Land-grant universities making impressive showing in bowls

December 20, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER |
  • Jeff Semler
Jeff Semler

It is the college bowl season, and whether you are a rabid fan or a casual onlooker, wildcats, tigers, eagles and mountaineers will be battling for bragging rights and trophies.

What is heartening to me is the vast number of agricultural schools and land-grant universities represented. As I said during March Madness, land-grant universities were the brainchild of the Lincoln administration, and are charged with educating the industrial class in agriculture and mechanics.

It is important to understand that prior to this movement, access to a college education was greatly limited by one’s social standing. Subsequent acts of Congress added agricultural research and extension education to the land-grant mission.

There are 35 bowl games this year and 25 of the teams represented are from land-grant universities, including Auburn University in the Tostitos BCS Championship game. Fresno State, Texas Tech and Middle Tennessee, while not land-grant institutions, each have colleges of agriculture. That is impressive given the fact that there are less than 50 land-grant universities represented in the NCAA’s Bowl Championship Division.

Don’t get me wrong, I like college football as much as the next guy, but bringing attention to the plight of land- grant universities is more to the point. I recently read an Associated Press story revealing a plan to restructure Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The proposal envisions a much smaller, more focused school as it tries to adapt to tough financial circumstances.

As with most online articles, there is a forum for comments from readers. Of course, several of the comments alluded to the fact that funders are not dissimilar to the general public in that they are far removed from their food. But my favorite comment was posted by Art from Minnesota: “What could possibly be more critical to the security of our nation than agricultural research?”

Of course, I couldn’t agree more. While I would prefer my electronics be made in America, I insist my food be produced right here at home.

To help you understand the land-grant model that supports our agricultural industry, I am sharing quotes from three land-grant universities that will be plying their trade on the gridiron this bowl season.

From the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl-bound University of Nevada Wolf Pack: “The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) is a founding college of this Land Grant University. The college has a long and distinguished record of fulfilling the tripartite mission of teaching, research and outreach programs benefiting the health and economic vitality of Nevada.”

One of the teams playing in the Insight Bowl is the University of Missouri Tigers.
“Since its establishment in 1870, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) have historically embraced the three missions of the land-grant university — providing accessible educational opportunities to Missouri citizens, conducting applied and basic research to address the needs of Missourians, and delivering research-based information to enhance the quality of life and economic well-being of all Missourians,” the university said.

My employer, the University of Maryland Terrapins, will be in the Military Bowl. It is “committed to offering exemplary teaching programs, conducting internationally renowned research, coordinating outstanding extension/outreach efforts, and engaging individuals, groups and communities to improve quality of life in Maryland and beyond.”

I hope you will watch college football from a little different perspective. I also trust you will remember your Christmas dinner was provided by the farmers that the land-grant universities have been assisting since 1862.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

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