Last Chance U Season 4 Q&A

Welcome back to the podcast. I’m going to cover exclusively Last Chance U material this week. The show has been out for a couple of weeks and social media activity about the show seems to be at about its peak.

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As I mentioned on previous shows, I’ve received a huge amount of correspondence from viewers and they ask a lot of questions. Last year, shortly after the release of the show, I did a Q&A about Last Chance U and I thought I would do the same this year. I’ve taken the top 14 questions that I’ve been asked. My helper, Rick, has basically combed the social media questions to find the things that are asked the most often. And the top 14 of those are what will respond to. In some cases it’s more like a subject rather than a direct question, or what he’s done is he’s kind of captured a series of related questions together in one question. So the subject matter remains the same, but the questions can vary a little bit. So since I’ve got 14 of these, I’m going to do them fairly quickly to stay within the time limits of the show. But if you want sort of elaboration, you’re always welcome to contact me. I do respond to everyone who contacts me.

The first question is, did Jason Brown deserve to be fired? So it’s important to that actually, Jason resigned. It’s a bit of a technical distinction in this case. If he had not resigned, would he have been fired or should he have been fired? And I would say absolutely. Ordinarily this would be a little tough to discuss because my role is president gives me access to information that might be private, and I don’t typically comment on personnel matters out of respect for the privacy of the employee or a student. But in this case, both the employee and the student involved have discussed the matter publicly in detail. They were interviewed on multiple media outlets and there’s an enormous amount of information in the public record from the news media about the incident as well.

I think the way that events unfolded are actually not very complicated, although people have certainly tried to make them complicated. First, you had a text from the coach that appeared to make the national origin of the student and issue in his decision making process. There are all kinds of opinions about how coaches interact with students or how they should interact, what’s effective, what’s not, but the fact is that college policy, state law, federal law, all forbid discrimination on the basis of national origin. That’s why Jason Brown was immediately reprimanded for the text and that’s one of the reasons why he deserved to be reprimanded. Then there was the matter of the escalation of the conflict between Jason and the student. If you listen carefully to the student accounts on television, the television show as well as the information available in the news accounts, it turns out that a couple of days after the original text incident, when the student was in a team meeting, Brown chose to berate the student in front of all of the other students and the coaching staff, which is hardly the actions of someone who understands the original problem and wants to be part of the solution.

There is no point in ignoring the context of the story at this point. It was an international story and was receiving intense media coverage, all of which was reflecting badly on the college. This isn’t a Jason Brown issue. It’s an issue that would arise anytime an employee made a choice that created very bad publicity for a taxpayer supported institution. The trustees of the college are elected by the same taxpayers that support the college, and those trustees need to be able to explain the situation to those taxpayers when they meet them on Main Street or in Walmart. I don’t think that Jason grasped or believed that his fate was in the hands of those six elected officials, who are not interested in taking heat for his actions, especially when he was showing no signs of wanting to make the situation better for them. So given that his text added a new element to his well-known abrasive style, the element of possible discrimination and that the situation continued to escalate after the initial text, and that the escalation gave the trustees no reason to believe Jason was going to be part of the solution, I think that his departure from the college was really the only possible outcome. I don’t think that Jason fully understood this context, and his comments in his book that I failed to prevent his termination showed that. I serve at the pleasure of the trustees and I wasn’t even in the room when Jason’s fate was decided.

Next question. Did the show get you fired? Well, that’s easy to answer. No. I resigned before the show was even released and obviously I’m a pretty minor figure in the show itself. I’d been planning to leave ICC for some time and all of us agreed that the summertime, which is pretty quiet on a college campus compared to the academic year, is the best time for that to happen. I only stayed as long as I did because I wanted to see two specific things at the college be resolved. The first was that we had an accreditation visit and I wanted to see that through and make sure there was a good outcome, which I did and we had a complex legal case involving a faculty member who had been terminated for racially disparate grading and I wanted to stay and make sure the college was properly represented. In that case, the college’s decision to terminate the faculty member was upheld by the courts and the faculty member was found to have engaged in racially disparate grading and at that point I knew that the projects that I wanted to see to the end at ICC, we’re done. My resignation from ICC was amicable and I’m grateful to the board of trustees for the nice things they said about me when I left.

Next question: was doing the show worth it for the college? In my opinion, yes, it’s worth it.

