Boise State University’s football program has earned its way into the elite ranks of the nation’s college programs. For the most part, it seems, the program has done it all the old fashioned way – hard work, determination and integrity.
Still, you wonder if there isn’t always some price to pay for running with the big dogs. It is a thought that hovers over the fiercely fought, if not terribly well played Boise State – Oregon game this week.
The Broncos, behind a powerhouse defense, won the game – a very big win, indeed, for the hometown heroes. Still, the lasting image of that victory will surely be the few seconds of video, played over and over, of an Oregon player landing a heavy punch on the jaw of a BSU player. The Duck running back has been suspended for the season, while the BSU player will be disciplined “internally,” whatever that means.
No judgements here on the punishments, but rather questions about what the incident says about our culture of sport and, in particular, college football.
Google BSU-Oregon football this morning and you’ll find 2,381 news articles. The YouTube video of the punch has been seen more than 314,000 times (about equal to the number of times it has aired on ESPN) and, of course, the video is rated 5 stars.
The pundits weigh in:
The New York Times suggested today that the punch seen ’round the world was just the latest of a whole series of tawdry incidents blacking the eyes of college sports. The Los Angeles Times headline: “Let’s be blunt that Oregon-Boise finish was a fiasco.” Writing at Oregon Live.Com, Bob Rickert, applauds the Oregon suspension, but wonders about accountability all around.
One suspects we haven’t heard the last of the punch. There will be NCAA and PAC-10 Conference reviews and lots of Monday morning quarterbacking.
I couldn’t help thinking, as the Oregon – Boise State game dominated the attention of Idaho’s Capitol City over the last couple of weeks and the punch dominated the morning after, of Boise State President Bob Kustra’s State of the University speech a few days ago.
Kustra made headlines with criticism of health insurance cost increases for part-time university employees. The Idaho Statesman praised his courage in raising the issue.
About those higher insurance costs facing part-time university employees, Kustra said, as the Statesman reported:
“I just think it’s so ironic in this world in which we live that these folks who make these decisions dress up in blue and orange and come to seven football games a year and spend two and three months asking me as I travel down the street, ‘How’s things going with the team? Are we going to beat Oregon?’ I wish just once somebody would say, ‘How’s the lab technician going to handle the 40 percent increase? How is the custodian going to handle the 40 percent increase?'”
Almost every college president would argue that a successful intercollegiate sports program is a huge marketing and alumni asset to a college or university that is primarily dedicated to providing academic excellence, but at the same time even the most erstwhile fan – or president – would have to admit that the priorities can get pretty fuzzy from time to time.
Stay tuned, there will be more. When you’re talking college football, the Big Time means many things – good, bad and occasionally ugly.