Friday, December 08, 2006

Everything I really needed to know about educational administration I learned from baseball and football

Botched punt

From Moneyball to The Blind Side:

The educational gospel according to Michael Lewis

A MoneyLaw series

Gregg EasterbrookOkay, the title of this post is an exaggeration. But it is true that baseball and football have a great deal to teach professors and educational administrators.

Consider this passage from a recent version of Gregg Easterbrook's weekly column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback:
Perennially, Tuesday Morning Quarterback stares in disbelief as teams punt when trailing late. But there's a worse sequence of events -- when an NFL coach punts with the game still in reach, then goes for it with only minutes remaining and all hope lost. . . .

Saints defeat FalconsIn Atlanta-New Orleans on "Monday Night Football" back on Sept. 25, the Falcons trailed by 20 points early in the fourth quarter and faced fourth-and-7: Jim Mora ordered a punt. After the clock had ticked down to six minutes and Atlanta still trailed by 20, but now faced fourth-and-12, then Mora decided to go for it. When there was still hope, however slim, of staging a comeback, Mora punted. When all hope was extinguished, Mora went for it. . . .

Here are the possible reasons that NFL and big-college coaches punt on fourth-and-short when there's still time for a comeback, then go for it on fourth-and-long when there's no hope whatsoever:
  • "But that's what we always do!"
  • "That's what Jimmy Conzelman and Ray Flaherty did!" (Note: Coaches of the 1930s.)
  • "I want the players to be the ones who get blamed for losing the game."
Over and over again it is impressed upon TMQ that for all the billions of dollars invested in the NFL and big-college NCAA football, for all the dozens of assistant coaches per team and thousands of hours spent dissecting game film, it is amazing how little coaches seem to think about what they are doing. Punting on fourth-and-short when trailing late makes no sense, unless you aren't thinking about what you are doing. Or unless your true concern is blame-shifting.
Unless your true concern is blame-shifting. The question thus arises: How many things done in law school governance -- or in academic management of any sort -- are done primarily or even solely for the purpose of shifting blame to some other party?

Let me be explicit. I've said this before, and now I'll say it again:
Deans who view themselves as "agents" of their faculties (as opposed to their law schools' broader constituencies) rarely if ever serve all colleagues equally. They cater to a select few in a self-defensive strategy in which avoidance of (decanal) job-threatening strife supersedes all other interests.
Punt, coward, punt.


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