David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
True Football Schools

February 1, 2013: True Football Schools

This week saw the release of a paper from the Center of American Progress, "Lessons from the NFL for Managing College Enrollment," in which the author states that the same kind of competitive balance sought by the NFL to protect both its league and its teams should be sought by colleges and universities.

Given that it is Super Bowl week, I have no interest in attacking the timely analogy, or questioning whether anyone in higher education would ever have the guts to start such a venture. I do have an interest in trying to equate NFL teams with colleges or universities by extending this figure of speech. As such, I see the following:

Green Bay Packers, historical franchise, held in almost ridiculous awe, and "owned" by its fan base = The Ivy League Schools.

Dallas Cowboys, media darlings, flamboyant, led by very much hands-on owner = The Public Wanna Be Ivy League Schools, found usually in the Big Ten and the ACC.

New England Patriots, stable organization, finding its niche and sticking to it via very hands-off owner = The Private schools not in the Ivy League and not overly caring: Colgate, Swarthmore, Wellesley.

Baltimore Ravens, forever associated with cutting the hearts out of Cleveland Browns' fans, trying to maintain respectability despite this sensitive past = Sorry, Penn State, I'm looking at you. Not only is Penn State in the midst of its current PR recovery from the Sandusky nightmare, they also are one of the original conference jumpers, moving into the Big Ten from the now defunct Atlantic 10.

Jacksonville Jaguars, still relatively new among the competitors, struggling for respectability, but often a punch line because of limited interest = Any of the new for-profit colleges and universities.

Pittsburgh Steelers, working class, proud tradition, long-term family ownership, small market = The A & M (such as Texas A & M) and Tech (Georgia Tech) schools.

Cincinnati Bengals/Detroit Lions, continually underachieving franchises, tarred with bad reputation based upon a few actions of key players = The community colleges (and as a member of the community college community, it hurts me to write this).

Oakland Raiders, continual befuddling the entire league with its decisions, characterized by unstable leadership (10 head coaches in last 18 years) = A whole cadre of solid, but middle of the road institutions (such as, but not necessarily specifically, Youngstown State, University of Northern Iowa, Central Connecticut State, Montana State) where career administrators probably land midflight on their way to positions of higher prestige).

And I suppose I can't complete this blog without some commentary on the original premise of the NFL = College Admissions analogy. Eventually, football teams fill their rosters and can't grow. Put enrollment caps on colleges and universities and maybe this analogy can work. Wake me up when hell freezes over.