I’ve spent the last couple of weeks absorbed in my new job teaching sports studies out of the English Department at Oberlin College. I’ve also agreed to serve on the General Faculty Athletics Committee and as a Faculty Athletics Representative.While there are some similarities between my experiences at Michigan and Oberlin, the differences are far more striking. The whole Oberlin campus would probably come close to fitting inside Michigan’s football stadium, and would easily rest within the general complex of which the famed Big House is a part. Last Saturday I went to Oberlin’s season opening football game, along with 430 other people, including our new President, who stood in the stands among students and colleagues, as the players, whom you would never recognize as such off the season because they are the same size as you or me, slogged through a downpour to their first win since 2015. This is the beginning of my D3 life. And I want occasionally to post here some snapshots of that experience.
Besides my paid duties, I’ve also agreed to serve as a volunteer on the coaching staff for the men’s basketball team. I haven’t coached in decades, but I always loved it and I’m very excited to be part of it. So far I’ve just been part of a few meetings, some with the players and some with just the other coaches. But, among other things, I’ve already been impressed by how much work this underpaid D3 staff does behind the scenes to create a positive experience for the athletes. My colleagues have used their time with the players thus far to emphasize the importance of off court behaviors and habits that will help these young people develop into responsible, caring teammates, students, and members of their community.
These coaches will never be pulling in even 1/10th or 1/50th of the salaries of their D1 counterparts. They have no contracts with Nike or Amex or even local used car dealerships, and they never will. Coaching at Oberlin College probably isn’t the ideal stepping stone if what you’re after is a plum D1 coaching job. They have a contract with Nike: it gets them a discount on their uniforms. You’ll never know their players names or see them on TV. Their locker room isn’t paneled in expensive wood, their lockers are not personalized. It is smaller and in worse condition than the one I used at my small Catholic high school in the early 1980s. Like we did, the players buy their own shoes. They travel to road games in tiny Midwestern towns in beat up vans. They carve time to improve their game out of schedules already crammed with demanding academic courses of study, social justice work, and other extra curricular activities on campus and in town. And they play their games in a gym that would be small at many high schools, before not thousands, nor even hundreds, but dozens of fans. But if you watched the game on the floor, and saw the sweat on their faces, you wouldn’t know these things. So far, it appears to me, all involved invest their time and energy because they love to do it despite the fact that the market, in its infinite blindness, has determined that the efforts of my colleagues and students are of zero value. I am inspired by this demonstration of unvalued passion.
That said, it takes money to keep these programs afloat, more money than the institution can afford to invest in them. After all, unvalued passion doesn’t fill gas tanks, or replace broken equipment.
So, in a throwback to my Catholic school upbringing, we are holding a raffle to help raise money for the team. I know that there are larger and more urgent needs around the world these days and that everybody’s resources are scarce and in high demand. But please consider purchasing a raffle ticket and (or) please share this with others you know who you believe may be willing and able to do so.
For $20 you have a chance at winning the $500 grand prize, or one of two $250 prizes. But it’s not about the prizes. Your $20 will help defray the costs of travel, upkeep of facilities, and equipment for the team. But most of all, for $20 you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing to the survival of sport at a level where it truly embodies the best things that sport can provide our young people. You can click on this link to buy one.
Thanks for helping to support the D3 life.