Two coaches, and success in college football

0
104

john marshalBill Snyder, the Ted Kessinger of big-time college

football, has offered a priceless advertisement

for small college football.

Snyder is the coach who transformed football at

Kansas State University from Big 8 door mat to

Big XII powerhouse. On August 7, as the Wildcats

opened fall camp, Snyder lectured reporters with a

dim (to be kind) critique of major college football:

The game has been disgraced, deeply corrupted by

the celebrity of television, the money of powerful

broadcast interests, and the conniving influence

of sponsors, boosters and advertisers. The result,

Snyder said, is that the values of young athletes are

routinely distorted in the name of money, prestige

and corporate profiteering.

“I think we’ve sold out,” Snyder said. “We’re

all about dollars and cents. The concept of college

football no longer has any bearing on the quality

of the person, the quality of students. Universities

are selling themselves out.”

*

BEFORE Bill Snyder began to accumulate

a reputation as a student’s coach, there was

Ted Kessinger, head football coach at Bethany

College, a patron, guardian and advocate for the

student athlete. Kessinger believed that college

students (in his particular realm, student-athletes)

were searching for deeper meaning in their lives,

and that rising to the top, being the best, did not

mean being consumed by the system. The challenge

was a moral one; the finest institutions, the

best coaches, sought to develop in their students

character and intellect, and instill devotion to the

benefit of others.

Kessinger was inducted into the national

College Football Hall of Fame four years ago

with a 28-season record of 219-57-1; his Bethany

Swedes finished in the NAIA top 25 poll 20

separate times and won 16 conference titles and

13 National Championship playoff appearances.

Kessinger never had a losing season. His coaching

accomplishments include 11 conference coach of

the year awards, inductions into the NAIA Hall of

Fame (2003), Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (2005),

and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference

Character of Champions Award is in Kessinger’s

name. When he retired in 2003, Kessinger was

the NAIA’s most successful active coach in both

percentage of victories (.792) and total wins.

Kessinger’s teams comprised successful athletes

and scholars – nearly 400 All-KCAC players, 43

NAIA All-Americans and 49 NAIA All-America

Scholar-Athletes.

Ask the man how it all feels, and he takes the

conversation to the players he coached, what kind

of lives they sought, how the spirit and character

of a young athlete is crucial to the development of

the person he will become. The lives of these players,

their ultimate goals, their growth as decent,

unselfish and honorable human beings is as important

– perhaps more so – as their performance on

the football field.

*

IN A CONNIVING, even sinister system, colleges

recruit athletes for institutional prestige and

financial gain, leaving them with little “education”

beyond the rote schedule of life as an athlete.

There is little said, or taught, about life as a high

achiever, no examination of their passion, their

intellectual curiosity, their purpose and depth.

There is little or no consideration that college offer

students an understanding of the conflicts, debates

and issues that shape the culture they live in.

Nothing adds up for the student because, any

more, nothing is designed to add up.

“It (collegiate football) is no longer about education,”

Snyder said. “…Everybody is building Taj

Mahals and I think it sends a message – and young

people today I think are more susceptible to the

downside of that message, and that it’s not about

education. We’re saying it is, but it’s really about

the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes

values get distorted… I hate to think a young guy

would make a decision about where he’s going to

get an education based on what a building looks

like.”

*

THE NCAA, pillar of big-time collegiate sports,

recently changed its rules to allow the five largest

and wealthiest conferences to make their own

rules. The rules are mostly about money, how

much amateur student-athletes may be paid, and

how much they are no longer required to learn

while they attend, or at least enrolled in, school,

how much money schools no longer must share.

Bethany College and the nine other members

of the KCAC are among the smallest in college

athletics, but among the highest in attaining a true

measure of the student-athlete. These schools set

the complete example of what Bill Snyder was

talking about, of what Ted Kessinger devoted

decades to achieve.

In the truest collegiate sports, players actually

attend class, take the tests, and earn their scholarships.

Their fans gladly pay a reasonable price for

their own seats. They see young men and women

compete for the fun of the game, for its lessons, its

challenges, its opportunities for higher learning.

Here is sport supported by people who believe

there is far more to a game than trading flesh

and money for more flesh, more graft and more

This is what Bill Snyder was talking about. It

is what coaches like Ted Kessinger believed and

***

The bitcoin;

a bitscam?

Not long ago federal regulators began warning

consumers about the risks of using “virtual currencies”

– in particular, the bitcoin.

This development falls in the category of things

mother always warned us about. Among them,

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but like all

wonderful things, it can have its un-wonderful

moments. Fraud is one of them. Cyberworld is

loaded with fun and imaginary pursuits such as

fantasy football, avatars, parallel universes, dream

worlds and so on. We can escape reality, live in

another skin, enjoy the sweet fruit of imagination.

We can also take leave of our senses, bite the

huckster’s sour apple.

In some of these dream worlds, citizens buy

things. They exchange real money (credit cards)

for dream currencies. Until recently this seemed

all fun and above board. Then, that fine line

between real and not-real got fuzzy, and the bitcoin

emerged in the mists, a wildly popular currency

traded on-line to buy real things. People

began to believe, oddly, that if a bitcoin could buy

something real, it, too, must be real.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

warns that bitcoins may be real in another world,

but they are not in the real world; bitcoins are

not backed by the government, they have volatile

exchange rates, and they are easy pickings for

hackers and scammers. Unlike real accounts in

real banks, bitcoin deposits in bit-world banks are

not federally insured.

In other words, a bitcoin is a bitrisky. Ever seen

one? Held one? Ever bit a bitcoin?

Likely it would be wooden, like the nickels carnies

traded at the fair.

***

The Internet,

a procrastinator’s heaven

In a recent interview for The New York Times

Book Review, Garrison Keillor was asked about

procrastinating, what he might read while putting

off things that shouldn’t be put off. This led, of

course, to the Internet.

“Procrastination is available at your fingertips,

the whole vast www world,” Keillor said. “Cat

videos, vicious gossip about pop stars, survivalist

blogs, right-wing paranoia, it’s all there. The

Internet brought the barroom, the porn shop, the

fleabag hotel lobby and the men’s locker room into

every American home, and you can now hang out

with ne’er-do-wells to your heart’s content without

anybody knowing about it.”

And have a bitcoin, too.

– JOHN MARSHALL

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here