is beneficial in terms of prospective students. Not only does this help bring bright (sport enthused) minds to the university, but, on a bit of a business perspective, brings in money based on the payment to apply here.

    While the culture of football, and sports as a whole, may not be exactly beneficial to our education system, and while it may not fit into one of Menand’s 3 theories, it does however adapt the University to the culture that has developed over time.

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  3. I believe that your argument does make some good points but that there is a middle ground. I will play devil’s advocate and argue the opposite point.

    Speaking solely monetarily, football is extremely important to this school. The money generated by tickets alone is staggering not to mention memorabilia and tv contracts. While some of this money does go back to the athletics department, a good amount of it is funneled elsewhere in the University. This money could be going to the improvement of academic buildings, hiring of more professors, or any number of other things that improve the academic atmosphere of the U of M.

    While money is obviously important i would argue that even more important to the betterment of this school is the notoriety that the football team brings. The history of the team and the overall sense of unification it has for the school are very appealing to high school students. A recent survey done by University Primetime, a site that ranks many aspects of college, shows that the University of Michigan is the number one dream school for high school students.I would argue the football team is a big reason for that and is partially responsible for bringing in extremely bright high school students. You also must keep in mind that professors are attracted by some of these same things and so you could argue that the football team is partially responsible for the amazing professors that work here.

    While i do believe that the football team does divert funding from other potential programs i would argue that the good the team does for the school far outweighs what they may take away from it.

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  4. While may of your points are valid and reasonable, sports really does bring such a big community together and benefits the University as a whole. First off as you mentioned, game-days on Saturday mornings are like no other; the unity and passion all the fans share is indescribable. It brings a Michigan spirit that is unlike any other. 133,000 people come together in the Big House to yell and scream for their fellow students. The thing i disagree with is wit the amount of money that is being placed into sports instead of the education system. Only a very small percentage of students participate in sports, while the majority are here to learn. There is no reason that the head football coach who happens to suck, should be paid so much more than the professor. At the end of the day, we came to Michigan to learn and educate ourselves. That should be the primary emphasis of our school, with the most money being spent on top professors. At the end of the day, there is nothing like gameday here. There must be a balance between sports and education where there isn’t more emphasis being placed on sports.

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  5. I love the hypothetical question you asked the public about University of Michigan without sports; however, personally I do not feel that sports detach the University from furthering our education. Sports have been apart of colleges and universities starting from Harvard and Princeton and the creation of the Ivy League. Sports teach people many skills not taught in a classroom or class-like environment. Sports give the University a sense of cohesion and spirit. Football brings Michigan together, it gives people a sense of belonging and a lot of values inspired by sports and teams. Michigan, especially, shows the sports and education can be balances together and make the “Leaders and Best” of the future. We of all Universities should promote sports as it gives people a diverse education and social aspect to college. To conclude, University of Michigan would, like you said, be much different without sports. The feel, vibe, and spirit of Michigan would be completely different. For the better or for the worse, now that’s up to interpretation, I believe.

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  6. Your blog post provides a very interesting perspective on how sports play such a big role at the University of Michigan. I think your argument truly has some value in it for the University does put a significant amount of its resources into the sports programs. Although the University cares a great amount about their sports programs, I still think there is a significant emphasis on the academics here. The University puts even more resources into the academics, thus making Michigan a prestigious university.

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  7. Your post is very compelling in that it gives a unique opinion on the importance of college football at the University of Michigan. While most people will argue that Michigan football is an integral part of the university, it seems that you disagree with its role here at the University of Michigan. In my opinion Michigan football is what makes the University of Michigan so unique and compelling. While I believe the majority of the students at Michigan come for its unbelievable education, I also feel that the tradition of football at the Big House also entices students to attend the university. While academics is the number one priority, it is also a luxury to be able to enjoy football Saturdays with over 100,000 Michigan fans. Michigan football brings an entire community together and allows the students to forget about the struggles of their schoolwork for one day each week.

    In your post, you argued that college sports work against all of Menand’s theories. However, I feel that college sports, and Michigan football specifically, go hand-in-hand with theory 2. The main goal of theory 2 is to create well-rounded and diverse citizens that will one day be successful in the real world. While Menand was probably referring more to the academics part of college, I believe college sports makes people more diverse. College should not be strictly about academics. Being involved on campus and supporting the football team on Saturdays are key factors in maturing as an individual. At the end of the day, we attend one of the most desirable colleges in the country and, like it or not, this has a lot to do with the tradition and honor of Michigan Football.

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