Monday, October 20, 2008

College Football: The Thrill of Defeat and the Agony of Victory

My employer's football team (BYU) was discussed as a possible BCS team this season. One of my favorite bloggers, The Sports Curmudgeon (link on the right column of this page), even mentioned them as a possible Rose Bowl invitee. Alas. All is for naught since they got thumped last Thursday by TCU.

I am glad they lost, though. And not for the reasons you may suppose. While I do think universities and sports teams should be divorced, and while I do think BYU's loss will mean my students will spend more time preparing their reading assignments for my class, I really did hope BYU would win out. Their coach this year is trying to do things right, and it would be nice to see a team from a conference without a major TV deal make it to a top tier bowl game.

But college football is simply too rigorous for mid-level conferences like the WAC, the Mountain West, etc. One loss means a team has virtually no shot at a BCS game. And perfection, even in a weak conference, is almost impossible to achieve. Losing and getting back up to make something of a season is educationally far more significant than an all-or-nothing formula.

If we accept that universities exist first and foremost for the education and improvement of the students, coping with failure is a lesson students should learn. "I need an A to keep my scholarship." "I have a 4.0 and need to keep it." "I'm going to med school and need an A in this class." Instead of coping with failure, or working hard to overcome a weakness in their learning, students put pressure on professors to keep their perfect season alive. In fact, like a lot of football teams who put winning ahead of improving as a team and as human beings, many students worry more about their GPA than actually learning. They try to work the system instead of working on their homework.

Basketball or baseball have playoff systems in place that allow teams to stumble, learn, and overcome (if they learn the right lessons). College football's current system is too rigid and puts perfection ahead of learning. A playoff, with a play-in game for the highest ranked smaller conference teams may help restore some sense of sanity.

1 comment:

ChrisC said...

It's interesting/frustrating to see students who "just do school" and aren't really there for the learning. Some of my best students end up being the ones who aren't that interested in the outcome of their grade-they just want to learn-and that attitude usually rewards them with a good grade