"Public policy. It's a blend of several disciplines. Sociology, political science, economics."
So would he duck out of a class taught by Chicago's Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman for football practice?
"In theory, yes. But he's at the Hoover Institute, out at Stanford, right now. You could still take a course from George Stigler, who also won a Nobel in economics, and leave early for practice." Schafer smiled.
Can those spheres be harmonized?
Schafer smiled again. Hutchins, the man who banished football, once said that whenever he felt compelled to exercise, he lay down until he got over it. Hutchins was also very fat.
But the question remains pertinent. What is the place of football, here or at any other place of learning?
"Actually, football fit in well for me," Schafer said. "It was a very important part of my life—both the physical outlet the game provided and the social element, the team. The academic side of life is pretty solitary, so the group part of football is a nice complement. Also, nobody there is playing for a résumé he can show to the NFL. We aren't playing for the crowds. In a way, this makes the game itself that much better. The game is the whole thing. You play to win, and winning feels great."
Proportion, measure—the truths the ancients knew. If the Romans have taken over Division I-A football, the Athenians are still alive in Division III.
Still, if the players are bright and interesting and the coaches are full faculty members who share the university's vision, what happens to the most fundamental thing in football—the game itself? There is no talk, when you visit one of the brainpower campuses, of being able to compete at all levels. The best athletes on any of these teams could not start at most Division I-A schools. But they do play football, and you wonder about the quality of Division III games.
So last fall, on a weekend when Hurricane Hugo had left a trail of storms along the East Coast, I arrived at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., for the Gettysburg College game. For the past two years, Swarthmore has been rated by U.S. News & World Report as the best small liberal arts school in the country. The campus consists of 320 acres for a student body of only 1,300. The student-to-faculty ratio is 9½—1. Swarthmore is most emphatically not a football factory. Or any other kind of factory. It resembles, more than anything, an estate.