Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“It's Better to Lose than to Win at the Sacrifice of an Ideal," Andy Smith



When the demotion of Rugby and the elimination of baseball et al. were first announced I began a series based on two lines from one of my grandfather’s favorite poems:
You don’t go down with a short hard fall, you just sort of shuffle along
‘Till you lighten your load with the moral code, ‘till you can’t tell right from wrong.
It was my contention that the Chancellor’s approach to lowering the bar at Cal, academically and admissions-wise (and the Athletic Director’s decision to punish Rugby, rather than reward and celebrate excellence) was yet another marker in the continued dumbing down of the school we all love so much.
The hypothesis was that millions of dollars are being wasted in salaries for professors who are teaching classes where making sock dolls constitutes a final; where “therapy” trumps academic rigor; to say nothing of promoting classes on TV shows like Mad Men, and the Scrabble class my daughter took, where for the midterm she had to memorize all the two letter words.
Add to that the exorbitant waste in bloated administration (compare the number of pages under “Deans and administration” in your yearbook to today’s Blue and Gold)—and one can see that it is foolish and “political” to grandstand by demoting Rugby and cutting baseball .
It’s like the TSA patting down passengers in public, while allowing baggage handlers and all other airport personal to go into the bowels of the airport with nothing more than the swipe of an ID card. All style—no substance. Looks good to the outside—means nothing in reality.
Even Bain found $75 to $100 million in outright waste.
But the most galling fact was the blatant dishonesty regarding our AD’s approach to Rugby.
We are supposed to be teachers. We are supposed to be educators. We are supposed to be setting an example based on character and integrity, so these kids come out with more than a sheepskin and the promise of a 6 figure job working 20 hours a day on Wall St.
Rugby was designated “Varsity Club” due to Title IX. No one disputes that. (To review: Once women sports were cut we were switched to another “prong” on Title IX which bases participation on proportionality of the student body. With 800 athletes, and a ratio of say 53% women to 47% men, the number of athletes is theoretically required to mirror that).
The 64 male spots which Rugby took up were supposed to help alleviate the current imbalance.
Here’s the dishonesty: In an effort to placate snotty Old Blues like me, they said, “No one will ever know.” Wink, wink. Details had to be worked out, but basically Coach Clark’s boys would get access to the athletic study Center, training facilities, locker rooms, athletic trainers, equipment etc. (Of course, donors would have to pay for it all). The only thing different would be that Rugby would report to a Vice Chancellor instead of the Athletic Director—making it a club sport (for the first time in history despite the AD’s claims to the contrary), and we could still play for and add to our 25 National championships.
Many fair minded men, women, and major donors thought that was a reasonable solution.
Some called or e-mailed me and said, “What’s the big deal? Please go along with this and don’t make waves.”
Jack Clark’s Big Deal is “validation.” As he said, “What part of me doesn’t look like Varsity to you.” Tough to argue with that.
The real “Big Deal?” It was always blatantly dishonest to take this approach, but I kept my mouth shut until the Oregon fiasco.
Our AD and Chancellor were gaming the system. They were saying we’re a “club” sport—but we’re “wink, wink” Varsity too. As a club, we don’t count under Title IX—even though everything’s the same as when we were Varsity! “Wink, wink.”
Boy are we smart! No one will ever figure it out. We can be Varsity and Club and no one will ever know!
You don’t go down with a short hard fall, you just sort of shuffle along
‘Till you lighten your load with the moral code, ‘till you can’t tell right from wrong.
And that’s what caused the Oregon Fiasco. An institutional mentality that it is ok to flaunt the spirit of the law as long as you adhere to the “letter of the law.”
It starts at the top. Institutional attitudes set the tonality for those underneath.
The Chancellor and the AD created a working environment where respect for the law and the truth could be flaunted as long as it was “politically correct”--or brought in revenue (see selling desks to out of state students while denying local tax payers' kids).
Sock doll finals, Scrabble classes, Therapy classes, Diversity classes, Mad Men classes, bloated administration—all of it could be justified as long as we all “winked” together and pretended that they were necessary to produce a holistic educational environment.
Teachers got paid—they were happy.
Administrators got jobs for life—they were happy.
Kids didn’t have to study or flunk out—they were happy.
Parents got kids who graduated—they were happy.
Rugby would be “Varsity Club”—Title IX would be happy.
Everyone was happy except that tiny minority of people who took Professor Richmond’s Shakespeare class (and others of integrity) who bought into Polonius' words to Laertes, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”
Or my grandfather’s admonition to us: “It doesn’t matter how rich a man is, how kind, how loving, how generous. The only thing that counts is a man’s character. And a man’s character is defined by his refusal to lie.”
