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Knowing the Real Score: Football vs. Mississippi Education

In fall 1993, while discussing a program for Sunday morning service
in our church in Oxford, Miss., a committee member, after looking at
her calendar, stated that Sunday would not be a good day for the
program because Ole Miss was playing a home football game that weekend.
Little did I know at that time how prophetic that statement was.
Football is a religion in Mississippi.

Almost everyone — and especially college board members — states
that football is not the most important thing on our college campuses,
yet we spend a great deal of our time discussing the pros and cons of
whether JSU, MSU, UM, or USM should play each other.

Legislators also claim that boards should have more important
things to discuss than football schedules. But they too have jumped
into the discussion as if football is the most important thing facing
higher education. Some legislators — like some board members — have
staked out their positions based on schools and geographic location.

However, despite the religious zeal that surrounds the sport in
this state, there are some things that should take precedence over

The Ayers Case: It needs to be settled to the benefit and uplift of
the three historically Black universities. Simply put, the state’s
college board and legislature should treat HBCUs in the same manner
they treat traditionally White institutions when it comes to funding,
programs, buildings, and overall respect from all citizens — not just
Black citizens.

Equitable salaries for faculty, staff, and administrators: All
state universities should be funded in such a way that they can bring
the salaries of their employees up to the levels of peer institutions
in other states. That also applies to K-12 education and the two-year

Meeting critical needs for high-demand areas: Funds should be
appropriated for high-demand programs in high-demand areas. For
example, Jackson and the Gulf Coast could use programs such as
engineering (graduate and undergraduate), business administration
(master’s level), and allied health. What’s wrong with offering these
kinds of high-demand programs in these high-demand areas?

The Gulf Coast, like Jackson, is one of the fastest growing areas
in the state. It deserves to have a quality higher education
institution to provide opportunity for the citizens to earn college
degrees. Public universities exist for the people. They do not exist
for themselves, their alumni, or their football teams.

In order for higher education to provide the needed opportunities
to the state’s citizens, a major change in philosophy and attitude
toward race, institutions, and geographic areas must take place.

Research: When we invest in research at our state universities, we
attract businesses to our universities and our state. But most
importantly, we keep faculty and students on the cutting edge of
technology as it pertains to both education and jobs.

These items have been punted around like a football for years.
History reveals that on controversial issues, Mississippi’s college
board usually punts — and I see no indication that it will break with
tradition now.

In the meantime, when the Second Coming arrives, I hope it won’t be
on a fall weekend in Mississippi because someone might be playing


Chair, Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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