Why do we even have a football program this year?

None of this makes any sense. Our university administration keeps flapping their lips about caution and respect for faculty, staff, and students, while enforcing rules about social distancing and masking in the classroom, and then…oh, we have to keep the football games going! So now disease is sweeping through the football program.

The Minnesota football Gophers have canceled a second consecutive game due to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the program.

U of M Director of Athletics Mark Coyle, University President Joan Gabel and Gophers Medical Director Dr. Brad Nelson made the decision to scrap the Dec. 5 game with Northwestern after consulting with the Big Ten Conference.

The game will not be rescheduled, and is considered a “no contest” as per Big Ten policy.

Since Nov. 19, the football program has experienced 47 positive cases of coronavirus in players and staffers [!!!], the most recent group of 15 diagnosed just Saturday.

Remarkable. We are an educational institution, we’ve compromised on everything to keep the academic mission limping along, and yet we’re risking it all by giving the goddamned athletics department free rein, on top of paying the coaches and AD staff far more money than they do the instructors. We should have just put the whole athletics program on hiatus at the start of the year, and saved money by putting the coaches on half pay for the year (they’d still make more money than I do.)

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff continues to be our main priority,” said Coyle.



  1. says

    “We are an educational institution, we’ve compromised on everything to keep the academic mission limping along, and yet we’re risking it all by giving the goddamned athletics department free reign, on top of paying the coaches and AD staff far more money than they do the instructors.”

    As the old saying goes, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. Not far from where I live is a well-known D1 university. I saw some stats not long ago. The highest paid person on campus was the basketball coach. The second highest was the football coach. The third highest was the college president (and it wasn’t even close). The fourth highest was the AD.

    In contrast, I teach at a small state community college. The combined salaries of those four individuals would have our science and engineering labs well stocked for years.

  2. microraptor says

    It makes sense. Football is all about watching the athletes sacrifice their future health and well-being in order to entertain a crowd in the first place.

  3. Artor says

    If covid puts an end to the dominance of collegiate athletics, that will be a silver lining. I don’t begrudge the jocks their sports, but not at the expense of most of a university’s budget.

  4. Larry says


    Where is the money coming from this year? There is no one in the stands and I would guess TV revenues have been slashed? I think its all about stroking the fat cat alumni who wouldn’t be happy unless they get to see their slaves, er, players on the field. That’s worth the risk of a few lives, don’t you think. After all, its not like they’re important people.

  5. says

    @#5, no it isn’t. All the money that’s brought in through athletics, and then some, goes to pay the ridiculous salaries of the coaches and to build $100m stadiums. College athletics run at a loss and tuition and fees are continually jacked up to make up for the shortfall…oh and your taxes, for the public institutions.

    “The NCAA reported in 2016 that the average Division I school lost $12.6m annually on athletics if they don’t have a football team, and $14.4m if they do. In Division II, the annual loss per school as of 2014 was $5.1m if they had a football team and $4.1m if they did not. For Division III, football schools lost $3.1m on athletics while those without football experienced a $1.6m loss.

    Largely, student fees and hiked tuition subsidize these costs at smaller private universities, although taxpayers contribute at state government-operated public colleges. Even so, a 2010 Washington Post report revealed that nine public colleges in Virginia charged each student more than $1,000 annually in fees to fund their athletic department.”

  6. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    Sorry if nothing to do with football, but just heard that Sam Harris has denounced his base:

  7. whheydt says

    Back when rocks were soft and I was in college, it was claimed that UC Berkeley would have a great football team…as soon as someone figured out how to put cleats on sandals. (Actually, those at Cal that follow sports really only care about one game. It’s a winning season if Berkeley beats Standford.)

  8. whheydt says

    Off topic, but of possible interest to a fair number of people here… Ben Bova (SF writer & editor) has dies. COVID-19.

  9. PaulBC says

    @13 Yes, I was going to add that “this year” seemed superfluous.

    @11 Crap. Ben Bova. Honestly, I can’t remember what I read by him but he was certainly a big name in his day (I keep thinking I probably saw him give a talk in the 80s). I would also have thought he’d be smart enough to be careful.

  10. PaulBC says

    I read Privateers (and only remember the title) and (believe it or not) THX-1138. This was probably determined more by availability in used bookstores than on any intent on my part.

    I believe I saw Ben Bova talk at Penn State in 1984 as part of the Colloquy series that also brought Graham Chapman and Kurt Vonnegut to campus for talks. It was a perfectly fine talk that I remember enjoying, but I have to say that the other two were more memorable.

    RIP Ben Bova. I hope it will not be disrespectful to refer to his contributions as workmanlike rather than brilliant.

  11. whheydt says

    Fully agree about questioning why any college or university has any sports teams to play against other institutions. Personally, I’d run that down to the high schools, as well.

  12. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Ditch the football, go for a COVID-acceptable athletic program!


    “get within 6 feet and I’ll STAB you”

  13. says

    whheydt @17 — Agreed. The worst part of high school was the pep rallies. Yes, let’s disrupt the learning process to fawn over the sportsball teams! (The absolute least the schools could do is allow the uninterested students to chill in the library, but no. Attendance was mandatory.)

  14. kome says

    There will never be a more important priority to university admin than money. Thanks to the infection of a business mentality into the education sector, that’s what truly guides all the administrative decisions.

  15. flex says

    @16, John Morales,

    “Free rein” is correct. The expression derives from horseback riding, and it means giving the horse control.

    Or, in this case, the horse’s ass.

  16. whheydt says

    Re: WMDKitty @ #21…
    OMG, yes… I went to a high school that made the mistake of winning the local football championship in its first year. Rallies were compulsory. The district did 3 year high schools, with the sophomores in the pull-out bleachers on one side of the gym, the juniors in the pull-out bleachers on the other side, and the seniors on folding chairs in the middle.

    Naturally, as a senior, I sat in the back row. All the PE teachers/”coaches” stood just inside the doors at the back. Trying to prevent escapes, I guess.

    So there I sat reading a book. One of the “coaches” came over and took it away from me. So I started reading another book. Same result. Reading a third book. Same. When I started reading the fourth book I had with me…he gave up. Good thing, it was the last one I had. At the end of the rally, I just walked up to him and held out my hand. he gave me my books back, and I left without saying a word.

    I understand that a year or two later, they started allowing kids who didn’t want to attend the rallies to go to the library. I’d like to think that I had some influence on that decision, but I don’t actually know. When I left that high school, I never looked back.

  17. hemidactylus says

    High school pep rallies were where I honed my craft at heckling and thumbing my nose at authority. We had special nicknames for each member of front office including the principal. We even heckled the coaches. Good subversive times.

  18. tacitus says

    #8 re: #5, no it isn’t.

    It might not be directly about money, but the prestige which comes with having a good football program is certainly used to recruit new students, and sports is very important when it comes to keeping the alums interested in their former schools. Not all the money paid and/or donated by former students goes into the sports coffers.

  19. hemidactylus says

    Ugghh. Did I really need to see Sam Harris sneering at me while scrolling through the comments?

  20. HappyHead says

    Well, the football organisers probably look at covid as just one more potential source of brain damage or long term crippling disability for their players, and they’ve never cared about any of the others of those, so why care about this new one?

  21. DonDueed says

    @28: It would be interesting to know how many students (other than the athletes themselves) select a college based on the quality of the school’s sports teams. I suspect it’s only a small fraction, but I can certainly imagine being wrong about that.