A beautiful if windy day for football at Williams. My Dad and Mom will be at the game. If you see them, say “Hello.”

Question: How many more football games will be played at Williams? I would put the over/under at 40. In other words, don’t be surprised if football is no longer played at the College by 2020.

Consider fellow EphBlogger Greg Crowther’s ’95 open letter to Mark Emmert, President of the University of Washington.

As you know, the evidence is becoming clearer that football players have an increased risk of developing impact-related brain damage, which often becomes apparent after the players have retired. You may have seen former NFL tight end Nate Jackson’s post on Slate.com about how the football culture encourages behavior that is risky from a health standpoint. If not, I recommend it.

There is a lot of evidence that playing football leads to permanent brain injury. (Commentary from other Ephs on the quality of this research is welcome.) Given that, how can Williams allow students to play such a dangerous game? Note:

1) Ending football at Williams (and other NESCAC schools) is a completely different bucket of concussions that ending football at the University of Washington or other Division I schools. I don’t expect college football to disappear from such places for decades, if ever.

2) The presidents and faculty of NESCAC schools are, as a rule, not fans of football as a sport, which is one reason Connecticut College does not have a team. Football is expensive. Football requires huge amounts of admissions concessions and, because of that, football players are much more likely to have academic and honor code difficulties.

3) Football can be eliminated from an elite school with no ill effects, as Swarthmore demonstrated a decade ago.

I bet that, if you held an anonymous vote among the NESCAC presidents at their next meeting about a league-wide elimination of football, a majority would be strongly in favor. Any individual college would face a storm of controversy, as Swarthmore did, if it were to cancel football on its own. But, if NESCAC as a whole were to do so, the animus of football-loving alums and students would be directed at the league and not at the individual presidents. But, after a few years, even that animus would fade away, as it has at Swarthmore.

PS. There is a great senior thesis to be written about the long term effects (if any) of football playing on mental health among Williams alumni. Compare the current health of Eph alumni who played football in the 50s with those who did not.

Print  •  Email