Today is Homecoming. Good luck to all the Eph Sports teams!

But what is the future of football at Williams?

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Four years ago, I asked:

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.

That prediction was met with derision. Would anyone take the bet today?

Much of my reasoning is the same now as it was then.

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.

The biggest change in the last four years is the near universal agreement that football is dangerous. Even the NFL agrees! And that means that the liability picture, for Williams, has changed dramatically.

Imagine a lawsuit by a former Williams football player a decade from now, someone suffering significant mental impairment from football. Imagine the depositions and discovery process. Could President Falk deny that he knew that football was dangerous? Could Trustee Jonathan Kraft ’86 (COO of the New England Patriots) pretend that he did not agree with the NFL’s decision to settle lawsuits from former players?

But this is a risk for all colleges. And a reasonable defense might be that the student knew the risks and took them willingly. The problem that Williams faces is that the vast majority of starting football players would not have been admitted to Williams if they did not play football. Williams did not admit them and then offer them the choice of participating or not in this risky activity. Williams only admitted them if they agreed, implicitly or otherwise, to engage in this risky activity. And that fact changes the liability picture significantly. (Contrary opinions from our lawyer readers are welcome.)

So, enjoy today’s football game at Weston. There are no more than 20 such games left to be played . . .

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