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Is Football Ruining the University of Oregon?

The Misery of Monday

Last Monday morning was miserable. It seemed like the entire university campus was depressed. Blurry-eyed individuals stumbled through the hallways, clutching cups of coffee as if their life depended on it. Students spoke in hushed whispers, commiserating with each other. A full quarter of my peers didn’t even come to class. Worst of all, I knew the reason for this mass misery wasn’t simply school-day blues. The real culprit was Saturday’s football game against the Washington Huskies.

After enjoying a long history of football successes, our school’s pride and joy takes a terrible beating every time a game is lost and hopes of the National Championship fade. From the looks of things, the whole school is struggling to come to terms with the new reality. Across the nation, students are still wiping away tears from the weekend and trying to drown their sorrows in caffeine, but nowhere has the full pain of Saturday’s stinging losses struck so close to home as the University of Oregon campus.

The Irony of the Gridiron

Thanks to the generous donations of Phil Knight and other alumni, the U of O has done more than just built up a world-class sports program that revolves in every way around football. It has inextricably linked schedules, finances, and even majors like Movement Science and Sports Business Management to the all-important football program. By making Autzen Stadium the hub of campus life, donors have empowered students, built community, and attracted attention to Eugene, Oregon. At the same time, however, these well-meaning individuals have ensured that the University will grind to a halt if the football program ever runs up against a wall. And finally, it has.

The Connection of Community

In the 2016 season, the University of Oregon’s ill-fated team lost eight of its twelve games, finishing last place in the North Division. In the 2017 season, they lost five of their twelve games. Both times, when the team’s dreams of a good bowl game were dashed, a tangible shock penetrated every corner of the University. Students still showed up and did their homework, but it seemed that their expectations had plummeted. Those who started the term determined to pass their classes with flying colors were now satisfied with B’s, and those who were looking forward to making B’s dropped their classes altogether. Luckily, the cause of this disheartening atmosphere is also the solution to correcting it.

On the University of Oregon campus, community is a powerful force. The friendship that ties football fans to their favorite teams ensures that the U of O’s thriving football program is well-attended by hundreds of students every week. This same companionship extends to everyone on campus, whether they know it or not, as evidenced by how quickly the disappointment of Saturday’s game spread across the student body. When the football team is hurting, everyone hurts along with it. Yet few, if any, students are aware that the University of Oregon’s other sports programs have been spectacularly successful this year.

The Success of Other Sports

Last year, the school enjoyed winning teams in cross-country, track and field, golf, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Students should have plenty of opportunities to rejoice (The softball team made it to the super-regionals in a brand-new stadium), but the joy hasn’t been shared as readily as the football bug. It would seem that tying football to the campus community has alienated the players and fans of other sports, creating a mood that predictably rises and falls with the ups and downs of a single sport.

Once the campus community is aware of the triumphs of the dozens of other sports played at the University of Oregon, the whole school can ride a different wave through each term, sympathizing with the teams who lose and celebrating with those who win. Because it builds community, sports are an integral part of any university. At the University of Oregon, we just have to remember to include everyone.

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