Like the icicle that starts to form at the corner of the roof, it slowly grows until it’s a heavy, sharp, pointed thing that will impale you without warning. It was fascinating to behold at one time, but it became a lethal sculpture that plunged through the window and left your room cold and wet. This icicle is a metaphor for a Very Bad Idea, and many of them are forming at this time of year.
Not surprising that an athletic conference, the source and summit of bad ideas, is the water trough from which a particularly preposterous notion has begun to drip. It seems the Big Ten (or Big .714, which is what you get when you try to force 14 into 10) is spending all the extra cash it made from Ohio State’s success, on vast quantities of cheap booze. Like tipsy fez-clad Shriners running around their conference hotel late at night, the Big Ten pundits have come up with a Very Bad Idea. Unlike the Shriners, these brilliant plans have nothing to do with plastic wrap on toilet bowls, but pertain to meddling with football and basketball eligibility. In short, the Big Ten wants to bar all freshmen from playing football and basketball. Well, not all freshmen – just the lads. This sounds like it was thought up by an angry nun presiding over a roomful of rumbustious sixth-graders, who won’t let the naughty boys play outside at recess, but instead is making them stay in and write-out Bible verses. The Big Ten is angry because their boys aren’t graduating much when they play football and basketball; thus, they are creating this so-called “Year of Readiness.”
No, this won’t send high school players running to the SEC like their hair is on fire. No, this won’t create a “Year of Slacking and Frustrated Acting-Out.” No, this won’t generate a system of fifth-year graduate students taking ghost classes so they can play one last season. To think those things you’d have to be cynical…or realistic. And, No, this isn’t unfair, even though it does not include half of the student population and none of the other sports.
It is true that graduation rates need to be improved for football and basketball players. But I have a more radical solution: Make them work as hard as their classmates who play nothing more than Checkers. It seems to have worked pretty well for us, since we often have the best football graduation success rate in the nation. Too bad it has prevented us from being #1 in the football rankings – except when it hasn’t. The Big Ten believes this will begin a “national conversation.” I believe the conversation will begin with, “What the Hel heck is this? Were they wearing fezzes and drunkenly running around a conference hotel late at night when they came up with this idea? The “Year of Readiness” is about as attractive as a big, sharp, icicle ready to fall on someone’s head.”
Unfortunately, the Big Ten isn’t the only leaky gutter dripping Very Bad Ideas. It seems our own University is toying with the notion of dropping the Philosophy and Theology requirement. Well, not exactly dropping it, but making it more user-friendly. Instead of a boring course in dreary old Aquinas, students can study Catholic painters to learn about God. Like Caravaggio, who loved to paint Biblical figures either cutting off heads or getting their heads cut off. He was also an inveterate gambler besotted with insatiable and diverse carnal appetites, as well as a murderer. But dam darn, could he paint St. Paul falling off a horse’s as butt!
I didn’t hammer a holy Cross into the frozen ground of Northern Indiana, in weather just like this, to have my University decide studying about some Jesus guy was taking up too much time in busy students’ schedules. And who’s got the chapped hindquarters about Philosophy? It’s the study of…studying. It teaches you how to think. Call me old-fashioned, but that really should be the goal of a higher education. Maybe a couple of Philosophy classes in the “Year of Readiness” would teach Big Ten “student”-athletes how to think through the merits of studying, passing, and graduating.
Maybe it’s all the excess time spent cooped up inside that causes these Very Bad Ideas to form. I’ve often blamed spending four years living in Zahm or Dillon for warping young minds, four years of living in Morrissey for warping young hygiene. At least here we haven’t seen the Very Bad Idea of jumping out second and third-story windows into snowdrifts. Apparently this fad has developed in Boston. Sure, going to BC is miserable and humiliating, but it’s no reason to hurt yourself.
So, my advice is as follows: Big Ten, if you can’t graduate your football and basketball players, tighten your own belt; Core-Curriculum Review Committee, cancel the Theology requirement, and you might find yourselves in hot water (and hot everything else) at the end of your earthly lives – cancel Theology and Philosophy, and you might as well have us join the ever-ready Big Ten; and lads who are thinking of jumping out a window into the snow, go play football on the quad or basketball in the Rock…and never, ever, attend a Jesuit school.
Son, in 199 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm pretty tight with Him.
Now I’m going to tell you a whole lot of things I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew me. I was along before your time, but you all know what a tradition I am at Notre Dame. And one of the most important things I ever said was, “Friends, sometime when my University is up against it and the breaks are beating the students, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win at everything for Padre. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be then, friends,” I said, “but I’ll be looking right over your shoulder.”