Category: sports

Shepherd named Inaugural Athletic Assoc. Professor in the Social Sciences

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marshall_shepherdTB-247x191_0.jpgIt's easy to find news stories and analyses that feature the conflicts between athletics and academics on campus. Especially at big state universities where sports fuel a level of revenue and enthusiasm otherwise unknown on the quad, academics can be perceived as a second class pursuit even when they are our very reason to be. The UGA Athletic Association has taken steps over the years to re-enforce the teaching and research missions of the university by directly supporting faculty and have done so again with another new professorship:

Professor of geography and research meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd has been appointed the inaugural Athletic Association Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Georgia. The special appointment was made by the Board of Regents at their May 2013 meeting and became effective immediately.

Director of the UGA Atmospheric Sciences Program and a professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of geography, Shepherd joined the university faculty in 2006 after 12 years as a research meteorologist in the Earth-Sun Exploration Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. At UGA, he conducts research on weather and climate systems using advanced satellites, experimental aircraft, radars and computer models. The research seeks to understand weather processes—such as thunderstorms, hurricanes and rainfall—and atmospheric processes and relate them to current weather and climate change.

In 2012, Shepherd was elected president of the American Meteorological Society.

"I am very grateful to the UGA Athletic Association and honored to be selected for this professorship," Shepherd said. "The resources from the professorship will support a synergistic study of how urban landscapes and pollution modify temperature, rainfall, storms and flooding.

"The honor further solidifies UGA as a leader in urban weather-climate research and will enable new perspectives on how atmospheric sciences affects policy, economics, health, urban planning disaster response, water supply planning and agriculture."

We need more of this. There are as many reasons that successful athletic programs can help support academics on campus as there are reasons they might be at odds. Kudos to the Athletic Association for looking to the social sciences and we hope they discover similar opportunities in the arts and humanities.

The Athletics-Education conundrum

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With our own Georgia Bulldogs getting ready for the SEC Championship game this week against Alabama, it's worthwhile to mention one of the issues related to the excitement and the game. In an essay describing a plan to let college athletes major in sports, FSU psychology professor emeritus David Pargman brings up an interesting analogy in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Why do we impose upon young, talented, and serious-minded high-school seniors the imperative of selecting an academic major that is, more often than not, completely irrelevant to, or at least inconsistent with, their heartfelt desires and true career objectives: to be professional athletes?
Acquisition of athletic skills is what significant numbers of NCAA Division I student athletes want to pursue. And this is undeniably why they’ve gone to their campus of choice. Their confessions about their primary interest are readily proclaimed and by no means denied or repressed. These athletes are as honest in recognizing and divulging their aspiration as is the student who declares a goal of performing some day at the Metropolitan Opera or on the Broadway stage. Student athletes wish to be professional entertainers. This is their heart’s desire.

Agree or not, this is a compelling argument. And one with which our friends, colleagues and students in the arts are very familiar. The improbable comparison seems all the more on the mark in the context of what our student musicians, actors and painters are up against in their quest to 'make it'. They might have much more in common with our elite athletes than we had imagined.

via Think Progress.

 

Study: heat-related football deaths triple

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Very interesting finding out of the department of geography, a discipline that truly has no bounds:

Heat-related deaths among football players across the country tripled to nearly three per year between 1994 and 2009 after averaging about one per year the previous 15 years, according to an analysis of weather conditions and high school and college sports data conducted by University of Georgia researchers.

The scientists built a detailed database that included the temperature, humidity and time of day, as well as the height, weight and position for 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, or hyperthermia. The study, published recently in the International Journal of Biometeorology, found that for the eastern U.S., where most deaths occurred, morning heat index values were consistently higher in the latter half of the 30-year study period. Overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with six fatalities.

"In general, on days the deaths occurred, the temperature was hotter and the air more humid than normal local conditions," said climatologist Andrew Grundstein, senior author of the study and associate professor of geography in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

The Role of Sports

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large_uga football.jpgAs the NCAA meets in Indianapolis this week to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing collegiate athletics, it's a good time to contemplate the role of sports of in society. Not suprisingly, it's a question that goes back to Plato:

Sports are many things, and one of those things is an imitation of heroic culture. They mimic the martial world; they fabricate the condition of war. (Boxing doesn't fabricate war; it is war, and, to my mind, not a sport. As Joyce Carol Oates says, you play football, baseball, and basketball, but no one "plays" boxing.)