Across the country, sales of adult diapers have soared in cities and towns that house institutions of higher learning, as perspiration-drenched administrators attempt, in the midst of the pandemic, to plan for the Fall 2020 semester. As one anonymous college president put it, “I’ve gotten used to soiling myself whenever we have a Zoom session to discuss how, and whether, to bring students back to campus in September. Thank God we’re not meeting in person! No room deodorizer on the planet could neutralize what I’m putting out there these days.”
Enter the University of Alabama, which is about to rewrite the playbook for creatively dealing with the havoc wreaked by COVID-19. Yesterday it announced that on August 1st the University will be taken over by the school’s phenomenally successful NCAA Division 1 football program. All academic and research divisions of the institution will officially become extra-curricular activities that students can participate in if they wish. The new, restructured entity will simply be known as Crimson Tide, and the University of Alabama name will be retired.
In a hastily called press conference, Dr. James Purcell, Executive Director of the state’s Commission on Higher Education, explained the change:
“The current pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability of institutions that prioritize academic pursuits. Knowledge building and the communication of knowledge to students no longer represent viable, sustainable endeavors in the modern world. In Alabama, however, we are blessed with the most successful college football operation on earth. Indeed, you can travel to lands as far away as Yemen, Papua New Guinea, or Tasmania and find scores of street urchins proudly wearing Crimson Tide tee shirts. It’s time to let head coach Nick Saban and his team chart the future of higher education in our beloved Cotton State.
“Let’s face facts. The University of Alabama was established in 1820. The school has had 200 years to educate the residents of our state. Can anyone look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that our citizens are any less dumb now than they were in 1820?
“I didn’t think so.
“Come this fall, I guarantee you that Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa will be filled with students and alumni, masks or no masks. Fans over 70 years old will be seated in their own special section, which will be equipped with ventilators. And cheerleaders will disinfect the players with full-body sanitizing wipes after every change of possession.
“Would this model of higher education work at Yale or Amherst? Probably not, but that’s not my problem. It’s going to work for us.”
Some schools have “flipped the classroom” in recent years. In Alabama, they’re flipping the institution. Stay tuned.