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School volleyball coaches deserve this kind of money

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I was watching the late stages of the bowl game on the telly Thursday night, and nearly choked on my red pepper hummus when they said that the University of Texas football coach is paid $5 million a year and the coach of the University of Alabama $3.9 million.

And they were in line for bonuses of $400,000 if their team won, which leads one to wonder if the five mil is for just making it to the office on a semi-regular basis.

I knew these guys made big bucks, and have TV shows and all kinds of endorsement contracts, and that the football teams fill stadia of 70,000 and up, and draw huge TV contracts, bringing in some serious coin.

But five million dollars!?!?!?

To coach a university football team?

Is there anyone else who thinks that there’s a little something out of whack here, and may provide hints of why the U.S. ranks so far down the list whenever some think tank or economic organization compares educational achievements in industrialized countries.

And those marching bands.....yes, they’re neat to watch, and all those kids look so enthusiastic, but there must be 200 or 300 members of those bands in those incredible uniforms and shiny instruments. I wonder what their budgets would do if spent in the science faculty, or the English department.

I can’t remember where I read this story, and it may be apocryphal, but when the University of Oklahoma was on an enormous winning streak in the 1950s, iconic and all-powerful Sooners football coach Bud Wilkinson supposedly told the U of O president at a pep rally, that he wanted the prez to develop a university that the football team could be proud of.....seriously.

Back when I lived in LondonOnt, I went to a few games across the border, and admittedly they were enjoyable. Michigan State had a gorgeous campus with a stadium set amid old buildings and ancient trees. Michigan had the 105,000 or so seats, but it was just a giant bowl set amid parking lots. And even Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti had quite a large stadium, big enough to start a CFL franchise in Halifax or Quebec City, I recall.

One of the last times I went across before getting transferred to Toronto to cover the Ontario legislature, I remember being at a Detroit Lions game, and the halftime entertainment was a university marching band, maybe 300 students. And it occurred to me while sitting there watching that this was happening at the same time that Ronny Raygun decreed that ketchup would be one of the two vegetables included in the government lunch programs for inner city schools..........

And going on to another topic, again involving a U.S. university.

I received a news release the other day from the University of Arizona, which, because it was taken directly from the university’s website, included a note at the bottom welcoming comments to be posted.

Said the U of Arizona: "We welcome your participation in our community. Please keep your comments civil and on point."

Civil? On point? You’re smart people at U of Arizona — just what part of people’s putting their opinions on the Internet do you not understand?

Next thing you know, U of Arizona will expect people to sign their own names to their comments, like civilized human beings.

Sigh.

Sorry, this post will be all over the map, I’m all a-flutter with the imminent final season of Lost coming up, and I’m going to have to do a remedial course to try to remember what’s happened to everyone, who’s alive in the 1970s who’s also dead in 2006, or is it 2010, how many different time continuums is the plot covering, how many more times will Locke die and come back to life, why doesn’t Richard age, and have we found out yet what the foot from the giant statue was doing there, and is the smoke monster just a security system, and have we established yet who/what Jacob is, will Bejamin Linus ever get what’s coming to him, will Jack’s enormous ego just finally lead to a mistake that kills everyone in the final scene, and please oh please don’t let Juliet be dead. But I’ll try to get back to dissecting serious education issues later in the week, like provincial exams and tax non-freezes.

And now for something completely different.......

What is it about public relations firms in Manhattan, and spelling and grammar?

Here’s another one I received, which ties Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday to a fundraising event that’s vaguely educational. The communications specialist uses ‘there’ instead of ‘their’, there are three references to The KINGS birthday/greatest hits with nary an apostrophe in sight, and participants in the news conference will be fed with Presley’s favourite country friend steak......though his more well-known peanut butter and banana sandwiches will be ‘fried’, not ‘friend’.

And a second email from the same guy at a Manhattan communications firm — though strangely enough a different firm than the one he worked for last week — advising that a certain client will be ‘struting there stuff’........maybe if the people in that communications firm had enrolled in a university that put there munee into thuh Inglish departmint instead ov thuh marchin band...........

Moving right along......

May I recommend to you the Alternatives Journal, an independent journal published on the University of Waterloo campus, in particular the outstanding article in the current issue on wind turbines written by a professor of my acquaintance at Trent University and his really smart undergraduate research assistant.

Also, while I am loathe to give mention to other bloggers — I’m still bitter that I’m not important enough to be denounced by Black Rod — may I also recommend http://www.enviroboys.com/, a very detailed environmental website written by two exceptionally bright young undergrads.

And without even bothering to introduce a seamless segue......

Child the elder and I went to see Avatar over the holidays. Yes, it’s pretty much Dances with Wolves, but that’s OK, that’s a good thing. The corporation is a reference to Haliburton and Blackwater, I reckon, and maybe it’s the same company we met in Cameron’s Aliens. And the environmental message, got no problem with that. The 3-D glasses really work, and I was entranced for almost three hours, feeling I was on another world, a glorious world, probably (given the technology) a tad more realistic than my all-time favourite other-world experience on Altair 4 when I was a mere lad in 1956. But as much as I enjoyed the film, I’ve got to ask (be still, my beating heart) Sigourney — how can you possibly agree to play a positive character who smokes?

And on another unrelated topic, is there a more offensive commercial on TV right now than the new Budweiser Super Bowl ad objectifying women? The one with the alleged flight attendants?

And back to education......when I was checking out the story about the secrecy of the theme topic for the Grade 12 provincial English exam being breached, I went on Facebook and looked up the three students whose conversation had been cited in my original tip.

Would that their behaviour were aberrant, but I fear from reading social networking sites that it’s quite typical. One said in the conversation that the theme of environmental issues for the provincial exam was ‘so gay’. Another’s personal site declared that his middle name is F*****g. And the third listed his employment with a real business in the area of the school, and said that his job there is a prostitute.

And I’ve been reading the Facebook site that students established to oppose any rewriting of the exam. Here’s a post from a student at Glenlawn Collegiate, which I’ve arbitrarily and heavy-handedly censored to reflect the community standards of old people like myself and my employers: "this exam was a f*****’ b**** to write, im pretty sure nobody enjoyed writing 50 pages of nominal b******* youll never have to refer to again. It doesnt prove a d***** thing. So i beleive this exam should just peace the f*** out and maybe get us to do something that would improve our skills in the english language arts... rather than giving us carpel tunnel in our wrists".......I’m wondering, Nancy, is there room in the curriculum for a unit on irony?

And a propos of absolutely nothing, but I’ll include it here because it happened at a university.....This is back when I was covering an Ontario provincial election in the 1980s, I was following Liberal leader David Peterson, and the campaign bus stopped at a large Ontario university where the student council president was an enthusiastic Liberal, so she was part of whatever campaign promise Peterson made on campus.

Anyway, while we were all standing around, I’d had to refresh myself, and this little conversation ensued:

Me: I can’t believe the racist and homophobic graffiti on the walls of the men’s washroom.

Student council prez: Oh, that couldn’t possibly have been done by our students.

Me: The F-word was spelled wrong.

Student council prez: Oh, yes, that would be our students.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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