Elia Powers, in his latest IHE dispatch from the NCAA, talks about the checkered history of scholarly colloquia at the convention. The NCAA has been reluctant, some argue, to have serious academics say serious things in a high-profile way about often-squalid university sports.
The session UD just attended was intelligent and illuminating, though a bit bland. It mainly highlighted the results of a couple of big studies at the University of Virginia and the University of Minnesota -- why do athletes drop out; how can relations with faculty be improved. That sort of thing.
UD perked up when one of speakers said "Changing faculty attitudes about campus sports -- about anything -- is like turning the Queen Mary around in the Erie Canal."
The event took place in an immense dim chandeliered room with an immense number of people in it. Behemoth PowerPoint images beamed Big Brother-like upon us.
The public NCAA visual world, reflected in big colorful posters all over the hotel, is a sunlit expanse of prancing players. The splendor in the grass feel of things is deepened by the glorious Gaylord, which stuffs us full of sweets, asks us if we're happy, then asks us again.
The relative scarcity of journalists here tells you that the NCAA is indeed a happy-face, managed sort of phenomenon, exhibiting and yielding little by way of reality. "See how few of us there are?" a five-year veteran of the NCAA convention press room said to UD. "When I started out, there were a lot of writers here, but year by year less actual news happens. Decisions that matter are made in private, by insiders."
Decisions that matter are big-money, Division I decisions. "You'll notice that most of the people attending aren't Division I people. That stuff takes place offstage."
This guy was intrigued that UD was an English professor. Thought it was a cool idea, letting someone like me loose in the Gaylord. "What novelist do you teach?"
" White Noise! I love White Noise. What else by him should I read?"
Be still my heart.