It’s tough to explain because calculating the worth of something that has a lot of different facets is tough. And I think it’s difficult to the calculate the value of a school becoming a household name versus the unknown school that it was before, and I’m not really sure how you quantify that. In my opinion, it’s worth it. The value to the school itself in terms of corporate support, in terms of fan support, I think those are worth it. There there are downsides – I will never ever disguise the fact that I think that it’s polarizing to the community. There are some members of the community who do not like at all the way the community was portrayed. There are other people in the community who don’t care for Jason Brown and of course don’t want to be associated with him and so it’s really, really different.

Everyone has to do their own calculation because the truth is, I would say no one will know if this is worth it until two or three years from now, when somehow all of the dust has settled. Because of that time lag, it’s very difficult to assess these things in the short term. But in fact if you were a viewer of the show, it’s really just been one year, one season fully released, and then the second season just released. In terms of the reach of the show to the general public, we’re talking about something that is really at this point, only about one just over one year old. The local experience of course is far longer because our experience goes all the way back to the beginning of the taping. So there really are two kind of frames of reference: the general public, and then the local people who actually experienced the filming. Those those two frames of reference are different. And so it makes saying is it worth it? a little more difficult.

Next question: Is Heather Mydosh as devoted to students as she appears on the show? Well, I’ll tell you something about this. I was as pleased as punch to see Heather featured on the show because I know what a good teacher she is, and I know how devoted she is to her students, but the fact is she’s even better than the show depicts. Last Chance U shows Heather dealing primarily with a specific student, but our English teachers have a heavy teaching load, typically at least five sections per semester. That means Heather is teaching possibly a hundred students in a semester in a subject matter that requires obviously a great deal of detailed grading work.

Heather came to the college shortly after I did nearly a decade ago and so I’ve seen during that time firsthand that she helps all of her students. She helps them diligently, she gives her time selflessly. I feel such a tremendous sense of respect and admiration for her and for the other teachers who are like her at ICC, because that level of devotion to students is how our college brings real value to the people who choose to attend.

Next question: Is Jared Wheeler as good -ooking in person as he appears on the show? Yes, absolutely. I’ve known Jared awhile now. So I’m not sure I see him the way of the viewers of the show might. But I wasn’t surprised when he was chosen to be featured on the show because I know he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Some viewers have even written to me and speculated whether he’s actually a teacher at ICC or just some kind of an actor for the show, but I can assure you that he is a teacher and he is a good one.

Next question: Is Chance Main’s mom as good-looking in person as she looks on the show? Tiffany is a beautiful person and so the answer is definitely yes. More than that though, she’s a good person inside, as is husband Drew. The whole family is great and getting to know them was actually one of the highlights of the year.

Next question: Would I let my son play football for Jason? Well I should probably say upfront that I probably wouldn’t let my son play football at all because of the possibility of injury, and  I won’t have to make that decision cause I don’t have any sons. I understand the hypothetical question. So I will say that when you’re dealing with a personality like coach Brown, I would say that on a day-to-day basis, most football players are actually with the coaches that address their immediate positions. And those are the personalities that are actually mentoring them on a day-to-day basis, who are talking to the coaches at four year schools about whether or not that student should be recruited and so forth. There is a tendency to focus on the head coach, but if you ask a player, what coach were you close to personally, what coach kept you going, they will rarely say the head coach. They’ll typically mention their position coach because that person is the one that they worked with on hourly or daily basis. So I would just say I know that how it works in football and the head coach isn’t the only person who’s making a difference in the student.

Next question. Why did Indy do so badly this season? That’s a good question. And in fact, it may actually be the greatest question since it’s the one that we can learn from. And I can tell you my answer will be from a distance. I’m not on the football team, so I’m not an insider in the football team, like a coach. I’m more like an outsider. I go watch the games like a spectator. So I can just tell you my impression, but it looks to me like it’s not just one thing. It looks like it’s a couple of things. The first is that you’ve got to have a healthy starting quarterback, and without a healthy starting quarterback, you’re going to go down the road to ruin. The second thing is you’ve got to have, honestly, more of a winning culture on the team that makes you resilient in the face of defeat, which we did not have. Remember that the previous season was our first real winning season. This season before that we actually had a winning record. But we barely had a winning record, and we certainly weren’t a traditional powerhouse. It was a really the first season where we were just starting to turn things around. I don’t think we had the psychology of someone of a team or a school that has sort of long-term success in that sport. And so I think that what happens is that once things start to go wrong, I think that you really need to have the psychology of both the coaching staff and the players where they say, you know, hey, you know, we’re Alabama, we can suffer a loss or two or something and it’s okay. But Independence doesn’t really have that mentality, and I think that it’s easy to get thrown from the saddle, to start to doubt yourselves. And without the starting quarterback, I think the problems begin to multiply very quickly.

And so I don’t think it was one thing. I think it was a two things, losing key players in key positions, and having a lack of a sense of tradition or cohesion or who is a pirate that helps hold the team together in times of trouble. We didn’t exactly have that and that’s why I think that actually the series is fascinating. It’s the first season of course of Last Chance U where they get to explore what the dynamic is of losing rather than winning, and I thought it was actually, for me at least, the most interesting part of the show.

Next question was the show staged? I we get asked this many times, in many forms. No. In the first season of Independence, early on in the season, I think it was actually in the first episode, there was some sort of scene where some cow got loose on the practice field, and there was the locals felt that possibly that scene was staged. The director, Greg Whiteley, said to the campus, my friends, I don’t have the money to stage that kind of thing. We only have so much time, we only have so many takes, we only have so many camera people. The people on camera are not actors, so to say you’re going to stage something with amateurs anyway would probably not be very convincing. The reason why Last Chance U was successful is because of the authenticity of it – because it is not staged. After all, without the students’ stories ,which are so clearly authentic, it would really be just some documentary series about football games. The real story is the teachers and the students who are struggling and these teachers are helping them get through those struggle. Those are the most gripping parts of the show. It’s actually really hard for me to talk about it without feeling a little choked up, because for example, Heather Mydosh the English teacher who is prominently featured is somebody who looks incredibly devoted on the show and I know that she is all about helping the students. And of course, as I mentioned before, she’s doing that for students who are featured on the show and students who are not featured on the show. Imagine the amount of time people like that are putting into their jobs. Those of us who maybe work a nine-to-five job, maybe it’s hard to relate to people who are that passionate about what they do that there’s nothing they won’t do for the success of that student, whether they’re a student athlete or not. It’s totally inspiring to me. It’s totally moving to me.

Next question: Isn’t the college just a stepping stone for these students? I hear question all the time and I’m not really sure that I fully understand it because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course it’s a stepping stone for these students. It’s a stepping stone for all of the people who come to our college who hope to obtain a degree or transfer to another school. By definition, what we do is some kind of an intermediate step toward further education or toward employment. Ultimately, I suspect most college students, whether they’re community college students or elsewhere, see college as a stepping stone, and there’s no question that community colleges are particularly a stepping stone for most students and the show captures that. Whether it’s student athletes who want to go onto something athletically or students who are trying to become say, veterinary technicians and they want to care for animals, it’s all a step on a road to something greater. And I honestly feel like the success of the show is because it captures somehow how everybody has this goal, how it’s transitory for everybody. It’s a piece of a puzzle and that’s what actually I think makes the show so successful. Perhaps what troubles people is that they show these coaches who talk about, “oh, come on, just get your work done, then you can keep going.” In other words, the coach is emphasizing that community college is a means to some other end. This is really just their way of motivating the students who their life goal was not to go to community college. Their life goal was something beyond that. It is really a way of trying to get the student to focus on that larger goal and when the coaches are speaking to that, some people see that as somehow denigrating education in most cases. I think it’s really just the coach is recognizing what the dreams of the students are.

Next question: Why was the turf field such a controversy? You know, that’s a great question. I’m not sure I can give a perfect answer. I think that if you look at the way the public perceived the turf field and then the reality, you see two very different things. We’re a public institution and taxes did not fund that field. The field was funded by private donors, primarily local supporters who were long time supporters of the college who have funded many other endeavors at the college, and so I think that the field probably would have been funded exactly the way it was funded regardless of whether or not Last Chance U had been there.

I think that Last Chance U provided an interesting wrinkle or a focal point, but the show is primarily portraying what the public thinks and you can tell from many of the public comments that not everyone knows the facts. They know that it’s $600,000 for a field, but there’s very little recognition that it’s just individual private supporters providing that, and that was what they wanted to provide for the college. Some people will comment and say, well, that money could have been used for other things, but the truth is anybody who raises money for any cause knows that the people who pay money for that cause are not just going to give it to something else. They’re paying for it because that’s what they’re interested in. Those donors, those wonderful people and organizations, they gave the money for that field because they wanted to support pirate athletics. Were they going to just support other causes of the college? Not necessarily.

