I don't subscribe to the debate over which college football conference is the best in the country. We here at Dawgsports dropped out of the conference wars early. Think of us as Switzerland, only with no known economic ties to the Nazis and better barbeque sauce.
But I will concede that college football is, if not better or worse, different in various parts of America. In Alabama for example, there's some semblance of outrage that star players Julio Jones and Mark Ingram may have taken an impermissible fishing trip with a guy who may not even be an Alabama booster. Most of that outrage appears to be seated in the greater Opelika metroplex, though I haven't the foggiest idea why.
In northern California, however, there's outrage over a far weightier issue: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's private toilet. [San Jose] Mercury News columnist Jon Wilner has gotten all angsty over the fact that Stanford booster John Arrillaga (who's also a commercial builder) put in a private bathroom/shower area in Coach Harbaugh's office valued at roughly $50,000. Wilner can bloviate far better than I, so I'll just let him provide the explanation for his agitation: "The bathroom might look good from the inside, but it looks awful from the outside. The Stanford athletic department is facing a multi-million (sic) revenue shortfall. Fundraising has cratered. Team budgets are being sliced. More than 20 jobs have been eliminated through layoffs and buyouts, and at least one sport (fencing) is in danger of being cut. So by all means, build the football coach a private bathroom."
He also helpfully points out that San Jose State Coach Dick Tomey doesn't have a private bathroom. Honestly, I wasn't aware that Dick Tomey was even still coaching. Of course, at SJSU he's lucky he didn't have to buy his own whistle. Pete Carroll doesn't have his own big boy potty either, but that's sort of a red herring. Pete exists on a different astral plane than the rest of us, one where normal bodily functions and daily hygiene have long ago been transcended.*
Why is this misplaced hostility? For starters, I bet if you look around the pristine Palo Alto campus you'll find that the big name donors outside the athletic department are still having their giving hands greased with a mix of choice chardonnay and fine cheeses. That's life inside the fundraising wing of a major private university. Athletic departments do not have a monopoly on inefficient use of resources in hard times.
Second, and far smarter folks than me have pointed this out before, the thing about private donations is that they are private. If Mr. Arrillaga had wanted to build Harbaugh a habachi grill or a crocheting room, so be it. I assure you, Stanford has donors giving to equally esoteric causes in all of its departments. I guarantee that there's a donor to the sociology department who's sent Cardinal faculty members to New Guinea or Guinea Bissau or Guinea Fowl Hollow, Arkansas on a research junket with little or no practical application. Or that there's a biology professor whose fascinating work in wombat mating (that is the study of, not the practice of) is just bound to pay utilitarian dividends any day now.
Finally, and I say this with full knowledge of my SEC homerism and the attached skewed worldview, this is nothing. If Mr. Wilmer read the contracts of most SEC or Big 12 football coaches he might have an outrage induced coronary episode. Nick Saban laughs at Jim Harbaugh's private bathroom as he flies in the Alabama private jet to his palace wallpapered in greenish portraits of Ben Franklin. Seriously, Saban's 2007 contract entitles him to 25 hours of private jet time per year. No, I'm not making that up. It's actually a matter of public record.
I'm not saying that universities shouldn't carefully guard the perception of their athletic departments by their alumni and the public at large. But I am saying that if Jim Harbaugh can now shave 30 minutes a day off his ablution time and thereby figure out a way to get Stanford back in the Rose Bowl, it will be money well spent. I'm also saying that Jim Harbaugh could probably make more money in at least a dozen other athletic departments than he makes at Stanford, so if a private john is all that's required to keep Jim on the job, it's a sweet deal, Jon.
Reminding you that you're all still #1 in my book,
*But for the whole "bodily functions" thing this could also describe Opelika, I suppose.