Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bowl Me Over, Part II

I did not post yesterday because I spent the entire day in front of the television watching college football. I have always liked football, but now I love it after I was indoctrinated when I attended a certain Catholic college near Chicago. “My team” lost yesterday, however, as a Cubs fan I have learned that there is always next year (or the year after that). But as I sat on the couch eating chili and yelling at the television like a complete idiot (because the coach can hear me), I realized how much I miss college sports. I definitely prefer the NCAA to the NFL, even if the BCS often seems like BS. College football is full of interesting stories and the vast majority of students will never play in the NFL. So why do they do it? For the honor of their school or for the love of the game, perhaps? This often gets lost in the money of professional sports. Although one example of a college feel good story gone bad - Maurice Clarett.

German universities have something like intramural sports, but they do not play each other in an organized fashion. It think this is a shame. College sports provide a sense of identification with a school that German universities could benefit from - especially financially.

German universities are suffering from a financial crisis. They do not charge students fees (they will start this year though), and rely on the state government for funding. Because of state budget constraints, German universities have often gotten the short end of the stick in past years. As a result, there has been less hiring and more firing. Departments are getting smaller, or just disappearing all together. As someone who is looking for a job in academia in Germany, I have personally felt this crunch.

Although students are sitting on the floor in some classes and often complain about “service” at the university, they have fought hard against the introduction of student fees. I have to admit that they are somewhat right. Students in Germany will send their checks directly to the state government, which will then redistribute the money at their discretion. How do you know where the money will go? Germany has announced that they want to establish and support “elite universities.” This is really nice for “elite” students, but what about the rest? How do you know if your fees will go to your university?

This is where college football (or soccer) comes in. By introducing intercollegiate sports, German universities could establish a sense of identity among the student population. Proud students become proud, donating alumni. I donate to my university every year. I do not do this because I am wealthy, but because I want to get into the alumni football ticket lottery. German universities are trying alumni donation drives. A certain administrator at the University of Duesseldorf has admitted that their drive has not been as successful as they had hoped, mostly because Germans do not identify with their alma mater the way that Americans do.

I am not saying that intercollegiate sports are the solution to the financial problems of German universities, but it is an interesting idea. If it did not work, well, there is always next year.

No comments: