Here’s a trivial fact about me that many of my friends don’t even know (if they care). Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame and current South Carolina football coach, is my second cousin (my branch of the family dropped the `z’). I actually met him once at a family wedding, and he seems like a personable guy.
And you know what else? I made all that up. You see, that’s what we call a lie. But it seemed plausible, right? You wanted to believe me. The good lies always have that appeal.
And in my two years at GW, I’ve heard some real whoppers. GW lies (we’ll call them myths to be polite) are so common, University Archivist G. David Anderson told me he collects them.
So, I’ve listed four of my favorite myths along with some facts. And maybe you will stop trying to tell me in the elevator that we are getting a football team in two years. I’ll throw several more at ya’ Monday. Now, some of these can’t be proven false (unless you consider your own common sense to be enough proof), so I’ve given each a score to rate the truthfulness of the statement.
I have no illusions. I know these myths will quickly be replaced by equally outrageous claims by people who believe they invented the question mark.
Myth: GW is getting a football team in two years and “they” have even started recruiting players (score out of ten on the truth scale: 0).
I heard this one just the other day. I put quotation marks around “they” since “they” are presumably our nonexistent football coaches. Perhaps this is what Tom Penders does in his free time. To find out whether GW has been covertly organizing a football program, I went to the best source I know.
“Absolutely, positively not,” said Athletic Director Jack Kvancz.
And that’s all I can say about that.
Myth: GW’s football team was discontinued in 1966 because Charles E. Smith (or the Gelman family, depending on whom you ask) made their large donations contingent upon there being no football team (or no contact sports at all, again depending on whom you ask). This was because Mr. Smith’s (or the Gelmans’) son was paralyzed in a football game (1).
I gave this a score of `1′ because I can’t prove no one was paralyzed without making some awkward phone calls, but I do know the truth behind the important part of that statement, which might be the most accepted myth on this campus. Kvancz, by the way, had never heard this one, but Ed McKee, Director of Sports Media and Community Relations, had many times (although he doesn’t believe it), and so had Anderson.
“Football was discontinued for several good reasons,” said Anderson. “It didn’t have anything to do with injury, and everything to do with finances.”
Much of this has been gone over before (most recently by me in my last column). So, in brief – no one went to the games, and we lost a lot of money on the team. It was in GW President Lloyd Elliott’s mind that the $250,000 saved every year could go toward an on-campus athletic facility, but that’s where the connection ends. Frankly, the dates just don’t add up since the Smith Center was built a whole decade after the football team died, as was Gelman.
As for the contact sports variation, wrestling’s demise (yes, we wrestled until 1989) is often used to back up that theory, but the end of wrestling is just as easy to explain without silly stories. Scheduling and facilities were the issues at play there.
“I was here when they dropped wrestling, and Charles Smith didn’t have anything to do with it,” McKee said.
Myth: Georgetown is named after King George (5).
I’m sure the Hoyas like to feel high and mighty that their university’s name comes from a town that was named after a king. And we like to point out that GW is named after the winner of a little war between that king and our namesake. What if I told you that Georgetown is named after a couple of farmers?
Dex Nilsson wrote last year in “The Names of Washington, D.C.” that Georgetown originated in 1751, when the Maryland Assembly authorized a town be laid out where George Gordon and George Beall owned property. The two refused to sell but relented since the town was to be named after them.
In “The Chronicles of Georgetown, D.C.,” written in 1878, Richard Jackson comes down on the side of King George concerning this little debate, so the matter is never to be settled. I personally like the Gordon and Beall version.
Myth: GW was started when George Washington left in his will 50 shares of stock in the Potowmack Company to start a national university (1).
This is simply not true, although it was repeated as fact by Dex Nilsson in his previously cited book. What is true (therefore the score of `1′) is that GW left 50 shares of stock for that purpose, but by 1821 it was worthless, as extensively detailed in a pamphlet at Gelman.
The Columbian College was started by Baptists in 1821, and over the years it developed into the university that Washington envisioned, and so that institution renamed itself The George Washington University in 1904. That name change merely acknowledged the intent George Washington had, but not his actual role as a material benefactor.
Come back Monday for more of my favorite myths.
Here’s something that’s not a myth. There was a buzz on campus last week because Shawnta Rogers was spotted after a long absence. As it turns out, Rogers enrolled here, and he’s finishing up his degree that he started working on three and a half years ago.
Head Coach Tom Penders reported that Shawnta took summer classes and to see him back on campus now is frankly a little inspiring. You don’t always expect athletes to put so much work into their degree. I always thought Shawnta was a good person, but this cinches it. Shawnta is living proof that no one should be wary of taking athletes who don’t qualify right off the bat. Shawnta joined us halfway through his freshman year, and ever since, he’s been an unlimited source of Colonial pride, both in school and of course on the court. Shawnta has a camp with the New Jersey Nets in October and who knows what will happen after that. So, if you see him, give him your best. I know I will.
A week and a half ago, my roommate watched Shawnta, Mike King, Val Brown, and Chris Monroe hooping it up at the Smith Center. All I could say was – When does the season start? And the answer is coming sooner than I thought, because a full month before “Midnight Madness,” some grade-A basketball is going to be played at the Smith Center.
It’s not a myth that players like Chris Webber and Marcus Camby will be playing in a game at the Smith Center this month. It is expensive, but it’s worth the money (I know, $20 is a lot). First of all, the money goes to charity. Where do you think the money you spend at a Wizards game goes? Second, I have no idea how fast these tickets are going to go, but besides the awesome players that are already coming, I think some attractive additions to the game may be announced next week. Stay tuned. And you might want to go ahead and get that ticket.