It was divisive within the community for two interesting reasons. One was this idea that somehow the public was paying for this field, which of course was just not true. And the second idea, equally naive or misinformed, was that donors could just as easily have paid for something else. And that’s just not the way donations work. If you donate, I suspect you donate money to something to causes that you’re interested in, not just whatever somebody said I need money for. And I think that people who finance the field financed it simply because that’s what they wanted to support. So the show does capture the division within the community, but the division was largely caused by those two mistakes. The first was this general belief that somehow because we’re a public college, this was tax money to pay for our field. And the second was this idea that somehow those donors could just as easily have funded something else. And that’s really not true. That’s just not the way philanthropic donations work.

Next question: There seems to be a lot of animosity in the conference toward the pirates. Do the other schools dislike the pirates or just dislike Jason Brown? I do have to agree, there’s certainly a lot of animosity. I was glad that Jeff Sims, the coach of Garden City, gave them access to him in the way that he did on the show because it really added a great dimension to see his take on the situation. I would say that most of the resentment you see was actually Jason himself, who was not a favorite among Sims or his counterparts throughout the conference. And so I think that if there was resentment, it was toward the way Jason conducted himself.

I don’t feel like everybody understood at least initially in the conference that this was an opportunity for national exposure for every school. I think there was a little bit of fear. The truth is most people are not really familiar with that level of risk or exposure. And so I think it’s a frightening thing. I think in the conference there was a lot of hesitation because they really just didn’t know what they were stepping into. I often had to call up colleagues, other presidents of institutions, and just reassure them and say, these people are not out there to make you look bad. The reason why we had Netflix come back for the second season and the reason why if they wanted to come back for a third season, Independence may well say yes, was because these people don’t have any interest in harming you. Their purpose is not to make you look bad. They say that they do it with a cold eye and a warm heart, and I really feel that in terms of the conference and the rest of the teams in the conference, it was more like this is just uncharted territory for them.

If you’d ever been there a game with Netflix versus a game without Netflix, it’s completely different. You have all these cameras and all this apparatus. It’s very complicated. It’s scary. There’s a lot of legal forms you have to sign and so forth. It’s definitely scary if you’ve never experienced it. We experienced it so many times that we really didn’t give it a second thought after a while, but if you’re another team in the conference that isn’t going to experience that very often, I think it’s very intimidating.

The next question is: Can you talk a little bit about the risk of being on the show? That’s an interesting question because of course that preoccupied us for the months leading up to the filming and throughout filming because you’re trying to always minimize the risk. Now in my case, obviously the show is not about the president, and it’ll never be about the president, and if they ever tried to make it about the president show would be a dismal failure. I’m personally an unbelievably boring person. In the end, for me it’s more of a headache because there’s very little, I hate to say “reward” because most people in public education are not in it for the reward. I just mean if you’re looking for risk versus reward, it’s just not there. It’s very intrusive. It’s very risky. Everything you say is recorded, and let me tell you, if you say something interesting enough, it’s darn well going to make it onto the air. And sometimes you just shake your head because you think, what was I saying? What was I talking to them at that moment? I remember last year, my God, in one scene towards the end of the season, they showed me saying a foolish thing. I was talking about Jason, and I said that maybe if you’re from California you can’t get string two sentences together without swearing or something like that. I got hundreds of messages on social media and from email, an email from people in California who said, how dare you say something like that, you know, they would say, I’m from California and I can absolutely string together a sentence or two sentences without swearing. Everything you say, there’s a lot that hangs on it.

Last question. Are you recognized because of the show? Well, I have to tell you, it never ceases to amaze me and I personally find it hilarious. You’d think that somebody who barely appears on the show compared to the key players or the coaches or the faculty. You’d think that somebody who barely appears on the show would be completely anonymous and you’re just not. Perfect example: just a couple of weekends ago, I was traveling to New York. I was in the airport with my family. And of course immediately someone says, “I’ve seen you where, where have I seen you? Where do I know you from?” And then they said, “oh, wait, aren’t you that guy on television?” My two teenage daughters think it’s hilarious because people want to stand there and take a picture with a nobody like me simply because of a television program. It just shows the power of television to basically make you seem like more than you are.

As I mentioned on previous shows, I’ve received a huge amount of correspondence from viewers and they ask a lot of questions. Last year, shortly after the release of the show, I did a Q&A about Last Chance U and I thought I would do the same this year. I’ve taken the top 14 questions that I’ve been asked. My helper, Rick, has basically combed the social media questions to find the things that are asked the most often. And the top 14 of those are what will respond to. In some cases it’s more like a subject rather than a direct question, or what he’s done is he’s kind of captured a series of related questions together in one question. So the subject matter remains the same, but the questions can vary a little bit. So since I’ve got 14 of these, I’m going to do them fairly quickly to stay within the time limits of the show. But if you want sort of elaboration, you’re always welcome to contact me. I do respond to everyone who contacts me.

The first question is, did Jason Brown deserve to be fired? So it’s important to that actually, Jason resigned. It’s a bit of a technical distinction in this case. If he had not resigned, would he have been fired or should he have been fired? And I would say absolutely. Ordinarily this would be a little tough to discuss because my role is president gives me access to information that might be private, and I don’t typically comment on personnel matters out of respect for the privacy of the employee or a student. But in this case, both the employee and the student involved have discussed the matter publicly in detail. They were interviewed on multiple media outlets and there’s an enormous amount of information in the public record from the news media about the incident as well.

I think the way that events unfolded are actually not very complicated, although people have certainly tried to make them complicated. First, you had a text from the coach that appeared to make the national origin of the student and issue in his decision making process. There are all kinds of opinions about how coaches interact with students or how they should interact, what’s effective, what’s not, but the fact is that college policy, state law, federal law, all forbid discrimination on the basis of national origin. That’s why Jason Brown was immediately reprimanded for the text and that’s one of the reasons why he deserved to be reprimanded. Then there was the matter of the escalation of the conflict between Jason and the student. If you listen carefully to the student accounts on television, the television show as well as the information available in the news accounts, it turns out that a couple of days after the original text incident, when the student was in a team meeting, Brown chose to berate the student in front of all of the other students and the coaching staff, which is hardly the actions of someone who understands the original problem and wants to be part of the solution.

There is no point in ignoring the context of the story at this point. It was an international story and was receiving intense media coverage, all of which was reflecting badly on the college. This isn’t a Jason Brown issue. It’s an issue that would arise anytime an employee made a choice that created very bad publicity for a taxpayer supported institution. The trustees of the college are elected by the same taxpayers that support the college, and those trustees need to be able to explain the situation to those taxpayers when they meet them on Main Street or in Walmart. I don’t think that Jason grasped or believed that his fate was in the hands of those six elected officials, who are not interested in taking heat for his actions, especially when he was showing no signs of wanting to make the situation better for them. So given that his text added a new element to his well-known abrasive style, the element of possible discrimination and that the situation continued to escalate after the initial text, and that the escalation gave the trustees no reason to believe Jason was going to be part of the solution, I think that his departure from the college was really the only possible outcome. I don’t think that Jason fully understood this context, and his comments in his book that I failed to prevent his termination showed that. I serve at the pleasure of the trustees and I wasn’t even in the room when Jason’s fate was decided.

Next question. Did the show get you fired? Well, that’s easy to answer. No. I resigned before the show was even released and obviously I’m a pretty minor figure in the show itself. I’d been planning to leave ICC for some time and all of us agreed that the summertime, which is pretty quiet on a college campus compared to the academic year, is the best time for that to happen. I only stayed as long as I did because I wanted to see two specific things at the college be resolved. The first was that we had an accreditation visit and I wanted to see that through and make sure there was a good outcome, which I did and we had a complex legal case involving a faculty member who had been terminated for racially disparate grading and I wanted to stay and make sure the college was properly represented. In that case, the college’s decision to terminate the faculty member was upheld by the courts and the faculty member was found to have engaged in racially disparate grading and at that point I knew that the projects that I wanted to see to the end at ICC, we’re done. My resignation from ICC was amicable and I’m grateful to the board of trustees for the nice things they said about me when I left. Next question was doing the show worth it for the college? In my opinion. Yeah, it’s worth it.

