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University of Alabama Cancels Classes for BCS Title Game and Escapes PR Wringer

brian_esquireAm I the only one who finds that the University of Alabama canceling classes January 6-8, thus postponing the start of its spring semester so its students and faculty can attend the BCS National Championship game in Pasadena, Calif., ironic?

I’m all for giving Crimson Tide fans calendar flexibility to travel to see their team take on the University of Texas for the right to call themselves title holders, but from a public relations standpoint, the decision flies right in the face of one of the reasons the Bowl Championship Series hierarchy says a college football playoff is not practical.

BCS executive director, Bill Hancock, recently said that a playoff schedule would make it difficult for some schools to schedule academic finals.

So, the administration at Alabama showed its colors when it decided not to turn on the classroom lights when they were scheduled in January. Ok; I’m sure the move wasn’tthat cut-and-dry, but I’ve got to wonder what NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) presidents thought when they learned of UA’s plans. Why haven’t we heard their thoughts?

brian_esquire 02University of Alabama spokesperson Cathy Andreen told the Tuscaloosa News that the canceled classes would not be made up.

There are a couple of schools of thought with this action. One is, we know the importance of football at FBS schools so Alabama is at least being honest with its stance by saying it expected a drop in attendance, at least on the day of the game, so it went ahead and cancelled classes. The other message is one that contradicts what the NCAA has long worked to communicate – that academics take precedent over athletics in every circumstance.

As a PR professional, I can’t say I would have chosen to cancel classes if I was a college president who works daily to uphold the integrity of the NCAA’s academic-athletic message.

What would you have done?


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3 Responses to University of Alabama Cancels Classes for BCS Title Game and Escapes PR Wringer

  1. Brittany December 22, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Well…the Southern gal in me says “heck yeah that’s awesome and exactly as it should be!” but it definitely flies in the face of saying academics are more important than athletics. But maybe that’s the beauty of it? A lot of fans are tired of hearing from the NCAA and university presidents that academics are the priority and not always seeing that in reality. I think a lot of folks might just appreciate that Alabama was straight up about it. As a state and university, Alabama has never really hesitated to fly in the face of anything and I think they almost *relish the opportunity* to showcase how important and special football is to them and I think it’s a strong possibility they considered the ‘statement’ they would be making. I think BCS opponents love it for the exact reason you mentioned- the irony of the importance of academics.

    All that being said, I do think it would be better from a PR perspective (and in general) for the actual university itself if the classes were being made up/rescheduled as opposed to just outright canceled. For strange reasons unbeknownst to me, apparently there are some students and faculty that don’t care about football.

  2. Eddie December 22, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    This is a tempest in a teapot, not a topic worthy of rational discussion. So, it’s too bad I got a little time to spend before the close. There are three important points here:
    1) No one goes to school just for the academics, I don’t care who you are. One chooses a school for the entire experience — you can’t tell me that big-time college football, be it Big Ten, ACC, SEC, whatever, isn’t a HUGE reason kids pick a school. I have friends who went to Boston College and Georgia, just to piss off their ND-alumni parents! I have friends who bond with their kids on State Street in Madison WI every football saturday over cheese fries and Plazaburgers. Hell, I was a junior at Marquette for Al McGuire’s “last trip uptown” in ’77 and we were jubilantly intoxicated for a week. We couldn’t have found the student union with a roadmap. It ain’t about the classes ALL THE TIME. Over the course of a semester a good professor can make up the work one crumb at a time. That there are professors and students who go to ‘Bama who care not about football is immaterial. Football is ‘Bama and ‘Bama is football — when someone says to you, “The University of Alabama,” is the first thing that comes to mind, “Founded in 1831, UA is a senior comprehensive doctoral-level institution dedicated to advancing intellectual…blablablayadayadayada” No. It’s “ROLLTIDE, Bear Bryant’s hat, the Elephant, the Million Dollar Band…”
    2)Everyone knows that football provides much capital to fund academic excellence. Case in point — it’s All About the “U” — many people can point to the ‘Canes’ football program and call it “Thug Nation” but have NO IDEA that Miami has one of the best journalism programs in the land, I dare say approaching the status of a Syracuse, Mizzou or Northwestern, and a top-notch marine biology curriculum. Where do the funds come from to fuel academic excellence in these disciplines? Alumni contributions, from, you guessed it, those TROGLODYTE FOOTBAL FANS!!!!
    3)The BCS, as you so elequently stated, Gail, is busted. It’s a Yugo on blocks in your front yard. We need a true playoff system. But until we get someone with a clue in charge, the Committee will just keep rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    Y’all have a nice holiday from up here in Boston.

  3. Gail Sideman December 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Thanks for your replies (belatedly) Brittany and Eddie. I think my biggest surprise in all of this is that BCS naysayers didn’t take a big-time opportunity to diss Alabama and the “system” for this move.

    Trust me, after working and attending University of Wisconsin games since I returned to the state, I wish I would have chosen to go to school there, instead of opting for the warm weather U of South Florida, simply because I want to say that I have a diploma from one of the coolest universities in the country. I had and appreciate to this day, wonderful career opportunities by going to a smaller school, but at the time, we had no football program. Wisconsin’s is storied, and the atmosphere at UW’s big sporting events is intoxicating.

    By the way, I skipped at class or two at USF to attend my first Sun Belt Conference basketball tournaments, but to network (I was already working in sports information). When our young basketball team went to the NIT, classes weren’t canceled. 😉

    Happy Holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year to you both!

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