Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas Wishes

First of all, merry Christmas, dear Readers. Like every one of you, I have wishes for Christmas as well, and I'd like to share them with you.

* As a Lehigh fan, I'd like a better offense for the 2010 season. Sure, there were flashes of what was possible in 2009, but I really don't want to sit through another home shutout anytime soon if that's OK with everybody.

* Maybe part of that wish above might involve Lehigh hiring a quarterbacks coach, Santa, to help the quarterbacks with mechanics and the like. I know university athletic departments aren't exactly teeming with money right now, but what about inviting a local guy that cares about the program, like former QB Phil Stambaugh, to work with them sometime? This isn't just for next year, either: this would pay off for the next generation of Lehigh quarterback, too.

* While I'm wishing, Santa, I could use some Saints playoff tickets. And some round-trip tickets and accomodations to New Orleans for me and my family, too, while we're at it.

* I wish for the players at Northeastern and Hofstra to land on their feet and get the opportunity to play and coach again if they desire. It was not fair what happened to those kids, and there were some good coaches that lost their job through no fault of their own.

* I wish college presidents at the FCS level stop the dangerous fiction that FCS football is a for-profit enterprise that balances the books for the rest of athletics. That certainly isn't true in the Patriot League, and in no college in the Northeast. Admit that there is value to having a football team on your campus. It may not make sense, and it may not be fair, but it's the way it is.

* Is this the part of the blog posting where I wish Satnta for world peace, completely renewable energy for all, and for the ability to forgive? It must be.

* I wish the Patriot League presidents would sit down and take a look at their football programs, and see in their hearts that the ability to offer football scholarships - even in just a limited way, by, say, twenty full scholarships and the rest need-limited aid - would allow the Patriot League to compete in the marketplace of scholar-athletes in a new way. Keep the academic index and the strong academic requirements for Patriot League football players - but just having some scholarships available would make such a massive difference in recruiting and allow Patriot League schools to get more scholar-athletes.

* And finally, Santa, are there any other extra tickets for the 2010 World Cup in your sack? The USA vs. England match, the "Tea Party" game, perhaps?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Your Commitment to Athletics

(Photo courtesy the Chicago Examiner)

The guys in the picture to my left are definite diehards. Though it looks like they might be Holy Cross fans, they're actually Baltimore Ravens fans that submitted their picture to the Chicago Examiner's "Tailgater of the Year" competition.

While it's not easy sometimes to summon up that football (or athletics) spirit during the offseason, there's a Lehigh alumni survey that is still open that, among other things, asks about the importance of athletics in your alumni experience.

Ordinarily such a survey wouldn't raise many eyebrows. But then again, the landscape around collegiate athletics in general and football in particular has to make anyone have cause for concern these days.

Ask the folks at Hofstra - who suddenly and dramatically had the plug pulled from their program thanks to a "double-secret" athletics study that is still waiting to be made public. Ask the folks at Northeastern - who made a decision that their high school-grade football field wasn't giving the student-athletes there a good experience, giving them plenty of cover to fold their football program as well.

Ask the folks at the Knight Commission - who wrote a fire-breathing editorial in the Washington Post about how a FBS playoff wouldn't balance the books of FBS schools. While the biggest blows were landed on FBS schools, there were general shots at collegiate athletics that were troubling for FCS schools, too:

The real crisis facing college athletics is the sustainability of its business model, which is on a path toward meltdown. The core of any debate about major-college football must be about the need to develop a business model consistent with the economic realities of our time and that would benefit student-athletes and educational institutions alike.

...

Now, consider all this in an environment where athletics costs are escalating at all but a few institutions while academic budgets are being cut and student fees and tuition are being raised. NCAA data show that the rate of increase in athletics spending in Division I programs is three to four times greater than the rate of increase for academic budgets. That is neither acceptable nor sustainable.

Don't think FCS presidents aren't paying attention to this. In this whirlwind, Lehigh and Lafayette quietly release end-of-the-year surveys to gauge their alumni opinion.

Interestingly, just around Lehigh/Lafayette, the assistant VP for Alumni operations released the following letter just prior to the alumni survey:

I hope that my talk of “The Game” stirs up memories of your Lehigh family and our great university. Keep those in mind when you receive our alumni survey, coming your way in the near future. Your opinions are important as we shape our programs and how we support them going forward.

How important is this survey, then? If it is indeed "how the programs are supported going forward", this survey could be very, very important.

I'm not saying the survival of athletics at Lehigh is in the balance - but certainly reaffirming how important athletics plays in your alumni experience cannot possibly hurt. Folks make dollar decisions based on surveys like this. In my opinion, it's a great time to say exactly what is important to you about Lehigh athletics - showing you care.

For the record, one of the questions in the survey is: "What is the most meaningful thing Lehigh can do for you in the next 5-10 years?" Here's my response:

Lehigh has a great tradition in its sports programs. While continuing to ensure that the athletes going to Lehigh are true student-athletes, Lehigh should continue to support its teams and give them the best Division I experience that the school can offer.
If a lot of alumni put something along the lines of this as a response to that question, it can only help the athletic program in the future. I'd strongly suggest you take the 10 minutes to tell Lehigh that you demand a Division I football program.
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