It’s tough to explain because calculating the worth of something that has a lot of different facets is tough. And I think it’s difficult to the calculate the value of a school becoming a household name versus the unknown school that it was before and I’m not really sure how you quantify that. In my opinion, it’s worth it. The value to the school itself in terms of corporate support, in terms of fan support, I think those are worth it and there there are downsides. I will never ever disguise the fact that I think that it’s polarizing to the community. There are some members of the community who do not like at all the way the community was portrayed. There are other people in the community who don’t care for Jason Brown and of course don’t want to be associated with him and so it’s really, really different.

Everyone has to do their own calculation because the truth is I would say no one will know if this is worth it until two or three years from now when somehow all of the dust has settled and because of that time lag. It’s very difficult to assess these things in the short term. But in fact if you were a viewer of the show, it’s really just been one year, one season fully released, and then the second season just released. In terms of the reach of the show to the general public, we’re talking about something that is really at this point, only about one just over one year old. The local experience of course is far longer because our experience goes all the way back to the beginning of the taping. So there really are two kind of frames of reference that the general public and then the local people who actually experienced the filming, those, those two frames of reference are different.

And so it makes saying is it worth it a little more difficult. Next question. Is Heather my dodge as devoted to students as she appears on the show? Well. I’ll tell you something about this. I, I was as pleased as punch to see Heather featured on the show because I know what a good teacher she is and I know how devoted she is to her students, but the fact is she’s even better than the show depicts. Last chance you shows Heather dealing primarily with a specific student, but our English teachers have a heavy teaching load. You know, typically at least five sections per semester. That means Heather is teaching possibly a hundred students in a semester in a, in a subject matter. That requires obviously a a a great deal of detailed grade work. Heather came to the college shortly after I did nearly a decade ago and so I’ve seen during that time firsthand that she helps all of her students.

She helps them diligently, she gives her time selflessly. I, I feel such a tremendous sense of respect and admiration for her and for the other teachers who are like her at ICC because that level of devotion to students is how our college brings real value to the people who choose to attend. Next question. Is Jared Wheeler as good looking in person as he appears on the show? Yes, absolutely. I’ve known Jared awhile now. So I’m not sure I see him the way of the viewers of the show might. But I wasn’t surprised when he was chosen to be featured on the show because I know he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Some viewers have even written to me and speculated whether he’s actually a teacher at ICC or just some kind of an actor for the show, but I can assure you that he is a teacher and he is a good one.

Next question is chance mains mom as good looking in person as she looks on the show. Deviney is a beautiful person and so the answer is definitely yes. More than that though. She’s a good person inside as his or husband drew, the whole family is great and getting to know them was actually one of the highlights of the year. That chance was playing on the team. Next question. Would I let my son play football for Jason? Well I should probably say upfront. I probably wouldn’t let my son play football at all because of the possibility of, I won’t have to make that decision cause I don’t have any sons. I understand the, thehypothetical question. So I will say that when you’re dealing with a personality like coach Brown, I would say that on a day to day basis, most football players are actually with the coaches that address their immediate positions.

And those are the personalities that are actually mentoring them on a day to day basis that are talking to the coaches at four year schools about whether or not that student should be recruited and so forth. There is a tendency to focus on the head coach, but if you ask a player, what coach was I close to personally, you know what the, what coach kept me going. They will rarely say the head coach. They’ll typically mention their position coach because that person is the one that they worked with on hourly or daily basis. So I would just say I know that how it works in football and the head coach isn’t the only person who’s making a difference in the student. Next question. Why did Indy do so badly this season? That’s a good question. And in fact, it may actually be the greatest question since it’s the one that we can learn from.

And I can tell you my answer will be from a distance. I’m not on the football team, so I’m not an insider in the football team, like a coaches. I’m more like an outsider. I go watch the games like a spectator. So I can just tell you my impression, but it looks to me like it’s not just one thing. It looks like it’s a couple of things. So the first is, is that you’ve got to have a healthy starting quarterback and without a healthy starting quarterback, a, you’re going to go down the road to ruin. The second thing is you’ve got to have, honestly, you’ve got to have more of a winning culture on the team that makes you resilient in the face of defeat, which we did not have. So remember that the previous season was our first real winning season. This season before that we actually had a winning record.

But we, you know, we barely had a winning record and we certainly weren’t a traditional powerhouse. It was a really the first season where we were just starting to turn, turn things around. I don’t think we had the psychology of someone of a team or a school that has sort of longterm success in that support. And so I think that what happens is that once things start to go wrong, I think that you really need to have the psychology of both the coaching staff and the players where they say, you know, hey, w w, you know, we’re Alabama, we can suffer a loss or two or something and it’s okay. But independence doesn’t really have that mentality. And I think that it’s easy to get thrown from the saddle. I think it’s to start to doubt yourselves. And without the starting quarterback, I think the problems begin to multiply very quickly.

