"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Whither football at St. Cloud State University?

Did St. Cloud State get carried away getting "new toys" during the good economic times? I remember a local conservative individual, now deceased, who said "we all like nice things." A public entity like a college has no trouble coming up with shopping lists for "nice things" if the money appears to be there. The advocates for these "nice things" then argue that these things are actually essential.
St. Cloud State University has added some nice attributes since my graduation there in the late 1970s. Those growth spasms might have been beyond what was truly reasonable. So an air of discomort has set in now.
When a school allows its name to get out there in the state's chief media with a proposal so drastic as cutting football, well. . .
You can read between the lines and conclude there are some budget issues causing cutthroat-like conflict and turf battles. Academia can get unpleasant that way.
There will be a certain element there now equating the college president to Attila the Hun. I don't have to be there to know this. Regardless of what the facts are, it's a horrible public relations black eye for this asinine proposal of cutting football to get headline treatment in front of the state's citizenry.
In case you don't know, St. Cloud State has a football stadium that was built just six years ago. In fact, Husky country has an athletic complex of buildings that could be described as opulent. I feel like an old geezer recalling the days when the fitness-conscious people on campus jogged laps at the bottom level of Halenbeck Hall. These were mere hallways that were never designed for that purpose. We joggers learned how many laps were a mile.
Reflecting on it now, I think this would be disallowed today for liability reasons. Joggers tearing around a corner could be a hazard. I witnessed at least one scolding incident because of this.
"Run single file!" someone yelled.
We were a tight community (us joggers) back then, in the days when "aerobics" was an unfamiliar term for most people.
Such quaint times.
Today St. Cloud State can undoubtedly feel pride in its sprawling athletic digs. First I was awestruck by the fieldhouse they added. Then came the celebrated hockey arena, the football stadium and a meandering biking-walking-running trail along the Mississippi River. All of these were most certainly "nice things" when they came into being. Let's throw in the new SCSU library which is palatial in its own right.
But then the economy changed. The party was over. Wall Street didn't bestow riches as if by magic anymore. Austerity has crept into the picture along with another factor that I frequently cite on this blog: the spectre of tech and the new media which may begin to start tearing down the whole traditional bricks and mortar higher education model.
Might this be a "perfect storm?"
No less a person than Governor Tim Pawlenty, who rarely gets kudos from this writer, said on The Daily Show that young people might start flocking to the Internet to get the knowledge they need to plot out the rest of their lives.
I expected to see this process proceed on a subtle basis. But with the headline trumpeting SCSU's possible elimination of football, maybe it won't be so subtle. Of course, one must ask how realistic this possibility is. Want to lay odds on it?
My instinct tells me we're seeing political posturing with this grim announcement. The pain caused by impending austerity must be pretty bad if we've reached this state.
Cutting football? At a major state university with a still-new football field? I can just imagine the tempest in campus circles, even among the non-football fans. Because, the proposal smacks of panic! And it will hurt the institution even if it turns out to have been empty posturing. Football recruiting will take a blow as SCSU will be perceived as on the margin.
Across-the-board fundraising could take a hit. Like it or not, many donors find athletics to be the most viable basis for their giving. It has an emotional or sentimental pull. It probably means a lot more for alumni than for current students. It's symbolic. People connect to their alma mater through sports reporting in the state's news media.
St. Cloud State has had a parallel experience to Morris with its football facilities. The Huskies used to play at Selke Field which was slightly off-campus and comparable to our old Coombe Field with its neighborhood setting. Fans could crowd around in standing clusters.
The powers that be seem to have turned thumbs down on that model for school football competition. SCSU now has Husky Stadium which is a larger version of our Big Cat Stadium.
The new model seems sterile and confining. These stadiums seem as though they were built only for the serious football watchers.
Will this design be proven sound in the long run?
The new football stadium for the Huskies doesn't seem to have propped up that school's athletic budget. I have read that the hockey team makes money but it's the exception. I took one peek inside the hockey center in 2006 and thought "my God, this is Nirvana."
But has my venerable alma mater expanded beyond its means? Football is just part of the budgetary wrangling we see there now. There are three proposals to reorganize academic affairs. An online news source reported July 30 that "it's been a rough past week for a couple dozen faculty members at SCSU."
Indeed, SCSU sent out 26 layoff notices on the same day, to "some unfortunate non-tenured staffers," the report reads.
Earl H. Potter III, the school's president, might need some sleep aids. The school is striving to escape a $13 million hole. It aims to shed 80-90 positions by the start of the new school year. It's desperately hoping to tap retirements in doing this. Some of the layoff notices could be withdrawn.
But football on the chopping block? Potter says he should have a decision made by the end of October. Personally I think the moon is more likely to fall out of the sky than for St. Cloud State to cut football. So why they would allow this proposal to go public is beyond me. It points to some disarray, and the person at the top ultimately answers for this.
This current weekend is "move-in weekend" at SCSU, a term that I don't recall ever hearing in the ancient times when I walked the campus. Giving it a name, of course, means giving students an excuse to carry on "celebrating" with the kinds of foolishness that have come to be associated, unfortunately, with SCSU.
I have read that some of the famous ebullience for Homecoming has been transferred to move-in weekend. I'm not sure it's been transferred. I think it's an addition!
The infamy of SCSU's Homecoming has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because, now the media contact law enforcement there annually to get the poop on Homecoming excessiveness. Indeed we're a fun-loving crowd, us Husky-ites.
I attended one game at the Husky football stadium in 2006. I didn't realize until I got seated that I was looking at two 0-4 football teams that day: SCSU and Mankato State. So the stands weren't as full as they might have been.
Some Mankato fans walked past me during the game looking for a more central seating location due to feeling the wind. I sense that this can also be a problem at Big Cat Stadium in Morris.
It wasn't a wasted afternoon but I definitely did not develop warm feelings toward the SCSU venue.
I probably had warmer feelings toward those hallways at Halenbeck Hall where the little fraternity of joggers on campus - the barriers came down between students and faculty - plied their hobby.
The new SCSU football season will begin on September 4 at Augustana College. The Huskies are picked by Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) coaches to finish third in conference and second in the league's North Division.
The University of Minnesota-Morris Cougars used to be in the NSIC. The Cougars used to be able to defeat St. Cloud State. I was at Selke Field in 1980, working in the news media (and right down on the sidelines) when this happened. Eventually the landscape changed pretty drastically and UMM went through an excruciating dry spell in football.
But UMM might have the last laugh because football appears certain to at least survive here.
But is it really on the chopping block at SCSU?
I would suggest that the moon is more likely to fall out of the sky.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment