Alabama Shows Complete Lack of Class
It's clear the state of Alabama doesn't value education as highly as it does winning football games. That's the biggest conclusion you can draw from the decision of Alabama's flagship state university to, wait for it, shut down classes from Jan. 6-8 for the BCS Title Game. If you've ever wondered why the state of Alabama ranks 44th in percentage of college graduates at 20.6 percent, it's decisions like this one.
The news of canceled classes arrived via an email sent to students. In making the decision, the university cited the number of students who must be in Pasadena for the game and the number of faculty and students who will be attending the title game, played on a Thursday night.
What Alabama did not cite is the fact that far less students must be at the game than must be at a fraternity or sorority's formal each year. Is Alabama also prepared to alter the academic calendar for the Kappa Sigs? At most 150 students must be at the national championship game, that's players, managers, and assorted student-trainers affiliated with the team (a robust .00517 of the 29,000 that comprise the student body). And believe me that 150 student number is generous. The rest of the students and faculty who are going to the game are choosing to skip class. That's fine. If I was an Alabama student and had the money, I'd go to Pasadena for the game too. But that doesn't mean that the university should alter their academic calendar to make that easier for me or anyone else.
Because it sends the wrong message to kids who aspire to go to college at Alabama's flagship university one day. It's all well and good to know the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s, but you know what's even better than being able to apply that number for a tough physics equation?
Being able to run a 4.4 40.
You know what distinguishes those talents? One is given at birth, the other is earned.
Which one is more prized in Alabama?
One of the most important things you learn in college is how to handle the consequences of your decisions. You don't get to have your cake and eat it, too. If you decide to go halfway across the country for a football game while class is in session, then you have to be prepared for the consequences of making that decision. That might involve missing out on class and making a lower grade than you otherwise would. It might mean that you get stuck in a crappy class for a semester because you didn't get to audit it and switch to a better one.
So be it.
You'd be able to balance out an awful class with a great time in California. And in the process your state wouldn't be sending a message that it sends all too often, education isn't that important compared to sports. As it is, your state's flagship university has taken the unprecedented step of canceling classes for three days for a football game. If someone can point me to another school in the BCS era that has made this decision, I'll be happy to rip them too.
But they haven't.
And it's not just a message that Alabama is sending to its own state, it also resonates across the country and impacts how the South is perceived. We already have an image problem, decisions like this just offer further credence to the idea that we are a region run of redneck idiots. Ultimately, Alabama's decision devalues all SEC degrees, one of which I happen to hold, and makes us all look bad. That would be the case no matter what state made this decision.
But when it's Alabama, already 44th in the nation? The message is even more startling and awful. Especially for those that aren't old enough for college.
Need more on the message that you're sending and its trickle down impact on the value of education to younger students? Tuscaloosa city and private schools are considering shutting down for the games as well. How many parents in Birmingham are going to have fights with their sons and daughters over going to elementary school on the day of the game? To their credit, Alabama's faculty has joined in on the criticism. Pointing out, quite rightly, that 95 percent of the students and faculty at Alabama won't be going to the game. Indeed, the university decision is primarily a gift to the richest students at the school.
You know, those students whose parents can afford to send them across the country via air or car, find them a place to stay for multiple days, pay for food and lots of drinks, get tickets that will cost a ton on the open market -- StubHub's cheapest current seat is going for $900, none of this travel is cheap. In fact, it's so expensive that virtually no college kid can pay for all of this out of his or her own pocket.
Nope, mommy and daddy are footing the bill.
Add it all up and some Alabama students will be spending more on their trip to Pasadena than they spend on tuition for the spring semester.
Don't believe me?
Tuition at Alabama for the spring semester is $3,500.
And finally, let's not let the president of the university, Dr. Robert E. Witt, off on this decision. Because, you know, it's university presidents who oppose the idea of a college football playoff because it would impact academics too much. And it's Dr. Witt who made the ultimate and unprecedented call to cancel classes for three days at the university. Thank God that won't impact academics at all.
Meanwhile, isn't it amazing that the BCS ends up impacting college academics anyway?
Or as they would say in Alabama: Ain't that a purty irony?
I called Dr. Witt at Alabama with a simple question, "Are you in favor of a college football playoff?"
He didn't get back to me.
He's probably too busy working on the University of Alabama's new marketing slogan.
Come to the University of Alabama, we play football.
Clay Travis is the author of three books. His latest, "On Rocky Top: A Front Row Seat to The End of an Era" chronicles the 2008 Tennessee football season and is on sale now.