On Saturday afternoon, I covered a game in one of the true temples in America sports: Memorial Stadium, home to the University of Nebraska football team. There were 90,614 souls there, the 330th consecutive sellout in the ever-expanding venue. Some 6,000 seats were added prior to this season, part of a $63.5-million upgrade.

Meanwhile, Fury spent that same day – I’m assuming – glued to a web feed, a ham radio or a Morse code translator in order to follow his beloved St. John’s Johnnies in their rivalry contest against the dreaded St. Thomas Tommies. Juco transfer or not, Fury is a Johnny for life. His knowledge and passion is completely legit.

Lincoln and Collegeville are examples of why college football is so successful: Some love it for the sheer magnitude and excellence and others buy in because it’s theirs. Both lines of reasoning seem plenty sound and can be traced back to feeling a genuine sense of loyalty to a school, be it a major NCAA Division I power or a quaint Division III outfit.

So where did I go wrong?

I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., a private D-III school in a three-school metro area. I graduated in four years – with honors, somehow – and landed a full-time job well before graduation. I met a bunch of great people, including my wife – we got married on the picturesque campus. I still think highly of several of professors.

Yet I don’t feel any real connection to it. I haven’t been to an alumni event. I don’t follow the sports scores. I don’t buy my kids Cobbers gear or try to pique their interest in the place. I’ll occasionally flip through the quarterly magazine that shows up in the mail – it was cool to find out that Bill Gates spoke there in May. And I haven’t made any donations.

As much as I’d like to claim otherwise, I’ve come to the realization that the financial component might be a part of the disconnect. It took me about 10 years to pay off my student loans even though: A) my parents had saved some money in advance, B) I earned the top academic scholarship given by the school and C) I worked all the way through school. To be clear, I’m not complaining – I knew what I was getting into, having chosen to pursue a non-lucrative field coming out of an expensive institution.

My wife – a teacher – is still repaying her loans, having put them on hold to attend and finish grad school.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when we’re all square, but that seems unlikely. If I felt strongly about supporting my school, I’d find a way to do so now just as I have with certain charities or my daily cup of coffee.

To be clear, I don’t fault Concordia – not in the least. Nor am I bitter; I genuinely enjoyed the experience and don’t have any regrets about going there, a decision I didn’t make until the last month of high school. (Prior to that, I was heading to the business school at the University of Minnesota and a very different life path.) No, this is a me problem – if it’s a problem at all.

I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on those crisp Saturday afternoons by not being emotionally connected to my alma matter. (I suppose you could say that I do not want what I have not got.) Instead, I find myself looking around and wondering why others do feel such a sense of connection. Are they genuinely stoked on their experience with that school? Are they mostly invested because of the sports scene? Maybe they’re just going along with what’s expected of them?

Clearly, millions of people feel there is something to be gained from being true to their school. That’s evident every fall Saturday.

  1. shawnfury says:

    Part of the issue might be that when you were still a well-scrubbed Jamestown rube attending classes, you were also working practically full-time with bitter journalists at The Forum. Skewed your view.

    Actually we’re fairly similar on this. I’ve written about my disconnect with SJU before, outside of everything of the football team (and that traces back to the fact I went to the school because I read a story about Gagliardi in SI). I haven’t spoken to a fellow member of the class of ’97 since 1997. Still friends with my two senior year roommates, who were a year younger, but that doesn’t really count because one is someone I’ve known since I was 5. Otherwise my contact is with other football fans. Although it has been nice reconnecting a bit through my work with the alumni magazine.

    For me it’s mostly because of the transferring in, only going there two years, but that also helped save on the money so that wasn’t quite as formidable post-graduation. And like you, this has nothing to do with SJU. It’s all about my hermitness.

  2. Brian says:

    It’s funny…I went to Minnesota-Morris for two years and the U of M for 4 and yet never really do anything significant to support the U. I follow the sports teams, but I did that when I was a kid. I don’t think I set foot in Morris again until we started looking at colleges for my son. He just started his freshman year at Concordia, and after spending last weekend in Moorhead for Family Weekend, I’m all in on the Cobbers and the entire Concordia experience. We loaded up on Cobber gear in the morning, went to a football game in the afternoon, and to church services on Sunday, and all I kept thinking was what I missed out on when I was 19 at UMM.

    I think some of it, for me at least, was that I was always focused on the next thing when I was in college and not taking time to enjoy the present. I knew I wouldn’t be at Morris for 4 years when I enrolled, and I never lived on-campus in the Twin Cities, and I had an off-campus job, and difficult classes, so the emotional investment to the school itself was never really made.

    I’m sure much of this is through a parent lens as well. We want our kids to be happy at college, so of course we’re going to go out of our way to support them and cheer for their teams, while they are focused on money, girlfriends, and food. I hope my kids keep that connection, but it will take effort and commitment.

  3. Mark says:

    Interesting post.

    I’m a big Jackrabbits fan, and alumni…however, I grew up that way. I went to my first Jackrabbits football game in probably 2nd grade, my Uncle had season tickets on the 50 yard line.

    I went to basketball camp there, and went to many many fb and bb games through my High School years.

    So yes, I ‘m a fan, but I’ve kinda always been a fan. Not sure if going to school there had an effect or not.

    If I’d gone to a smaller school and focused on academics early on, I’d probably not be as focused on their team. (and I’ve had graduated much earlier, but that’s another story)

    I know several people who went to school there, who are fans of other schools…not because of the school itself, but because their kids went to other schools (and their kids are athletes at those other schools). Maybe it’s sour graps because SDSU didn’t recruit their children, or maybe it’s because of other issues. I don’t know.

    It’s interesting to see how and why of people’s allegiances.

  4. […] both of us have somewhat-detached feelings toward our alma maters (my SJU football fandom aside). Terry wrote about his time at Concordia College in Moorhead, and why he feels like an AWOL […]

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