if the university is a body, what organ is athletics?

In the wake of athletics scandals, general budget cuts, and a new athletic director, questions of how athletics fits into the University in general are high on the agenda these days. Yesterday there was a forum with the outgoing Athletic Director, Dick Baddour, and several other people involved in athletics, to discuss the role of athletics. (I couldn’t go because we had a faculty meeting at the same time.) In the Daily Tar Heel story about the meeting, Faculty Athletics Committee chair Steve Reznick is quoted as saying:

Athletics is part of our body. You can’t just remove the pancreas.

Now, the corporeal metaphor is interesting enough on its own, but the choice of pancreas is really creative. It does turn out that pancreatectomy has a very poor prognosis, probably because the pancreas’s contribution to the body is made up of many different roles. Here’s my imagination of the upcoming game next Friday. I can hear Jones Angell now, the new voice of the Heels, aboard the USS Carl Vinson: 26 seconds to go in the second half, Carolina behind 78-75, Marshall with the ball, President Obama on his feet but fearing the worst. Angell has the call:

Marshall gets the inbound pass and crosses the timeline. Marshall takes it inside, fakes the dish to Zeller, then kicks it back out to Henson for the three at the buzzer. The game goes into overtime, all thanks to a sensational play by Kendall Marshall. That kid is all pancreas!

And so, dear readers: if your university is a body, what organ is athletics?

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

6 thoughts on “if the university is a body, what organ is athletics?”

  1. It’s not technically an organ, but athletics are often the voice for a university. There are a lot of people who know about a school’s sports teams but know little about their academics. Athletics can help a university connect to other people in the area who won’t/can’t attend classes, and help maintain alumni connections (and donations).

    Type “UCLA” into google and UCLA football is the first thing that it fills in. (UCLA football schedule 2011 is separately listed at #3, the med center is #4.)


  2. It is a testament to Andy’s gravitas that no one has chosen…a word that would get this comment caught in a spam filter.


  3. If we think of the university as a broader corpus than just the persons receiving a paycheck, athletics often takes the role of the skin. Athletics teams, the spectacles on Saturday afternoons, the scholarships, ceremonies, mascots and the like are a culture that binds people to the institution more than almost any other element of university culture. This is akin to the way Henry Mintzberg used the metaphor of skin in his “head-and-shoulder” models of organizations back in the day.


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