I mentioned in a recent post the fact that Ohio University has lowered admission standards in order to admit the largest freshman class in its history (ACT and SAT scores are down 10% from last year). I also mentioned that we hired Frank Solich to coach our football team, in the hopes that big money will win big games, drawing big attention.
As it happens, Ohio University did not win its first football game of the season against Northwestern. But it did win its first home game of the season against Pittsburgh, and it managed to do it while 25,000 locals and who knows how many viewers of ESPN2 were watching. Forget about the fact that the offense was basically on vacation and the game was won almost entirely by the defense, and forget about the fact that Pittsburgh seems not to be the team it was hyped up to be--it was an exciting moment for the followers of one of the worst college football teams in the country.
So exciting, in fact, that it seems that some revellers were not content with merely cheering in the stands or at the sports bars uptown--they decided to take their party to the streets. Literally: police reported many street fires, much property damage, and a rather embarrassing number of arrests considering that this is neither Halloween, Spring Break, Palmerfest, or any of the other dozen or so "regularly scheduled street parties" during which rioting appears to be regarded as much more acceptable.
Our football team may wind up doing better in the rankings this year, but it's beginning to look like the University itself will not fare so well. We were already red-faced about the fact that we moved up in the Princeton Review's "Party School" rankings from number 5 to number 2 when what should happen but we moved down in the U. S. News and World Report rankings from number 49 to number 52 in the bargain category and out of the top 100 in the best public schools category. Dude, that is, like, so bogus!
We are not helped any by the fact that we jettisoned our old peer-institutions for some newer, better ones. If we were still comparing ourselves to Miami of Ohio, slipping to number 52 may not look so bad; but our new peer institution, UNC, is number 5. Ouch. We managed to go from mediocrity to suckiness just by redefining ourselves.
All of this has got to be a major embarrassment for President Roderick McDavis, who wants Ohio University to be a contender: he wants to build the graduate and hard science research programs while maintaining an excellent undergraduate base, all in the face of raging alcoholism, riots, and sports-mania that now spills out into the streets. I say it "has got to be", but of course it isn't. It was McDavis' idea, fully supported by the Board of Trustees, to make the sports programs at Ohio University more competitive.
I have nothing against sports per se. In fact, I love football. I do think, however, that a University is primarily a place of education and research, and it is my opinion that the best universities (like, you know, UNC, for example) make it a point to have very strong liberal arts programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This is not a committment that the Board of Trustees or Roderick McDavis are willing to make, and it's going to start showing more and more as the rankings come in and the parties get wild.
But at least we've got Frank.