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Ohio State coach John Cooper would be defending the barricades with Majors and Walden if he were still at Tulsa, where he had a dorm. Now he's in the Big Ten and can't have one. So he just shrugs. "It's one of those things," he says. "If you've got one, you sell it. If you don't, obviously you sell student life. It's like AstroTurf. If you have turf, you tell everybody it's the only way to go. If you don't have it, you tell them how safe it is."
In September 1986, 14 police units were summoned to Foster Hall, the nondescript stucco building that served as the University of Miami football dorm, because about 40 players had gathered outside to participate in what an officer's report would later describe as "a brawl." On seven different occasions during 1985, police had arrested Hurricane players at the dorm on charges ranging from trespassing to arson.
"It was like being the caretaker of an Old West bordello," says Alan Beals, who lived in Foster as an academic counselor during that time. "What a stew those bungalows were. Saturday nights were ugly. You'd see girls rolling around outside your window, fighting over [former wide receiver] Michael Irvin. [The players] would just trade around."
Miami's president is a lanky, patrician attorney and former journalist named Edward (Tad) Foote II. He arrived in Coral Gables in 1982 with grand designs to turn a lightly regarded private university into a tropical Stanford, a place whose academics would match the school's lofty football tradition. Under Foote's leadership the combined mean SAT score of entering freshmen has soared from 984 to over 1,100. And he has introduced a system of residential colleges, each with its own social calendar, arts events and resident master, a professor who actually lives among the students. The colleges are modeled after those at Yale, where Foote went to school.
On the whole, the Miami faculty said boola boola to Foote's changes. But a number of professors didn't think the changes went far enough. How could Foote stump passionately for residential colleges on the one hand, and on the other hand tolerate an island of homogeneity like a football dorm? One professor tells of a football player whose notion of diversity had been so distorted that he actually said, "I really like athletic dorms. It really helps you see what life's like for others in college—swimmers, and baseball players, and...."
Another faculty member, Jane Connolly, an assistant professor of Spanish, remembers sitting in the lounge of a residential college, watching a Miami game on television with several students. She was startled to hear them screaming at Hurricane players who missed a block or fumbled the ball away. "Do you realize these are your classmates?" she asked the students. "That they're 18, 19, 20 years old, just like you?"
Of course, she said to herself. They had no reason to consider anyone on the team a peer, to consider the Hurricanes as anything but a band of mercenaries.
Connolly soon joined with a number of like-minded colleagues to launch the Student Integration Project. In the spring of 1989 they collected 381 faculty signatures—those of nearly 17% of all faculty members—and petitioned Foote to disband Miami's athletic dorms.
"I heard arguments [from other faculty members] like, 'Well, they're animals. What if they throw a 130-pound freshman out a window?' " says Connolly. "But there's no evidence of it, just this perception of it. And so many of the perceptions bother me: 'Dumb jock.' 'Animal.' "
The following fall, Foote announced that he had decided to retain athletic dorms for the time being. Then, in a switch that caught the campus by surprise, Foote reversed himself last October.