Monday, November 23, 2009

Kudos to Northeastern University

by Daniel L. Bennett

Northeastern is a private University with a nearly $34k price tag. So what do students get for this? Not a football team as of next year. Today, Northeastern announced that it will discontinue its intercollegiate football team after the season, which ended this past weekend with a 3-8 win-loss record that included a 54-0 blowout loss to Boston College and a 56-7 beating at the hands of Villanova. Since it began fielding a team in the 1933 season, NU has won only 44.7 percent of its games. Its last winning season was in 2003.

Non-competitive in a Colonial Athletic Association (not exactly a football powerhouse conference) this bold move by university officials is laudable. An article appearing this morning in IHE suggested that:
Northeastern officials stressed that the decision was not simply about saving money, but about where the university should spend money.
The press release from the University indicated that:
The decision is consistent with the university’s strategic approach to prioritize programs and invest in signature strengths
These statements confirm what CCAP and other critics of college sports have long suspected, that the proliferation of "big-time" sports had been at the expense of education. Northeastern deserves a pat on the back for being audacious enough to admit this through its actions.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend in which universities realize that their conglomerate operating model is a failure, and begin to re-focus their priorities (expenditures) on areas that they have a comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things for all people. Individuals, firms and even entire countries have long abandoned the conglomerate (generalist) model in favor of specialization, it is time that higher education hop on the train. Northeastern President Joseph Aoun appears ready to embrace this concept:
“At a time when higher education is critically important to rebuilding our knowledge-based economy...universities have an obligation to invest resources in areas of strength—whether they are competitive athletic programs or cutting-edge academics."


capeman said...

$34K a year and they can't afford a football team! What's wrong with that place? Here where I work they do it at a fraction of the cost, and the team is doing great!

Overlook said...


True or False?

Before you started posting comments as "capeman", you did post comments as "sciencedoc".

"Just for the record, I'm flattered by the attention, but I'm not Al Gore, nor Barack Obama..."

We were referring to the "Adam Smith" Award given by ALEC. What's up with Al Gore and Barack Obama?

Anonymous said...

Is this for good. Hopefully not. I still look forward to these games. By the way, Premio Foods is one great company who has cool giveaways to cool sports fans out there. Check it out and enjoy. Thanks.

Jeb McRary said...

Mr. Bennett,

While I agree with the sentiment of your post, you may want to get your facts straight on the Colonial Athletic Conference. They are indeed a powerhouse. Four of the eight remaining teams for the FCS national title are Colonial schools. They own multiple victories over their higher division brethren including foes in the MAC and ACC. Northeastern and Hofstra have probably made the right decisions but there is no reason to sully the reputation of a conference in doing so.

Daniel L. Bennett said...

Mr. McRary,

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I did not intend to disgrace the entire CAA conference, as many of the schools have fine academic reputations and as you mentioned, have performed well on the field. With that being said, there is still a cost-benefit rationale that should be considered by college officials as to whether a football (or other athletic) team is helping a university achieve its mission.