The Texas Tribune’s lead summed up in a sense the state of 21st century culture and university life: “The University of Texas at Austin announced on Monday it is launching a new center to help its athletes — as well as high school student athletes – with character development, financial literacy, and responsible decision making.”
Well, duh, as they might say during locker-room chalk talk. Or wait – chalk talk our modern players can do. Coping with civilized life is the thing many can’t do. Way too many, which is why UT President William Powers deserves credit for starting the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation.
Yet Great Darrell Royal’s ghost! Has it come to this – that the ‘Horns can’t handle routine life any better than they handled their 2014 schedule? The day of Powers’ announcement an Austin grand jury indicted two ex-‘Horns for sexual assault. Wonderful! Great role models, these guys! Great advertisements for the power that bigtime football throws around on so many campuses!
A UT head coach, Charlie Strong, feeling the need to remind his players of the need for basic honesty (e.g., no rapes, drugs, or stealing) – who’da thunk it not so very many years ago? Nor is the problem confined to UT. It’s all over the place. College athletes are today’s Roman gladiators, with a somewhat better life expectancy. The sporting public values their ferocity and size more than their intellectual and moral attainments, if any. The schools go along, inasmuch as football – winning football – brings in $$$$$$$$; lots of those from fans, advertisers, and grateful alumni. The tendency among football’s powers-that-be is to recruit the guys who can win, suit ‘em up, and hope for the best.
Universities, in the beginning, had as part of their mission the inculcation of character. That isn’t exactly where they are today: a fact that goes far toward explaining and clarifying our cultural problems. Let’s give UT anyway a hand, as contrasted with a hook-‘em sign, for understanding the problem and trying to address it intelligently.
That the Longhorns should have to do all this stuff, as if the gladiators had knuckle-dragged from the Teutoberger Wald instead of a wide range of modern, once-creditable American high schools! That’s where the shock and pain and humiliation and indignity originate: the emotional equivalent of a goal-line quarterback sack with no time left in the game.