Duke University Alumni Magazine

Please limit letters to no more than 300 words. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Include full name, address, and class year. Our fax number is (919) 684-6022 and our internet address --for Forum and class notes only--is: dukemag@acpub.duke.edu


    Wall Street had its "Black Monday" on October 19, 1987, when the Dow- Jones Average fell more than 22 percent; Duke Uni- versity had its own on November 30, when it dismissed football coach Fred Goldsmith. Because a disaster is always a good time for serious reflections, this is a good time to reassess the future of football at Duke. There are at least four quite distinct paths that the Blue Devils might follow.

Option 1: Duke might attempt to become a consistent Division I powerhouse in football, much as it is in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis, To do so would require some ma- jor changes. Academic requirements would have to be diluted to the point that Duke could compete in recruitment with the likes of the present "top twenty" football schools. The SAT might still be required, but scores would largely be disregarded, as would high school grades. To keep these "student athletes" academically eligible would require establishing new majors such as "general studies" or "leisure studies," both of which are very popular at football factories. Finally, Duke would need to accept graduation rates at the levels of Florida State, UNC, and other "successful" ACC football programs -- that is, 50 percent or less instead of its current 95 percent. Option 1 might be costly, but as $65 million of the current capital campaign will go to athletics (more than twice the level for the library), this path seems financially if not ethically affordable, and it would no doubt delight some elements among the alumni.

Option 2 continues the status quo, the main features of which are occasional winning seasons and firing football coaches every few years after losing seasons. Since my arrival at Duke in 1974, the university has fired four coaches and seen Steve Sloan and Steve Spurrier leave, all after relatively short tenures. After Goldsmith's experience, when he turned down numerous outside offers to remain at Duke after his successful first season, wouldn't any future coach be wise to abandon ship after any winning season?

Given the experienced team that Goldsmith leaves and a soft non-conference schedule in 1999, Carl Franks could be expected to have a winning season. Then what? I take a back seat to no one in wishing for Franks to be successful, but I hope that he will not be held to unreasonable standards that lead to his dismissal in a few years. The reality of football in the 1990s is that private universities seeking to maintain academic standards simply cannot compete consistently with Division I football factories that are willing to recruit semi-literates, tolerate off-field behavior that would land most citizens in jail, and pay only slight lip service to education and graduation rates. The example of a nearby state university is instructive in this respect.

Option 3 would have Duke drop out of the ACC for football and fill its football schedule with such academic schools as those in the Ivy League, Colgate, Davidson, and the like. ACC affiliation would be maintained in all other sports. The obvious objection to this path is that the other ACC schools would threaten to expel Duke from the conference. But is the threat credible, and is Duke without any bargaining chips? Would the ACC, which badly needs the academic respectability that Duke provides, expel its top academic school! Would the ACC really want to lose one of its top two basketball teams? If it withdrew from football, Duke would have to give up its share of football bowl revenues, and this could well be a financial incentive for the others to accept Duke's withdrawal, as the bowl funds would be split eight rather than nine ways.

Option 4 is for Duke to drop football. The threat that the ACC would expel Duke can- not be dismissed out of hand, but again Duke is not without bargaining chips. Some other major Division I universities -- for example, Georgetown and several other Big East Conference members -- compete in all sports except football. If the ACC were foolish enough to expel Duke for dropping football, wouldn't several other conterences eagerly tender offers to join?

None of these options is without some costs, The first would be a tragedy, as it would drag Duke down to the level of the football factories; a corrupted Duke would no longer be Duke. The second is tolerable but it also represents a denial of reality if Coach Franks is expected to do what no coach at a small private university, Notre Dame excepted, has been able to achieve in recent decades. The third and fourth would entail some losses, but they would solve Duke's Title IX problems. They would also recognize that, given the nature of contemporary college football, it is the one sport in which private schools that are unwilling to corrupt themselves and jetti son all academic standards cannot reasonably expect to be consistently competitive.

Ole R. Holsti
George V. Allen Professor of Political Science
Durham, North Carolina


    I was deeply saddened to learn of Professor Wallace Fowlie's death this past summer, He was an institution on the Duke campus for many years. A James B. Duke professor, Fowlie was internationally recognized as a leading scholar in Dante, Proust, and the French Symbolist poets. He led a fascinating life, interacting with such diverse figures as T.S. Eliot and John F. Kennedy.

To me, however, Fowlie's greatest contribution was his teaching. He was a superlative teacher, making difficult texts come alive for his students. I had the great fortune to take his course on Proust, One of Proust's major themes is the destructiveness of time. Proust maintained that art was one of the few things to transcend time. Along with art, I would add Fowlie's teaching, His course will stay with me the remainder of my life.

David A. Skidmore Jr. '87
Terrace Park, Ohio


    In regard to "Giving Voice to the Campus Conscience" by Paul Baerman, in the Sep- tember-October 1998 edition, I must confess that the story is well written. However, there are always two sides to the story. I earned my master's in economics at Duke, then my Ph.D, at Vanderbilt, then returned

I earned my master's in economics at Duke, then my Ph.D, at Vanderbilt, then returned home to Honduras. Ever since, I have devoted full time to making Honduras a better place; I am a commissioner for the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) and also a governor for the Foundation for Investment and Development of Exports (FIDE). And I can assure you that the story was based on one-sided information.

The sweatshops that the story mentions are locally referred to as "maquila," or offshore manufacturing centers in which garments and some appliances are assembled, These centers tend to utilize the relatively abundant labor, especially that of women, The wages paid there are low by U.S. standards; however, these are the highest wages for unskilled labor in the whole economy, The transformation of the Honduran economy is imminent as women enter the labor force in greater numbers.

As with the United States in the last century, as your story describes it, there had been abuses. But the government of Honduras, owners of maquila factories, and non-governmental agencies (such as FIDE) have been very active in freeing the system of abuses These factories have been applying national labor laws accordingly, and there is also an ample voluntary set of labor regulations. The result is that maquila workers have better living standards than other traditional sectors, such as agriculture.

The conscience of the students can be manipulated by labor movements that feel their interests are being affected by a thriving industry that is "sucking jobs South" -- which is just the result of globalization of the economy. And at this moment, after the area was hit by Hurricane Mitch, maquila is the industry that will most likely lead the other sectors to recover from this tragedy of biblical proportions,

Dante Mossi A.M. '92
Tegucigalpa, Honduras


    The amount shown on the cover of the November-December issue is not what was intended. The graphic shows $1.500000000, which is a dollar-fifty rather than $1.5 billion. If this graphic is to be used as a logo for the fund-raising event, it might be best to alter the decimal to a comma or no mark at all. The current image does not serve the university well at a sensitive time.

Philip Shore '69
Asheboro, North Carolina

The operative word is "graphic," as in graphic design, "to convey information or create an effect." We acre conveying a mass of zeros, not a mass of commas, Forgive us our graphic license.

Share your comments

Have an account?

Sign in to comment

No Account?

Email the editor