For some, this entire charade regarding Rugby and cutting baseball has been one big lie.
It boiled over in the Oregon Fiasco, when students from the University of California, “Faked” injuries so that our team could slow down the Oregon juggernaut.
Many of my friends—good people all—considered it gamesmanship—not much different than the Oregon Coaches setting up for five seconds—checking out the Cal defense—then having each of their players turn to the sideline for instructions on the next play.
Gamesmanship? Cheating? For some it’s a tough call. My bet is that for my grandmother and your grandfather it is not a tough call. They weren’t into the situational ethics that are so in vogue today.
Can a student ask for time during a 3 hour physics final so that he can be treated for indigestion. Should the test be stopped until he's taken care of? Can others work while he's being attended to?
“It's Better to Lose than to Win at the Sacrifice of an Ideal,” Coach Andy Smith
By trying to “game the system” regarding Rugby, the Chancellor and The AD set an example that it is OK to “Look for the loop hole” as my friend says. That it is OK (in an educational institution) to take short cuts and violate the spirit of the law (Title IX)—as long as you don’t violate the letter of the law.
“Everything will be the same, except you won’t report to the AD. You still have Varsity status, but you’re a club.” Wink, wink.
Hello fake injuries to allow for substitutions.
Tedford has a lot going for him on the asset side of the ledger. I’m not here to throw him under the bus. Think of all he's done for graduation rates.
But (if the Chron reported it right—a big if). Sandy was way out of line throwing a 29 year old assistant coach (a kid, really) under the bus.
She suspended defensive coach Tosh Lopoi for one game for directing his kids to fake injuries so that the clock would stop and substitutions could be made.
Anyone who knows Tosh knows that he is a class act, perhaps the best recruiter we have, and a wonderful, young, loyal golden Bear.
Don't lay it on Tedford. The Chancellor and the AD set the tonality. They should not be surprised that others did what they have been doing.
Which is worse? Faking an injury or calling classes with sock doll finals academic courses? You decide.
Which is worse? Penalizing excellence (in the name of Rugby) or tossing a 29 year old kid under the bus for doing the same thing you have done? Bending the rules just a bit.
Our AD and Chancellor are using gamesmanship to skirt Title IX. Yet, they have the audacity to suspend a kid for following their lead?
(I’m not giving Tedford a pass here. Clearly, as the one in charge, it happened on his watch. But he’s only reflecting the culture he’s been hired to protect and promote).
It’s better to lose than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal. (These words of Andy Smith are engraved on the back of the stone bench in Memorial Stadium).
I don’t know what happened, but I know who was responsible. Could it have happened under Robert Gordon Sproul or Benjamin Ide Wheeler?
The Oregon fiasco was not a firable offense. But it was wrong. And throwing a kid under the bus was not the grown up way to handle it. Our AD looked bush league.
And Yes, I was in school when scandals happened. Did the head coach know? I don’t know, but I do know that he took responsibility and that when Arleigh Williams said he would have to fire two of Ray Willsey’s coaches, Ray said, “If you fire them, you fire me.” And he was gone.
I know it wasn't just Tedford which caused this problem.
What I know is that the greatest university in the world has chosen to opt for style over substance and is now in the business of promoting dishonest policies from the classroom to the football field—and throwing underlings under the bus when “irregularities” come to light.
As a proud alumnus, this does not sit well on any front.
The lack of institutional control in the classroom and on the athletic fields is unbecoming of an institution of our stature.
It’s no secret that the finest men you will ever meet met with the Chancellor last week. Instead of coming away with an “I’ve never seen such passion. We can do it together attitude. I’m spending everyday for the next 10 months making this happen….” Position—we get a FAQ from the AD justifying her and the Chancellor’s anemic actions. Why are they stone walling us? What gives?
The Chancellor said "no more cuts." This group pointed out that there is still an imbalance regarding men and women. What about our "moral obligation to support Title IX?
Both the Chancellor and the AD will be gone in a year or two. We are still here to pick up the pieces.
According to an Article in the Sac Bee which lists the salaries of 1,900 faculty members and administrators (none is under $102,000)

our AD made $470,000 in 2009. The Chancellor actually makes less. That these two could make almost a million dollars a year between them and the best they could do is demean excellence, promote mediocrity, and embarrass the greatest university in the nation in front of the world does not sit well with some of us.
How many remains to be seen.
You don’t go down with a short hard fall, you just sort of shuffle along
‘Till you lighten your load with the moral code, ‘till you can’t tell right from wrong.
Go bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70
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