Birmingham Southern, Birmingham, And Delusions Of Grandeur

On NPR’s Morning Edition today, Frank Deford comments on BSC’s decision last spring to move from Division I to Division III. The move, among other things, meant no more athletic scholarships. The results thus far?

When Birmingham Southern gave up athletic scholarships, freshman applications increased, more students tried intercollegiate sports and alumni contributions soared.

He also points out that the percentage of minorities in this year’s freshman class is more than double last year’s.

I mention this for three reasons.

One, it’s interesting in its own right.

Two, it’s even more interesting in light of Nick Saban’s new contract to coach the Tide.

Third, I think the principle applied to BSC is something our local politicians ought to think hard about. That is, learning who you are and how to live within yourself.

College sports are fantastic, no doubt. But BSC has maybe 1,500 students. They were never going to succeed in D-I. They were, however, spending a ton of money trying to compete at that level. The collateral consequences? For one, as Deford points out, the school had over one hundred full athletic scholarships and one full academic scholarship. Another cost was the amount of sports available. The high cost for each meant less of them.

Now, though, lower costs means more sports and more students to play them. No, BSC is not going to the NCAA Tournament ever again. But a higher percentage of students are now going to know the joys of college sports. In short, the school may have less glory, but it is a much better place for the students.

Now, turning to B’ham. Over, and over, and over again, we hear about domed stadiums and professional sports teams and competing with Atlanta/Nashville/Charlotte/Wherever. Like BSC’s attempt to compete with D-I school’s, these ideas are delusional.  B’ham is never going to be a major league city. We are never going to be Atlanta. That’s reality.

Meanwhile, as our leaders waste resources chasing delusions of glory, local merchants have to pay for their own cops; the streets look and feel like they have not been re-paved since the Eisenhower administration; the schools are worthless; public transit is non-existent, and; the homicide rate continues to rise.

So how about forgetting, as Councilman William Bell recently put it, “new ideas [and] creative vision” and instead focusing on the hum drum concerns of the real people who actually live and work in this city? Changing the mowing schedule for my local park from once a year to bi-weekly would be a much better use of resources than harping about domed stadiums. 

Sure giving up on a dome or an NBA team means giving up dreams of glory. But it also means B’ham will be a better place to live.

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5 Comments on “Birmingham Southern, Birmingham, And Delusions Of Grandeur”

  1. Mark Says:

    Being like Atlanta is, in my mind, at a goal worthy of pursuit.

  2. Dystopos Says:

    Sounds sensible to me. I support expanding BJCCs convention facilities, but the published estimates for the cost of the dome-expansion strike me as horrendously wasteful. You can do a lot with a half billion dollars that doesn’t leave you talking about replacing your giant un-used stadium in 15 years.

  3. wheeler Says:

    “Every time I look at Atlanta I see what a quarter million Confederate soldiers died to prevent.”

  4. Wheeler Says:

    seriously, the question is not whether imitating atlanta (vel sim) is a good or bad goal; it’s whether or not it’s an atainable goal.

    my point is that b’ham trying to compete with atlanta is like bsc trying to compete in d-i athletics: wasting resources on an unatainable goal. it’s better to concentrate on making b’ham a better place to live than trying to land pro-sports teams.

  5. Mark Says:

    But every little town in the country aspires to be like (fill in the name of the largest/closest city). They want more of everything, just like the big city has. Of course it’s absurd. On the other hand, Birmingham is like Atlanta used to be, and still is under the skin. They both suffer from an inferiority complex. That’s why Atlanta takes great pride in having the busiest airport and the longest commute time. Be damned with quality of life. And that’s why Bham wants a big-city sports complex. Of course it’s absurd. I imagine Bham plans for the future like my home town (Rome, Ga). They dream big chamber of commerce dreams but have no actual goal in mind. Like, “Let’s make this town the best place in the world to live.” Nope, gotta have that sporta arena first. Gotta have more roads, more bridges, more this, more that. Bigger is not only better than everyything else, bigger is everything.


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