And so I don’t think it was one thing. I think it was a few things, losing key players. And key positions to having a lack of a sense of tradition or cohesion or who is a pirate that helps hold the team together in times of trouble that we didn’t exactly have and that’s why I think that actually the series is fascinating. It’s the first season of course of Last Chance U where they get to explore what the dynamic is of losing rather than winning and I thought it was actually the most, for me at least the most interesting part of the show. Next question was the show staged? I we get asked this many times in many forms. No, no. I can tell you right now I’m in the, in the first season of independence, there was early on in the season, I think it was actually in the first episode, there was some sort of scene where some cow got loose on the, on the practice field on the playing field and then there was the locals felt that possibly that scene was staged.

The director, Greg Whiteley said to the campus, he said, my friends, I don’t have the money to stage. That kind of thing. We only have so much time. We only have so many takes. We only have so many camera people, the people on camera and not actors too, so to say you’re going to stage something with amateurs anyway would probably not be very convincing. The reason why last chance he was successful is because of the authenticity of it because it is not staged after all without the students’ stories which are, are so clearly authentic. It would really be just some documentary series about football games. The real story is the teachers and the students who are struggling and these teachers are helping them get through those struggle. Those are the most gripping parts of the show. And to me it’s, it’s actually really hard for me to talk about it without feeling a little choked up because for example, Heather, my dodge, the English teacher who is prominently featured is, she’s somebody who, you know, she looks incredibly devoted on the show and I know that she is all about helping the student.

And of course, as I mentioned before, she’s doing that for students who are featured on the show and students who are not featured on the show. Imagine the amount of time people like that are putting into their jobs. Those of us who maybe work a nine to five job, maybe it’s hard to relate to people who are that passionate about what they do that there’s nothing they won’t do for the success of that student, whether they’re a student athlete or not. It’s totally inspiring to me. It’s totally moving to me. Next question. Isn’t the college just a stepping stone for these students? I hear question all the time and I’m not really sure that I fully understand it because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, it’s a stepping stone for these students. It’s a stepping stone for all of the people who come to our college who hope to obtain a degree or transferred to another school.

By definition, what we do is some kind of an intermediate step toward further education or toward employment. Ultimately, I suspect most college students, whether they’re community college students or elsewhere, they see college as a stepping stone and there’s no question that community colleges, particularly a stepping stone for most students and the show captures that. Whether it’s student athletes who want to go onto something athletically or students who are just trying to become say, veterinary technicians and they just want to care for animals. It’s all a step on a road to something greater. And I honestly feel like the success of the show is because it captures somehow how everybody has this goal, how it’s transitory for everybody. It’s a piece of a puzzle and that’s what actually I think makes the show so successful. And when they show these coaches who talk about, oh, come on, just get your work done, then you can keep going.

This is really just their way of motivating the students who their life goal was not to go to community college. Their life goal was something beyond that. It is really a way of trying to get the student to focus on that larger goal and when the coaches are speaking to that, some people see that as somehow denigrating education in most cases. I think it’s really just the coach is recognizing what the dreams of the students are. Next question. Why was the turf field such a controversy? You know, that’s a great question. I’m not sure I can give a perfect answer. I think that if you look at the way the public perceived the turf field and then the reality, you see two very different things. We’re a public institution and taxes did not fund that field. The field was funded by private donors, primarily local supporters who were long time supporters of the college who have funded many other endeavors at the college and so I think that the field probably would have been funded exactly the way it was funded regardless of whether or not last chance you had been there.

I think that last chance you provided an interesting wrinkle or a focal point or something like that, but the show is primarily portraying what the public things and you can tell from many of the public comments that not everyone knows the facts. They so, oh, I don’t know, $600,000 for a field, but there’s very little recognition that it’s just individual private supporters and that was what they wanted to provide for the college. You know, some people will comment and say, well that money could have been used for other things, but the truth is anybody who raises money for any cause knows that the people who pay money for that cause are not just going to give it to something else. They’re paying for it because that’s what they’re interested in. Those donors, those wonderful people and organizations, they gave the money for that field because they wanted to support pirate athletics, where they going to just support other causes of the college.

