What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Dear President Daniels,
For purposes of full disclosure, I am not a Purdue student or alum. My only connections to your university are the fact I live in the greater Lafayette area and I married into a Purdue family. However, as a sports fan, I must tell you that Purdue athletics are the vehicle from which many gain awareness of your institution. After last night’s debacle in Louisville, it is time for you to include athletics on your agenda of improvement to Purdue.
I have a long background in business and management, which is I why applaud many of the initiatives you have already undertaken. You have a similar background, which I know means you not only understand how to identify opportunities for improvement, you know how to get them from the drawing board to the real world.
Having such similar backgrounds, I also understand it may very well be you already are aware of the value of athletics; you just have not dealt with that issue yet for a host of reasons, including but not limited to schedules, resources, and politics. Obviously, I must defer to you in terms of expertise in politics; I’ve never been a governor and anybody who is in a role such as your current one deals in more politics before his morning cup of coffee than I do in a month. That means it would be foolish of me to speak to anything in that arena with you.
Honestly, after last night, it matters little to me if the state of Purdue’s athletic department was previously on your agenda; it now needs to be. Last night’s collapsing loss to Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament is just another example of Purdue athletics failing to capitalize on a situation which could have furthered the cause of the university as a whole.
Even though I will admit I’m no politician, I’m also not naive enough not to know that American universities are filled with people who do not believe in the value of athletics. To be blunt, those people are wrong.
Purdue finds itself in a unique position. As a leader in engineering education, Purdue is a factor in the global advance of technology, and that role only promises to grow under your leadership. But on the other hand, Purdue is a land-grant university, which means no matter what it does, it can never escape it’s roots in the local community.
That means there is a harsh reality when it comes to community relations. If you take the time to look around the greater Lafayette area, you see Purdue t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, bumper stickers, etc… in large numbers. Most of the people sporting all that Purdue merchandise are like me; they have no real connection to Purdue other than the community. When Purdue does something positive, like making a late-season run to get in the NCAA Tournament or producing a Nobel Prize winner, it gives those people a reason to show pride in that community.
And yes, there’s a reason why I chose examples heavily rooted in the athletic AND academic. Producing a Nobel Prize winner is a massive achievement and raises the stock price of the Purdue academic community. It’s pretty hard not to see that as a positive, unless you are the guy working second shift at Caterpillar who wears a Purdue t-shirt while he’s building intake manifolds. That guy may not understand the value of a Nobel Prize, but he definitely understands how a basketball team which embarrassed itself makes him feel.
This is the point where the anti-athletic crowd makes their two big mistakes. First, they believe the guy in the Purdue t-shirt doesn’t matter because he isn’t important the the academic crowd. I’m pretty sure you see the error in that belief. He may have never paid a dime in tuition to Purdue, but he pays taxes. Not to mention, how much does Purdue get (or could they get)from every one of those t-shirts?
The second mistake is even more dangerous. There’s a belief in the academic world that athletics simply siphon off resources which could be used elsewhere. The trouble is that is true when you have an athletic department which does not strive for excellence, as yours currently does not. The academics will assert you can’t have academic standards and academic success. Try telling that to Stanford.
Under Morgan Burke, Purdue’s athletic department has settled for “occasionally not laughable.” That must change immediately.
Lastly, I would like to offer a personal challenge to you, President Daniels. As a sports blogger, I more often than not have reason to poke fun at Purdue sports. If you can restore respectability to Purdue athletics, then I won’t have to keep using graphics like this.
I know you can do it. The t-shirt wearers throughout greater Lafayette are counting on you.