Monday, November 17, 2008

Intolerance In Higher Ed - Even Athletics

As frequent patrons of JG&AH probably know, I'm a graduate of Florida State University and love my alma mater. FSU has somewhat of a reputation among Floridians as "bucking" the advance of political correctness, at least as much as a public university can.

One of the benefits of XM radio is their home game broadcasts of ACC Sports. Nothing cures homesickness more than listening to Gene Deckerhoff on the radio with the TV Volume down, even with the delay.

So, when I tuned in for the first game of the season, I heard Gene as usual, but there was an unfamiliar color commentary voice alongside of him. Turns out, Peter Tom Willis was replaced by former FSU Tailback William Floyd. Floyd's first performance left much to be desired, but he's improved quite a bit since. Floyd is fine as a color guy, but what frosts me is what happened to Willis (we Noles refer to him as "PT").

Living so far away from home means I often am the last person in Noledom to get the news. Finally, my curiosity about PT's absence go the best of me and I went to Wikipedia to see if I could find out what happened. Turns out his contract was not renewed for the position. Here is the Wikipedia excerpt that explains the absence:

Following ten years of service, his contract was not renewed after the 2007-2008 football season because the Florida State administration and coaches felt he was "too critical" of the program. Head coach Bobby Bowden stood by this decision, and said "I do support it. I support it all the way."

"They felt like I was too critical of the program and the team the last few years," Willis said. "I hate that. That was not my intent. My intent was to call it like I see it for 10 years."

"But if people are upset with me because I was telling the truth, if that's going to upset people, maybe I shouldn't be there."

Willis is a member of the FSU Sports Hall of Fame and a former quarterback who led the Seminoles to a 10-2 record and No. 3 ranking in 1989. He was critical of the offense under former coordinator Jeff Bowden, and said that he probably "stepped over the line" when he said the Seminoles resembled a "high school offense" during the 2005 game at Clemson. Interestingly, Willis believed that the program, with the hiring of Jimbo Fisher was headed in the right direction.

That comment especially upset coach Bobby Bowden, according to sources. In the fallout of the dismissal, fans and alumni are calling for an investigation into his firing since a state university which is a place of education shouldn't be firing employees for telling the truth. Alumni are urged to not donate to FSU until Willis is rehired.

Classic. Kill the messenger. If you aren't a Seminole, indulge me a bit here.

Bobby Bowden is a great coach and yes, he built the program. But no one is above the program, and when you are protecting your inept son in his role of offensive coordinator, your damaging a program and a legacy many of us love and take pride in. If Willis points out a problem with the program, in this case, Bowden's son Jeff, either point out why Willis is wrong or fix the problem. But silence him, because he doesn't say what you want to hear?

If PT's comments on the air "angered" the front office, tough. Fix the problem with the program we all love, don't punish a member of the school's Hall of Fame because he speaks the truth about it.

Don't you just love how intolerance and censorship permeates every part of the academy, even my alma mater, it appears? Even the Athletic Department will not tolerate dissent.

If you wish to sign the petition to reinstate Willis (no disrespect intended to William Floyd, there's a principle at stake here), go here.

One last thing - we did look like a high school offense, many times over the last seven years, not just one game in 2005. Anyone remember the 31 to zero drubbing at home against WAKE FOREST in 2006? The game I paid 30 bucks Pay Per View to suffer through? Remember that? Why was Drew Weatherford our starting QB for so long, when a raw and gifted talent crying out for experience (Xavier Lee) was rotting on our bench? Weatherford could be sacked by the opponents Tuba player, Bowden leaves him in. Finally, Lee gets a chance and makes one or two mistakes, and he's pulled for Weatherford? That's not above criticism?

Coach, you're a wonderful human being and will be long revered in FSU lore. But you're not above criticism. Please promise me that you'll continue to keep the reigns in the hands of Jimbo Fisher and Mickey Andrews. Go on the air after the game and tell us how you "spoke to 'x' player's momma the other day and how good her peach cobbler is." Be the recruiting figure head we need you to be, let others actually run the program. It appears this is what is finally happening now and the results are showing in our modest improvement.

And don't be such a baby when people like Willis criticize your decisions.