Sweet Sixteen preview: Florida Gulf Coast rides the Freedom Train into the Elite Eight

florida gulf coast freedom trainThe first half of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s octofinals is tonight. Marquette-Miami. Arizona-Ohio State. Syracuse-Indiana. La Salle-Wichita State. Tournament darlings Florida Gulf Coast don’t play until tomorrow, but the number of profiles of their team already is growing at an exponential rate. I’ve criticized Jonathan Mahler before, but his latest for the still-mysterious Bloomberg View is fun:

If you’re wondering how Florida Gulf Coast University became the first 15th seed in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to advance to the Sweet 16, look no further than the ur-text of the school’s economics department: “Atlas Shrugged.”

Embedded in this long, ponderous novel — required reading for all undergraduate economics and finance majors at FGCU — is the formula for transforming your college from a bunch of trailers on a swamp into the most talked-about school in the country. It’s simple, really. All you need to do is practice what Ayn Rand called “rational self-interest.”

Don’t waste your time wooing Nobel laureates to your faculty or trying to recruit National Merit Scholars to a college they’ve never heard of. Do what any self-respecting entrepreneur would do: Devote your resources to building a first-class Division I basketball program.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but FGCU pulled it off pretty quickly. It might have happened sooner, were it not for that great bane of Rand and her acolytes: regulators. The Eagles basketball program started in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and had to apply more than once before being accepted into the National Collegiate Athletic Association — at the Division II level. Even after being granted permission to move up to Division I, the team had to wait three years before becoming eligible for postseason play.

Read the rest here.

Can the FGCU Eagles drive their freedom train into the next round? Tune in tomorrow night to find out.

Sports media member swings, misses at sports analogy

The football head injury conversation more and more people are having is a complicated and multifaceted one. One of the reachable conclusions is obvious, though: a confluence of related factors could conspire to bring about the “end” of football as we currently know it. Many people often immediately retort, “No!”, maybe because they like football a lot and don’t want it to end, but also, they say, there’s too much money in football, it’s too big of a business, and it’s way too popular and ingrained in our culture to go away. And the first person might then bring up boxing. To put the thesis statement at the end of this opening paragraph, the point, for those, like Jonathan Mahler, who might miss it, is that if a sport as widely popular and culturally ingrained as boxing could fall from prominence, so too could football; in other words, that football is America’s most popular, wealthy, culturally relevant sport is no defense to the claim that it might lose that status, because a once-similarly situated sport– boxing– did lose its status as such.

Mahler, a sports columnist for whatever Bloomberg View is, captured readers with the headline “Why Football Won’t Go the Way of Boxing (Yet)” and his thesis is that football won’t follow boxing’s decline because boxing’s decline was the result of television-related changes, not “brutality.” The issue that vitiates the analogy is not the specific reason for the decline, as Mahler believes, but it is the fact of the decline itself.

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