Dennis Dodd on where we go from here

Sewanee is actually nationally recognized as one of the premiere liberal arts universities in the nation. You mention Sewanee to graduates of elite universities around the country, and they all know about it. They draw a lot of students from the East Coast. All 50 states are typically represented in their student body.

Just a few years back, Sewanee was in the Forbes top 100 of top academic universities.

Diversity and retention have hurt Sewanee’s rankings in recent years with publications like Forbes and US News.

Sewanee is remote and isolated up on a mountain top in Tennessee. If you like very small towns, the outdoors and century-old Southern and English traditions, it’s your kind of school. If you want something urban or don’t care for the outdoors, not going to be attractive to you. The nearest Chick-fil-a is like 75 miles off – they tell students that on recruiting visits. Those things make it harder to recruit a diverse student body; Sewanee draws a lot of smart wealthy white kids, just how it is. Retention is also a problem; a lot of kids get there and go crazy with the partying and don’t make it because the academics are really tough there. They take great pride in their tough grading system.

It’s a great and unique university with a thriving Greek system, lots of secret societies that date back to the 1800s including the Highlanders (who were kilts) and Wellingtons (who wear capes).

Point being – Sewanee is definitely a national university, academically speaking. They are definitely proud the athletics are not big-time college – that decision to leave the SEC many decades ago was for a reason that stands with them to this day.

Interestingly, Sewanee gets a lot of athletes – academic athletes – who want to keep playing. That’s a big part of the competitive academic scene now; definitely a hook into an Ivy League school and a school like Sewanee. And also vice versa, a great recruiting tool for an athlete who wants to be a college student first and foremost and not treat athletics as a full-time job.

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The fact that Sewanee is a liberal arts school makes it not a national university. And vice versa; UA is a national university and not a liberal arts school. National universities have a wide range of degree fields at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels, and conduct high levels of research. Liberal arts schools don’t. Sewanee has only four masters degree programs and their only doctoral programs are in nursing and divinity.

Sewanee is not even ranked very high among national liberal arts schools; of course it’s competing with places like Williams College, Amherst and Wellesley. USN has it tied for 50th among liberal arts schools. Of course, USN’s methodology is highly questionable, and the factors you cite may help explain its low rating even there. This sort of explains their methodology, not that I understand it (which is probably the point):

Anyway, it’s a helluva liberal arts school, but not more than that.

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It depends on how you define a “national university”. I don’t think your definition includes elite liberal arts universities, and that’s fine. We differ there. My definition is an elite academic school that is known nationally and has a student body that comes from across the country; and a school that recruits nationally – not athletic recruits, academic recruits.

Sewanee is where you go to get an undergraduate degree. Sewanee is to Episcopalians what Notre Dame is to Catholics. It is “The Episcopal University”. I know Sewanee has more graduate programs than the Seminary as you point out, but to be honest, when I think of post-graduate work at Sewanee, I think only of the seminary.

I said accurately that Sewanee had been hurt in recent national rankings, and I said why – diversity and retention. They’ve had problems with diversity; not for a lack of effort. They try very hard with their diverse recruiting, and they work hard to be very inclusive of the entire student body. But unfortunately, Sewanee’s remote rural location appeals to a limited demographic. It reminds me of Dartmouth College, but even Dartmouth is not as remote.

In any event, this ranking in Forbes magazine of the top 100 national universities in 2016 makes the point. There’s Sewanee at #94, one spot ahead of UGA and just one spot behind Texas. I took great pride that Sewanee was right there with Texas. To make this list within the past 6 years as a top 100 university – that means you’re a national university by most definitions of a national university.

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They’re probably right. The idea of a student athlete is pretty silly

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Sewanee would seem to be wary of the financial climate affecting a lot of similar schools. They cannot expand their student base - limited physical plant resources, limited applications of qualified students, etc. - and the costs of doing business are increasing more than they can increase tuition.

Many have had to specialize or retool, not always for the better. Univ of Tulsa went through a serious upheaval in an attempt to rebrand itself. Its status has fallen dramatically in higher ed as those whose opinions matter take a “wait and see” attitude.

Twenty years from now, smaller public institutions will be shuttered in many locations. The investment in a crumbling infrastructure that no longer attracts students will be too much to keep the doors open.

That is all outside of the consolidation of P5 NCAA schools, of course. But, many of those left on the outside will be schools that lack large alumni bases to finance the college, and smaller athletic departments will be cheaper athletic departments (since so few are self-sufficient). The old SWC sure looks like the poster child for that - Rice, Baylor, SMU, and TCU all fit the description although a couple of those will work hard to be included.

