Saturday, February 1, 2014

$400 Million for the Gipper

The University of Notre Dame announced earlier this week the $400 million Campus Crossroads Project. We can look at it with humor or as a statement on the nature of college sports today. Humor “Win one for the Gipper” is so passé at Notre Dame. Now it’s contribute $400 million to add 4,000 seats to the House That Rockne Built, 4,000 seats in luxury suites. Notre Dame is a great university. Without football, the annual USC-Notre Dame rivalry, and the subway alumni, it would be just another Catholic University, such as the University of San Francisco or St. Mary’s, which dropped football. Without football, Ronald Reagan never would have played the Gipper. Where would America be as a society without the inspirational story of Rudy, who was subsequently nailed for Securities Fraud? Michigan did it first, so Notre Dame has to follow. Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play football. Notre Dame was a quick learner. The House That Rockne Built was modeled on Michigan Stadium. Notre Dame Stadium cost $750,000 to build in 1930, $200,000 less than Michigan Stadium, but 20,000 seats smaller. Notre Dame has been playing catch up ever since. The $400 million is to add three buildings totaling 750,000 square feet to the campus. They will abut the stadiums like flying buttresses. The front of the buildings will face the campus, but the backside will become the walls and foundations of luxury boxes with 4,000 seats. Notre Dame is following the model of Disneyland where Adventure Land and Frontier Land share walls. The effect of the three new buildings is to constantly remind the students that Notre Dame is football. The Westside will include student life services, a recreational center, including a basketball court (Isn’t Notre Dame a football school?), a career center, a large ballroom, and a climbing wall. Go to college to learn to climb rocks. Students will gladly explain to their parents, shelling out $50,000 annually to Notre Dame, that they learned to climb the wall, a valuable lesson in life. The Eastside will house the Departments of Anthropology and Psychology and the media center. Psychology is needed to temper Coach Brian Kelly’s sideline temper tantrums. The Southside will have Music and Sacred Music. The fabled Notre Dame Fight Song is sacred music to the ears of the Fighting Irish. The Northside will be left open so Touchdown Jesus will still look down on the field. TJ’s view and inspiration will be untrammeled. Notre Dame knows its priorities. Forget religion, Catholicism, masses, and convocations. The U.S. News & World Reports ranking is irrelevant. Students must know that the DNA of Notre Dame is football. Luxury boxes – the antithesis of smash mouth, college football in the Midwest! What must Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz be thinking? Is it the Damnation of Faust all over again? Fans should be jumping up and down in freezing rain and blowing gales. They must share with the players. They should not be sitting in sheltered luxury boxes eating kisch. They must experience the game and the pain. Notre Dame plans to hire 80 professors in nanotechnology, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and nuclear physics as part of the expansion. Don’t be fooled by these academic pretentions. Brian Kelly, the football coach, will still be paid 15-30 times more than the new Ph.D. in nuclear physics. The physics of the forward pass are more critical to Notre Dame than the physics of the Universe. As long as Brian Kelly wins! Football rules. The Economics of College Sports All humor aside, athletic powers, such as Michigan and Notre Dame, are engaged in an escalating facilities war. Ohio State has set the standard in the Midwest for an athletic complex. The other schools must match, else they will be unable to attract star recruits. Football and/or basketball should carry the athletic department budgets. However, only about 20 athletic departments are self-sufficient. They include Texas, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU and Alabama. Their financial success depends either on winning programs, or sharing in highly profitable league revenues, such as The Big Ten Network. Maryland and Rutgers joined The Big Ten Conference because they need the money. Michigan invested $226 million in expanding and renovating The Big House, adding 83 luxury boxes and 3,200 club seats. An additional $52 million went into Crisler Arena, a bargain compared to UCLA’s $136 million on Pauley Pavilion. The Michigan Athletic Department is planning an additional $341 million in facility improvements in future years, most of which will be underwritten by contributions. Expansions depend on contributions, bonding, and a large cash flow. Thank God for the Notre Dame’s most loyal alumni base in America. A 40-50% admissions rate for legacy instills loyalty. Fr. Jenkins announced construction will proceed when Notre Dame raises the funding. Notre Dame, whose loyal alumni have given it a $8.7billion endowment, will rush to the cause. The alumni understand that 25% of Notre Dame’s freshmen class are legacies, and that the Admissions Office accepts 40-50% of the legacy applicants. On Notre Dame!

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