Bright and early, Sunday, Oct. 6, the biggest news in higher education in Bryan-College Station greeted residents on the front page of their hometown paper, above the fold, with color photo. As Bryan-College Station residents read the hard copy of daily local newspaper, The Eagle, over coffee and toast, others accessed by computer the online version of the story at www.theeagle.com, which had a different headline than the hard copy. Either way, you read “Loftin broke NCAA rule” or “Loftin violated ‘minor NCAA rule.”
The biggest news of the day is not the government shutdown this week or health insurance filibusters, and even the annually popular Aggieland Humane Society fundraiser “Wiener Fest” had to take a back seat to the “big news” that’s actually four months old. The biggest question of the day is why is TAMU President R. Bowen Loftin being singled out for what is deemed a ‘minor infraction’ that reportedly occurred June 14? What was the infraction? Loftin was identified for a violation of NCAA bylaw 13.10.5, according to Allen Reed’s story in The Eagle.
Here’s the tweet Loftin sent to a 16-year-old wunderkind high school football standout, Jordan Davis, of Clear Lake:
Loftin Tweeted: “Enjoyed meeting you yesterday during your visit to #TAMU.”
Davis responded: “Yessir it was nice meeting you #gig’em.”
Really. The story then calls upon a lawyer no one around town has heard of but “who has represented student-athletes in lawsuits against the NCAA, was not as forgiving”....”unheard-of for a university president to commit a recruiting violation.” Then the writer calls upon an Ohio University professor to opine “no violation is acceptable, but plenty are unintentional.” Oh, for heaven’s sake.
It is safe to assume that no one asked the legions of Texas Aggie students who consider Loftin a superhero at best and, at worst, a president who resonates among most every member of the student body because of his willing accessibility to the students, for meeting them (especially on social media) where they live, and then speaking their language. How many bow ties have been sold and how many t-shirts with Loftin’s name or face on them have been sold out of student admiration for their president is currently incalculable. It’s not about reporting a story by a jury of his peers, because well, it’s just not.
A quick review of the facts:
Fact one: Current Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin is an Aggie with a PhD in Physics from Rice; he’s a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, posts on his own Facebook page, is a prolific user of Twitter, and has (according to The Eagle) 26,640 Twitter followers. The man is so used to tweeting all his students that he didn’t stop to peruse the NCAA rule book which authorities higher than Loftin have asked the NCAA to ignore over and over. So, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, or something like that.
Fact two: Higher education news rarely makes front page fodder as frequently as when Texas A&M University leadership acts to help ou. Perhaps some unnamed sources offered tips on this "hot story" and someone unwittingly took the bait and turned this into front page news when it was really a story that's best told at invitation-only cocktail parties where maroon suede blazers are the uniform of the day.
Fact three: There’s no one with a higher media quotient in town that the university system’s chancellor. Even the governor is running a poor second in terms of news coverage. Neither the university president's boss or big boss were asked to comment on the NCAA violation. Just some folks not from here were asked for opinions, because President Loftin had no comment.
Fact four: President Loftin is already in “lame duck” status, having announced his intention to “return to teaching and service” due to come in less than ninety days. All President Loftin can do to the “powers that currently reign” over him is: absolutely no harm. Loftin is a tenured professor; he’s got a buyout package, he’ll teach and then maybe get a consulting gig speaking on “how to handle southern hotheads” and tour the SEC regaling audiences with “good ol’ boy” tales. Unquestionably he has enough for a full “60 Minutes” interview.
So, what was the real purpose of today’s story in The Eagle? Surely there are more higher education stories to come from the hallowed halls and silenced walls of Aggieland. Today’s news was old news and simply begs more questions than answers.
Today’s story in the local paper, now all across the www.myaggienation.com web site, spread via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, to name a few, appears to be a scrambled attempt at a hatchet job on Loftin, or at least a misdirection in the house of mirrors for some unknown (for now) cause. At any rate, it’s simply “dirty pool” reminiscent of an ol’ Army game played by some who choose to call themselves ol’ Army, even if others disagree.
It’s always been this way for higher education at Texas A&M and the University of Texas, wherein the governor runs both schools to the extent of his or her inclination and everyone on campus simply does the best they can to catch the tosses thrown their way. Everyone answers to the most powerful Aggie(s) in the state. They're also the same powerful Aggies who have not announced any resolution to the hiring and separation agreement between the university and Alex Kemos, the former #3 TAMU executive who claimed (falsely) to having been a Navy Seal. No, no one has forgotten about him. No, no one really expects any answers. Not a Tweet.
Based on the preceding facts, and after 30 years of watching Aggie political strategists and maneuvers, perhaps a few keyword tags, or even hashtags, should be proffered in light of the highly reported infraction:
#lookfortherealreasonforthisstory, #atzeniththequalitygoesinbeforethenamegoeson, #fromsharpmindscomesharpproducts, #whereisvimalpatelwhenyouwanttoreadwhathefinds and #howmanyjournalistsfilefoiasandareleddowngardenpaths.
Since the university system’s highest ranking officials, and some who respect and regard them highly, share a common ability to entertain audiences with hilarious tales of Aggie days of old, it brings to mind the tale of the farmer who wanted to get rid of his donkey. He dug a very deep hole in the ground and made sure the donkey fell in it. As the farmer attempted to bury the donkey, he heaped shovel after shovel full of dirt down into the hole, in his mind, burying the problem he no longer wanted to deal with. But the donkey, wisely, simply shook off the dirt heaped upon him, rose above it, until finally the donkey was able to step out of the hole, shake off the dirt, and walk away to live another day.
The lesson from that tale is: be careful where you throw dirt and use diligence and caution if trying to cover up your problems, as they may well likely see the light of day somewhere down the road when you least expect. #filemorefreedomofinforequests, #askwhattheydontwantyoutoask, #keeplookingallenreedkeeplookingyoullfindmore.