Friday, February 26, 2010

University athletics; playing on your dime

It is my contention that university athletics in general and at UNM in specific are a drain on the university and do not provide a worthwhile return on the investment the school makes in them. My modest proposal then is not the abolition of the sports programs at UNM, but to relegate them to the level of clubs. Vast sums of money are poured into the university athletics program. The usual justification for this is that having a successful sports team aids in national recognition and that aids in recruitment, arguably for the university itself, but the primary benefit for this probably falls to the sports program itself. Athletics are often cited as a way of maintaining alumni interest in the university and thus increasing alumni funding but a study by the NCAA found that this is not in fact the case. The relative success or failure of the sports programs at a university shows no apparent statistical relevance to alumni donations. Furthermore the study also showed that an increase in funding for athletics shows no statistical correlation between either team success or revenue from ticket sales. College athletics represent black holes for funding. That is money can be poured into the programs but there is no reason so suspect any return on that investment.
UNM’s athletic department runs on a $27,551,570 budget for the 09-10 fiscal year according to their SFRB application for a further $1,525,842(2). This is an immense amount of money to be pouring into these programs given the general state of the New Mexican economy and the economy of the school in particular. According to a 2002 article at the time, both Stanford and the University of Michigan, significantly better funded schools, spend in the area of 33 million a year to run their athletics programs(link). This should raise some serious questions as to the amount of funding being put towards the athletics programs at UNM. How is it that a school whose overall economic profile could never compete with either of those schools pays the kind of money towards sports as those two institutions. Furthermore I perhaps falsely assumed that the point of a university is to educate people, and to provide them with the best education that the institution can afford. To that end the university is paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 a year to Locksley plus benefits and Alford negotiated a $975,000 compensation. This while multiple departments are losing faculty due to individuals retiring and there is a freeze on new faculty. The average salary for a UNM professor is around $108,859 (link). I leave you to do the math as to how many professors we could manage off the salary of one head coach, much less the small army of support staff that make up the athletics department. The fact is that the amount of money we spend is disproportionate given the size and fiscal capability of the university.
To add insult to injury the student athletes are afforded a great many amenities that the average student does not have access to. Granted these “student” athletes probably do need more outside support to assist them in passing their classes since they miss so much class that any “mere” student would long have been dropped for a similar amount of absences. Health insurance, tutors, psychological assistance, the list of assistance options to student athletes is a long list of programs designed to assist the student athlete pursue their college degree. What I find strange however is the wording specifically used in the SFRB request. There seem to be a proliferation of programs that are designed to almost force the student athlete to study and work on school related material. This is of course because as the athletics department states in the SFRB request “student athletes are held to "strict academic requirements for competition as dictated by the NCAA and the mountain west conference, these standards are in most cases more stringent than those required of the general student population." I did a little research and found that the NCAA requirements are in fact simply a percentage of the school’s minimum GPA requirement. Of course the required percentage of the minimum GPA required by the school goes up for each year attended, the benchmark is still the minimum. That benchmark is the same one that all students are subject to. I fail to see how more is required (academically) of student athletes than other students.
University athletics provides nothing economically to the university. For a school the size of UNM having an athletics department the size of the one we have can only be detrimental to the overall quality of the education at the university. So much money is sunk into athletics programs with the only beneficial result being perhaps a heightened sense of community and moral. But my suggestion of maintaining sports at a club level would still allow for these benefits while allowing the university to compete academically with other universities due to the flood of funding that could be diverted from athletics. Furthermore student athletes who are serious about receiving an education would be able to receive a better education and not endure such demands on their time as are currently required by their participation in a sports programs. The relegation of sports to the club level seems the only responsible solution to the situation facing the University it would provide the athletic outlet for those who both enjoy sports and those who enjoy watching them. But at the same time it would allow the massive amounts of funding that are currently spent on sports to be diverted towards other, dare I suggest academic, programs. While some may say that the loss of division 1 sports will cause immense financial repercussions for the school I ask how could saving almost 30 million a year hurt the school financially? That money certainly isn’t made back in tickets. That is money that disappears every year and does nothing to further the quality of the education of the average student. If the school truly cared about giving a competitive education and doing first class research and turning the university from a no name backwater state school into a first class institution the solution is relatively simple. Abolish sports teams, relegate them to the level of clubs and let them lobby for funding like everyone else on campus who has a non academic interest but would like to pursue it while attending the university. I fully believe in the role of clubs and special interest groups that are funded in part by UNM. I don’t know why it is that one particular group should receive such a disproportionate amount of money while the fundamental elements of the university are left to suffer.