Not necessarily. It was so, it was divisive within the community for two interesting reasons. One was this idea that somehow the public was paying for this field, which of course was just not true. And the second idea, equally naive or misinformed was that donors could just as easily have paid for something else. And that’s just not the way donations work. If you donate, I suspect you donate money to something to causes that you’re interested in, not just whatever somebody said I need money for. And I think that people who finance the field financed it simply because that’s what they wanted to support. So the show does capture the division within the community, but the division was largely caused by those two mistakes. The first was this general belief that somehow because we’re a public college, this was tax money to pay for our field. And the second was this idea that somehow those donors could just as easily have funded something else.

And that’s really not true. That’s just not the way philanthropic donations work. Next question. There seems to be a lot of animosity in the conference toward the pirates. Do the other schools dislike the pirates or just dislike Jason Brown? I do have to agree. There’s certainly a lot of animosity. I was glad that a s a sims gave them access to him in the way that he did on the show because it really added a a great dimension to see his take on the situation. I would say that most of the resentment you see, I think was actually Jason himself who was not a favorite among sims or his counterparts throughout the conference. And so I think that if there was resentment, it was toward the way Jason conducted himself. I don’t feel like everybody understood at least initially in the conference that this was an opportunity for, for national exposure every, for every school.

I think there was a little bit of fear. The truth is most people are not really familiar with that level of risk or exposure. And so I think it’s a frightening thing. I think in the conference there was a lot of hesitation because they really just didn’t know what they were stepping into. I often had to call up colleagues, other presidents of institutions and just reassure them and say, these people are not out there to make you look bad. Honestly, the reason why we had Netflix come back for the second season and the reason why if they wanted to come back for a third season, independence may well say yes was because these people don’t have any interest in harming you. Their purpose is not to make you look bad. They say that they do it with a cold eye and a warm heart and I really, really feel that in terms of the conference and the rest of the teams in the conference, it was more like, you know, this is just uncharted territory for them.

If you’d ever been there a game with Netflix versus a game without Netflix, it’s completely different. I mean you have all these cameras and all this apparatus. It’s very complicated. It’s scary. There’s a lot of legal forms you have to sign and so forth. It’s, it’s definitely scary if you’ve never experienced it. We experienced it so many times that we really didn’t give it a second thought. After awhile, but if you’re another team in the conference that isn’t going to experience that very often, I think it’s very intimidating. The next question is, can you talk a little bit about the risk of being on the show? That’s an interesting question because of course that preoccupied us for the months leading up to the filming and throughout filming because you’re, you’re trying to always minimize the risk. Now in my case, obviously the show is not about the president and I’ll never be about the president and if they ever tried to make it about the president show would be a dismal failure.

I’m personally, I’m an unbelievably boring person. A, the fact is in the end, for me it’s more of a headache because there’s, there’s very little, I hate to say reward because most people in public education are not in it for the reward. I just mean if you’re looking for risk versus reward, it’s just not there. It’s very intrusive. It’s very risky. Everything you say is recorded and let me tell you, if you say something interesting enough, it’s darn well going to make it onto the air. And sometimes you just shake your head because you think, what was I, what was I saying? What was I talking to them at that moment? I remember last year, my God and one scene towards, I think the end of the season, they showed me saying a foolish thing about, oh, I was, I was talking about Jason. I said, well, maybe if you’re from California you can’t get through a sentence without swearing or something like that.

And I got hundreds of messages on social media and from email, an email from people in California who said, how dare you say something like that, you know, they would say, I’m from California and I can absolutely string together a sentence or two sentences without swearing. I mean, the fact is everything you say, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot that hangs on it. Last question. Are you recognized because of the show? Well, I gotta tell you, it never ceases to amaze me and I personally find it hilarious. You’d think that somebody who barely appears on the show compared to the key players are the coaches or thefaculty. You’d think that somebody who barely appears on the show would be completely anonymous and you’re just not. Perfect example, just a couple of weekends ago, I was traveling to New York. I’m in the airport with my family. And of course immediately someone says, I’ve seen you where, where have I seen you? Where do I know you from? And then they said, oh, wait, aren’t you that guy on television? My, my daughters, my two teenage daughters, they think it’s hilarious because people want to stand there or is there and take a picture with a nobody like me simply because of a television program. It just shows the power of television to basically make you seem like more than you are.

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