By William Murchison
Where do you go to spend $7.5 million a year?, is a question most Americans would like to face. Now all they have to do is scope out Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M’s new football generalissimo, hired for $75 million, spread over 10 years: the biggest contract ever awarded a football coach.
But, hey, Fisher might bring the Aggies a coveted national title, the first in seven decades. It’s a bizness investment, you know. You spend in order to earn. Earn what? Thought you might ask that question. Earn, um, national prestige. For football. Earn, well, that is…
As A&M Chancellor (and Aggie grad) John Sharp elucidates, football is about Getting Attention. In June, Sharp likened the matter to bird-hunting. “You have a bunch of bids flying over,” he explained to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples. “You want them to come take a look at your university.” An unlikely mission, one might interject. How many birds want to scope out any portion of a university campus save for the statuary? Anyway…”The football program is the decoy. That’s what first makes a lot of people want to see what the university is about.”
The university is about – yes, a winning football team! Skip those dull classrooms. Emerge, on a crisp fall afternoon into the sunshine of newly renovated Kyle Field. Football! Football! Sends sensations to the cerebral cortex! Who knows, Sharp sublimely inquires, aspiring scholars may come streaming in, fired up by A&M’s commitment to winning a national championship.
The Ags are hardly alone among major American universities in seeing football as a decoy – a vehicle for winning recognition. A&M just has more wherewithal to accomplish the wonders that Chancellor Sharp has in mind.
The best thing about the Fisher regime may be the boss’s announced emphasis on “toughness” – a long-touted Aggie trait (“Rough…tough…We’re the stuff…Texas A&M!”) in need of revival, it would seem to many, in a wispy era more focused on personal whim than on the deliberate stretching of brain muscle and the cultivation of something resembling character.
Maybe it all works out well down there at College Station, home of the Aggies and repository of an $11.65 billion endowment. It helps in any case to be reminded of the various paths American universities now stroll in the quest, formally speaking, for the enlargement of human understanding and wisdom. Seventy-five million big ones is something nearly everyone can understand – and envision without exertion as the Maroon and White take the field and toughness comes into its own.