You’ve got to give it to Southern Baptists. When they do implosions . . .
Two, count ’em, two spectacular demolitions visited Baylor University mere days apart.
First – boom, boom, boom – the 66-year-old pillars under stoic but still highly functional Floyd Casey Stadium took lethal injection by dynamite.
Boom. Football coach Art Briles. Boom. President Ken Starr. Boom. Athletic Director Ian McCaw.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Floyd Casey’s ruins were still being digested by big-toothed equipment when the highly successful football program that caused the old stadium’s obsolescence fell apart, too – aftershocks sending blue-chip recruits scurrying.
In the stead of that old stadium is a jaw-dropping football palace: McLane Stadium. The problem now: Who will don pads for those who, we presume, will fill McLane’s seats?
And before we consider that, understand that the demolition team known as the NCAA has yet to visit the scene of the crimes.
Those crimes need not be itemized here, as the matter has dominated the Texas press for weeks.
As one who resided in Waco and wrote about Baylor matters for most of my newspaper life, it does seem, however, that thoughts are in order that transcend what becomes of gladiators in pads.
First, Baylor is an institution of which any community could be proud. That could not always apply to officials who have run the show.
Right now the Board of Regents preens officiously and without sin, withholding the report it used to jettison Starr and Briles.
The Baylor governing board once did valiant things like insulating the institution from fundamentalist takeover. Now it is simply insulated — a Skull and Bones on the Brazos without any ritual animal sacrifice that we know.
The new stadium, named for Regent emeritus Drayton McLane Jr., is beyond sumptuous. It could be considered the regents’ pride and joy. With what now has become of the football program, it also could be considered a real estate deal with the devil.
You don’t compete with the biggest and baddest football programs in America without recruiting big and bad people, or so it now appears. And don’t forget sporting facilities beyond belief. Utterly necessary, we’re told.
But opulence is not a fleshy sin of the big-time college sports alone. It is a higher education syndrome.
Before Briles’ program, on the wings of Robert Griffin III’s cleats, became a national presence, on-campus building was a Baylor fixation. Many derided the administration’s “edifice complex.”
A controversial development plan focused on go-go building efforts – in part to achieve artificial aims in national college rankings. Many faculty members bemoaned an emphasis on research at the expense of teaching.
Teaching. Educating. We so often forget. Baylor aside, let’s wonder if all that’s spent on sporting glitter were applied to lowering college costs across the country, what a better world would emanate.
As a journalist, I am often bothered when personalities and distractions crowd out matters that matter in the national discourse. When discussing colleges, the matter that matters is cost – obscene costs, obscene debt.
And don’t let any college say, “Well, we provide generous financial assistance.” Generally, that assistance equals debt.
So-called prestige colleges are soaking young Americans for all they’re worth. Trust me when I say that a quality higher education can be obtained at community colleges and hundreds of supposedly no-name state colleges.
I teach at a community college that doesn’t even have a sports program. But it has a great library (partnered and shared with the local library district.) It sends students onward, well-educated and owing a ton less than most higher-educated peers. Even then they’ll owe too much.
Wait a minute. I forgot what we were talking about. Was it football? A fall extra-curricular activity? It must be important. The sounds are deafening.