Role reversal

Since there has been a lot of interest lately about support for athletics vs. support for academics, your readers may be interested in the following scenario that I described as part of a piece written for the American Journal of Physics.

The president of the well-known University of Southern North Dakota (in Hoopla, ND), realizing that two of their graduates during the past decade have been drafted by the National Football League but none have been nominated for a Nobel prize in phyiscs, has decided to try the following experiment to improve physics teaching: beginning next year, the physics department will teach only 90 students, all of whom will be on full scholarships.

The faculty of 10 will be assisted by a staff including a business manager, a physics publicity officer, several technicians and secretaries. In addition to the regular facutly, there will be math “skills” coach, who will design a math improvement program for each physics student to be followed during the summer months.

Laboratories will be well-equipped, of course, and each student will be issued his/her own computer. All overhead money from grants will be returned to the physics deparment to support elective courses in “minor” areas of physics.

The faculty will be encouraged to travel far and wide to recruit the very best physics students, nearly all of whom will have had at least four years of high school physics experience (or else they will be expected to take preparatory courses during their “red shirt” year).

This scenario, which is likely to enhance the teaching of physics, will be expensive, so to balance the university budget, football will be taught to 300 students at a time by the lecture method.

Each football player will attend one two-hour practice session per week, where he will share shoulder pads and a helmet with another player (perhaps two others in tight budget years). This equipment will be turned in at the end of each practice session, of course, so that it can be used in nine other groups of players during the week.

The practice sessions will be taught by graduate students with football playing experience but without training or experience as coaches. Players will see the head coach only during the lecture and during his office hours.

Will the University of Southern North Dakota continue to send football players to the National Football League? Only time will tell.

Thomas D. Rossing