Please Don’t Spin Me a Yarn: I Live With a Knitter

When I sit down to watch a movie with my girlfriend, we’re always joined by someone else. As it happens this other person is the knitting project she’s currently working on. Admittedly i don’t pay as much attention as perhaps would be appropriate to what it is she’s knitting. But to be honest she usually whips the knitting out anytime her hands have some downtime and as a result I’m inured to the presence of the project. I suppose it’s at this point that I should wax poetic about the clicking of the needles and how it comforts me or some such nonsense but I intend to do no such thing. The thing is, that while I may not do any knitting myself I’m still rather involved in the whole process. I’m like a field engineer for the army, I don’t do any actual fighting but I install the bridges and remove the landmines before the troops with the guns roll in get the bloody mess over with. This usually involves sitting around looking at seemingly countless variations on a “slouchy beret,” or gloves, or mittens, or fingerless gloves, or mittens that are fingerless gloves. She’ll show me the ones she’s thinking about starting and a few other designs that caught her eye and I’ll give her my opinion, as that is what she called me over for, and she will proceed to ignore me and proceed with her own choice. I often wonder if I’m merely a check she makes before she starts; “I’m thinking I’ll make pattern X, hey Trace, which one do you like?” “Hmm…I like Y.” “Ok.” At which point pattern X has just been made a sure thing in her mind.
My other primary task as far as her knitting is concerned is the de-tangling of her balls of yarn. This, much like socks missing from the dryer is one of gods secrets that I fear man shall never truly explain. I’ve watched as ordered yarn has come to the house in boxes, my girlfriend will lift it from the box making permutations of pleasure noises as she looks over the yarn. The yarn is carefully spun into big soft coils which are delicately wrapped around each other in a manner that is utterly useless to a knitter as the yarn will need to be wound into balls anyway. The carefully (untangled) yarn is placed into a basket or a drawer and left unmolested till the project that calls for it is started. It doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed since the yarn was placed in the container till she starts using it. In that time the yarn will twist in on itself with such vigor and determination that one can only assume a small singularity momentarily opened up in the basket the yarn was in. The yarn twists and warps around this singularity but before it can be consumed by the black hole in minature, the singularity disappears causing the yarn that was in hyper dimensional space to collapse back into our reality into whatever postion it happens to be in in relation to the rest of the yarn. Needless to say this is usually in the position of “quite tangled.” It then, by some other miraculous process that I have yet to understand, becomes my responsibility to untangle said mess.
My girlfriend started knitting when she was in 8th grade. A couple failed attempts at learning with her grandma led her to learning from a family friend. She says that she was a “crafty kid” and liked to make things with her hands and as a result she took to knitting with vigor. Her enjoyment of knitting stemmed from the creation of something that she could use. “I guess, ultimately it’s a creative outlet, something functional, I like creating things that are functional and have a purpose.”
Initially her knitting was met with some mocking calls of “grandma” and people asking her why she was knitting. But times and people change and she now finds people asking her what she’s knitting instead of why. She informs me that knitting is becoming rather vogue, particularly with the DIY (do it yourself) crowd. In fact it’s becoming such a movement that there is now an appreciable sized group of male knitters in what was once a female dominated activity. “Actually there are a lot of really good knitting designers that are male.”
Though this popularity is not without it‘s downsides, as is the case when someone’s personal passion gains a wider audience. “Now it’s really, really popular, it’s a trend, which is kind of frustrating for me because I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve put in the time and effort developing my skills and when I meet someone who says “oh I knit!” and they just make shitty scarves with shitty acrylic yarn it upsets me.” I play devils advocate and try to rationalize that a lot of these people are just starting out, perhaps one should cut them some slack. But I recognize what she’s complaining about. “Knitting is a lifestyle choice for me, it’s not a hobby.” An influx of people into any group can cause feelings of resentment amongst those who’ve been there longer and feel like they put in their time and earned the right to define themselves as members of that group. But I understand her gripes and commiserate with her. It’s one thing to take up a Curling have done it once or twice and call yourself a curler, but it’s something else entirely to have put in years of effort into curling and call yourself a curler. It’s not the skill level achieved, it’s not the number of things one has knit. It’s having spent enough time at it that one develops an intrinsic understanding of the activity. This understanding may not translate into appreciable skill, but it allows one to nod knowingly when others speak on the topic. When I watch my girlfriend knit I see the body language of someone rather practiced at the craft. Her fingers are locked into postion and move with a precision and speed that can only come from countless hours of practice. I often find myself watching entranced at the way her hands are seemingly bent into specific repeated angles. Arthritic looking angles and strange positions so as to maintain the yarn in a specific arrangement that is the flurry of her silent needles. There is an unconscious understanding in her motions, her body knows what it is doing. One can see the same thing in anyone who is passionate and practiced at their art. The pianist whose fingers glide across the piano without effort, the sprinter whose every movement is set towards one purpose. It is an efficiency of motion that defines this level of understanding.
“Why knit?” I ask her, “is knitting important?” I get a look that says she could ask the same thing about some of the things I do. I make an attempt to elucidate what exactly I meant by my question which after some back and forth we come to an agreement about what exactly I meant by important. “Fine socially, is it important socially?” “I think it’s important socially. Being able to create something with your own hands and be proud of your work is very important. That’s a valuable skill to teach kids. There’s not a lot of art education anymore so giving kids chance to make something and be proud of it is important.”
Since she doesn’t interact with children currently I can only assume that she intends to teach our potential future kids how to knit. While I am not a child care expert by any stretch of the imagination I can’t help but think of the material instability field naturally emitted by children. What happens when one puts a small basket of yarn singularities next to a child emitting a strong “accident causal field” and asks them to do something with it…All I can be certain of is that I’m sure it will become my responsibility to fix it when it happens…


