My life being what it is right now, I’m unlikely to watch today’s “big” game in the Bahamas that I assume includes a halftime show/Popeye’s chicken eating contest between the two teams. (Okay, maybe not, but you have to admit that would be an awesome addition to the event). But I did read what I thought was a pretty good commentary about it all, “Eastern Michigan Football: Giving Meaning to a Meaningless Bowl Game” by Matt Pelc. I think Pelc does a pretty good job of capturing my own mixed feelings about the whole thing. It is clearly a meaningless game, but even I can understand why the players and at least a few fans are excited about the first bowl appearance for the Emus since the Reagan Administration.
Still, as Pelc points out, this does not mean everything with Emu football is now just hunky-dory:
Make no mistake, these thorny issues will not evaporate from the Ypsilanti air because of one bowl appearance in three decades. The dollars and cents of raising tuition while funding an unpopular football program is still an issue which should be revisited.
While attendance is up, and the program is receiving a lot of love nationally for its pseudo-Cinderella story of never going to a bowl game in the age of bowl games, will they slide back into oblivion in 2017?
That first link from Pelc is from a Freep.com article, “Despite winning season, future of EMU football questioned.” In the nutshell, that article rehashes old arguments: football is fun and it’s great that the team did well this year (Though that’s relative, isn’t it? If Michigan had gone 7-5 this year, they probably would have fired St. Harbaugh), but students are paying 80% of the team’s operating expenses with their tuition, and a lot of that money comes from Pell grants and student loans.
Back in July when James Smith started his job as President of EMU, he gave an interview to WEMU. In responding to critics of EMU’s athletic spending, Smith said (among other things) “I think leaving the Mid-American Conference would be very difficult, if not tragic for a school like Eastern. Mostly we’ll look at new revenue sources, how we strengthen those revenue sources, and what we can do in some creative ways.” It’ll be interesting to see what those creative revenue sources turn out to be.
Anyway, congrats to the team, I hope that dozens of fans who made the trip to the game have fun, and I hope the Emus defeat the powerhouse team that is Old Dominion. And I hope there is a bunch of free chicken .