Ten years from now, what happens when the next UCF is knocking on the door? UTSA, or UT-Arlington, maybe. Florida Atlantic or Florida International. Georgia State. Growing public schools will produce at least one candidate that really deserves inclusion (Cincinnati is going to benefit from good timing, aren’t theY?).

How is a student athlete actually “silly”? Almost all of them get their education paid for even though they most likely will never play their sport again after college. Most of them could never afford college if they weren’t an athlete.

I guess it’s “silly” to you that I was in college the last 3 years on a basketball scholarship even though I was 5’6" , white, and barely weighed 150 lbs. I will always appreciate Coach Richardson for giving me a scholarship. It saved my grandma enough money to put 2 more kids through college.

Trust me, there are still A TON of TRUE student athletes out there, and it’s a slap in the face to call them “silly”.


What is silly and just plain stupid is to not take advantage of the opportunity to get a degree or even two. Very few will make it as pros, but that degree is worth so much and it stays with you.


Spot on Jim! That piece of paper framed on my office wall will stand the test of time, even when knees, hips and other joints give out.

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Maybe I’m just a cynic. If these degrees were in accounting, biochemistry, engineering…. You would be saying something. However, if you look at the bios of any of the players, 95% are majoring in Recreation and Sports Management. Otherwise known as the “stay eligible degree”. Such a degree is worthless in the real world unless you plan to be a high school coach.

There are plenty of programs to get financial aid if one has a desire to work hard toward their education.

What was our graduation rate under Nolan?
What is our current football graduation rate?

And how many get that degree?

As Cardell Jones said, “We ain’t here to play school”

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Did you go to college to play basketball or did you go to college to get an education?

What does your race and stature have to do with this?

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If the UNC Academic Fraud case didn’t open your eyes, I suppose nothing will.

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The opportunity is there. Plenty of people take advantage of it while others don’t. Several come back later in life and finish up as they get older and realize the need for a degree.

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Bingo. Couldn’t have said it better.

When these guys are 18-22 years old and are all sports all the time, putting them in sham classes tailored specifically for athletes and online work is a disservice to them and the idea of “student athlete.”

Let them play sports at that age (and get compensated for it) and when that career is over and they realize they need an education there are plenty of institutions to get a degree.

If college and universities are for obtaining an education, I’m not sure why athletics is in the picture.

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Let’s not confuse what’s happening among the top 50-60 football schools with college sports in general. Almost all of the thousand or so colleges & universities in the country have some sort of intercollegiate sports. Seems to me athletics is as much a part of college as the arts, music, band. It makes for a more well-rounded college experience. Just as it makes for a better high school experience. I never played sports at a very high level, but having the team to root for, watch, & represent the school in competition is valuable to a whole lot of students.

Some students might be “too into the sports” aspect of college. Some students might not care one whit about any sport. But athletics are & should be part of a college experience. It doesn’t. have to be what it has become in the P5 football conferences, but there’s no need to belittle it there, either. Besides, sports provide a lot of people a very good livelihood. Not just pro athletes, but coaches, trainers, vendors, and a whole host of others who thrive by being some part of a sports program.

I don’t care for sham classes & agree those should go. But there are lots of athletes who either excel in the classroom or at least pick up enough to get some academic benefit from their participation in sports.


Agreed. As one Boise State coach said, ‘go play intramurals brotha!’

intramural sports are nice, but they’re not the same as intercollegiate sports. Both have a place. There are schools that have neither and I’m sure students who attend such schools enjoy their experience just fine, but most schools have intercollegiate sports of some description. Even Hendrix College resumed football 5-6 years ago.


Yeah I recognize I’m in the minority, but I’m seeing less and less of a place for intercollegiate sports. I mean we are about to force the ucla soccer team to play a conference game in College Park, MD.

Intercollegiate sports left amateurism decades ago. It’s only escalating now. I think a club model makes more sense, where a team might pay the UA for the Razorback name and likeness and then we have our Arkansas Razorbacks without the guise of some feigned student endeavor.

It’s only a matter of time before SEC football is no longer a part of the NCAA

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I’ve heard 4-5 National and Regional media members interviewed recently on The Buzz. None of them seemed optimistic regarding the current direction of College Athletics.

Not included in the above was Matt Jones (former Hog, not our Matt) who said “I hope a wonderful thing isn’t being destroyed.”