[thanks to Kevin Wilson in his comment for the link to the full Deford article at Sports Illustrated]
Here’s the radio host introduction to Deford’s “Sweetness and Light” 10 Jan. report for his weekly column for NPR: “When Birmingham Southern gave up athletic scholarships, freshman applications increased, more students tried intercollegiate sports and alumni contributions soared.” I love this report! Deford talks about how a board of trustees member asked the president of the college if they really offered 116 athletic scholarships at about $30,000 a piece for a total of about $30 million and precisely one academic scholarship, and the president replied in the affirmative. The board of trustees then got rid of athletic scholarships. The result was all good and Deford tells us exactly how (freshman applications increased 50%, African American freshman student population rose from 6% to 14%, the college was finally able to establish a football team, more students were involved in sports).
As a prompt for the freewriting in my English 101 class yesterday, I read the last two paragraphs in the “Bits & Pieces” chapter from William Zinsser’s On Writing Well that advise writers to “Go with your interests.” I like these ending sentences of the two paragraphs: “If you follow your affections you will write well and will engage your readers,” and “No subject is too specialized or too quirky if you make an honest connection with it when you write about it.” I talked to students about how I never watch sports, don’t read about it. But I love listening to Frank Deford, because he teaches me so much about the world through sports and because he just writes so blessedly beautifully.
The writing prompt was, “You’ve just gotten a contract to write a book. What book do you write?” I love this prompt. I’m 97% sure I made it up, but as with many teaching ideas, it could be recycled or quilted together. Writers talked about books on how to find a car for your sixteen-year-old son without breaking the bank or endangering anyone’s life, a grandfather’s life, how to test and find a mattress, life stories as a way to help others, knowledge and power.