It's kind of embarrassing to realize how out of shape one is.. It's not something one is generally aware of till one goes out and actually exercises. I'm strong enough to do what I need to do and more. But I am far from actually being fit. So to that end I've started running and I've been monitoring my "progress?" on google maps:

View running map in a larger map

furthermore i've been running in a pair of these:

I've been researching body weight exercises that I will begin to work on in the coming weeks, I don't feel like going into the diet aspect of the whole shebang because I have neither the time nor the inclination presently to write about that however suffice it to say that I am following a relatively "paleo" diet, however since cheese is one of the greatest triumphs of man I am still eating that, in addition to drinking milk and still having sugars from time to time, I still don't eat enough fruit, but I have a shit ton of meat and veggies and I'm working on (and doing better at) drinking more water, also for those of you that knew of my habit before, I have cut down on the amount of soda's I've been drinking by an almost unbelievable amount. ( i used to probably average 3-4 on my days off work and gets unlimited soda working in restaurants I really have no idea how much I drank...) furthermore serious efforts to not eat any high fructose corn syrup or is derivatives. 5 days in and I'm still waiting for all the supposed benefits (better sleep, more energy, etc...) to kick in, but that's just my modern mindset getting in the way of realizing some things take time (often more time than we'd like). But time wise I'm using only about an hour a day to get in this exercise and while i could spend that time doing homework that needs doing or cleaning some dishes that need doing, I know that if I wasn't running I'd probably be sitting around wasting time on the I am now...