On Saturday, college football fans were treated to a gridiron classic, as Alabama defeated the University of Georgia 32-28 to capture the SEC Championship and a trip to the NCAA national championship game. Spectacular individual and team performances drove the fans to parallels of euphoria and bitter disappointment, depending on which team was their favorite. This was the zenith for college football and the young athletes who play the sport.
I love college sports. The individual and collective feats of hardworking athletes are to be admired. I also admire the feats of athleticism on display at Shorter University. It is nice to pick up the paper and see an article about a pigskin victory, a day on the diamond, a holiday on the hardwood, a spike or volley, or any other mention of athletic heroics. I am glad that scholarships are being offered to so many students of diverse athletic persuasion so that they can further their education. Shorter did not have such a variety of sports to follow just a few years ago. When I was at Shorter, we had basketball, baseball, and an empty football schedule with phantom home and away games. That was about it. (Sorry, this article was supposed to be about athletics, not academics.)
There has been an explosion of sporting opportunities on the Hill this past decade. The Dowless era has continued the trend. Dowless, acting as General Manager, is striving to create an atmosphere of Christian athleticism in which each victory might be seen as a blessing from God. Why, I have even heard of trustees speaking of Shorter’s victories as being a manifestation of God’s favor on Shorter. I hear such fervor about Christians winning at sports but not so much about winning in the classroom. In fact, despite numerous articles in the Rome News Tribune and on the Shorter website, touting various sports results, there has been only one achievement of academic significance noted. (There I go again…)
During the past year and a half, so many massive changes have occurred at Shorter that sports have served as a pleasant distraction. That can be seen as a good thing, for Shorter has experienced a LOT of pain. But hey, to borrow an athletic analogy, no pain, no gain! However, if gain does not occur, in the end, the pain might be followed by more pain in the form of a significant defeat brought on by the lessening of academic standards. (Focus…sports, sports, SPORTS!)
At Alabama and UGA, sports are BIG business. TV contracts, ticket sales, boosters, clothing and memorabilia sales – these are ongoing sources of revenue. The reality is, other than some major universities and some well-run smaller schools, the athletic program is not a cash cow. It is closer to a cash hog. Having a large sports program is seen as a marketing tool, no matter the expense. At Shorter these days, stadium leases and remodeling, high tech scoreboards, and the like must be costing a WHOLE LOT MORE than any revenue they may be generating! Those expenses must have some bearing on the fact that neither faculty or staff – those who actually help those students earn their degrees – received their annual Christmas bonus at the faculty-staff Christmas banquet. (Oops, that pesky academic thing again!)
Shorter football appeared recently on a regional cable network. It got the Shorter name out to potentially thousands of viewers. Perhaps there were some high school students and parents who looked further into Shorter. They may have viewed a catalog to see what academic majors are being offered. Problem is, in these changing times at Shorter, what is in a catalog and what is really being offered might be entirely different. I mentioned academics in a sports article again, but at some point the strength and conditioning of the academic aspects of the school must be studied. (Note that I used a sporty analogy, which keeps me on track in fleshing out my theme).
As December rolls around, the college bowl season is set to begin on the national stage. In the classroom, students will take final exams to cap off their academic seasons. And for Shorter University, another outcome will be decided on December 11th, as the SACS report and recommendations for Shorter will be announced. Will that announcement be followed by the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat? It will depend on how many of the abundant fouls and penalties committed by the Shorter administration were observed by SACS officials as a result of their April visit. Will we see a flag on the play? Just how well did Shorter implement their game-plan of deception? How closely were the officials watching those plays? If those charged with creating whole cloth from nothing were not able to “clean up” the little messes noted in the April visit, Shorter may be on the path to an eventuality that will put them in with the big athletic programs – probation. However it will not be an athletic one, it will be an academic one. And I will not apologize for THIS mention of a scholarly term!
Editor’s note: Hat tip to Phillip Coffey for the following statistics –
3702 enrolled fall 2011
possible returning students=2724
2932 fall enrollment 2012
525 graduates this fall
2407 students possible returning for spring
3329 enrolled Spring of 2012
2407 is 72.3% of spring 2012 enrollment
New enrollment for fall 2012 was at least 208 new students.
And enrollment is only down a little bit.