THE IDLE AMERICAN: Where did we go wrong?

Irony’s definition has been stretched to the breaking point for me. Verily, Humpty-Dumpty’s nursery rhyme about his “wall fall” pales greatly when compared to the fall-out of a deposed football coach who had a “falling out” with his employer. The shocker, though, is that deposed Coach Jimbo Fisher will be paid some $76 million to leave. Why, that’s nearly as much as Garth Brooks’ divorce.

Words from Texas A&M University principals have been measured and vague, mostly insisting that state money isn’t involved in the pay-off. They maintain that all will be well and that a new coach will be on board within days.

One of the world’s all-time great sportswriters, Dr. Blackie Sherrod, might have applied one of his famous quotes to describe the Texas A&M mess: “As pure as driven slush.” …

The “win-at-all-cost” approach is rampant throughout our culture. However, the scales of justice were heavily weighted toward Fisher in his employment contract.

Texas A&M has its own law school, for crying out loud. Maybe consultation would have helped to avoid the embarrassment and record-smashing expense of this madness. After all, A&M bought an up-and-running law school from Texas Wesleyan University a few years ago at a cost of $75 million, about the same as Fisher’s pay-off.

Though A&M wears the dunce cap for now, the Aggies didn’t invent our current culture. There are a couple of dozen schools nationally where football wags the dog and where TV money is at the root of all substantive decisions. Money no longer talks; it screams. The current emphasis is light years away from what collegiate sports were intended to be. Until the current century, TV didn’t make major decisions. Regents and trustees did. Now, some “go along,” perhaps believing the NCAA’s barrage of ads that their teams are composed of “student athletes.” This is no doubt true in most instances, but in some, such claims are “oxymoronish” at best (no pun intended). Some athletes wouldn’t know a classroom from a broom closet. Maybe it’s time for a handful of big-time college football teams to be set adrift from their institutions, allowing sports to return to intended roles of being only parts—albeit important ones—of higher education institutions. …

Here’s another irony involving Aggies, this time the ones at New Mexico State University. In 1963, as a woeful season wound down with only three wins, NMSU invited the Lobos of Sul Ross State University to visit Las Cruces for a Thanksgiving Day game.

The Lobos, led by dazzling quarterback Luz Pedraza, proved equal to the challenge. The Alpine institution, its enrollment less than 10% of NMSU’s, could use NMSU’s $25,000 check that would greatly exceed expenses.

You guessed it: The little NAIA school upended NMSU, 42-15, with enough money left for a new transmission in the team bus, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story. …

Fast-forward 60 years. Recently, the NMSU Aggies played the mighty Auburn Tigers of the vaunted Southeastern Conference. A “David/Goliath” slaughter loomed. The Tigers were off-the-charts favorites to smite the Aggies. NMSU would return to Las Cruces with $1.85 million for enduring the drubbing.

The Aggies, however, didn’t get the memo. They pounded the Tigers, 31-10, ending Auburn’s home win streak of 49 home wins against non-power conference teams. It was NMSU’s first win over an SEC team in 25 tries. Coach Jerry Kill’s incentive bonuses exceeded $100,000. (Kill, BTW, has epilepsy and a shoulder tattoo he had promised last year if his charges won the Quick Lane Bowl game.)

A dream would be to savor one more Thanksgiving with the Texas Aggies battling the Texas Longhorns, a “telly-following-turkey” observance during most of my life. This, of course, is not to be. Now, both teams are members of the SEC. Who knows how they’ll fare? They’re both likely to come up with the money—tainted, hush or blood—in their quest for national championships. We can but dream of simpler days, when playing fields were more level, in-state rivalries promoted and sports kept generally in context.