“From this white-hot crucible of competition, one student will emerge, hardened like a piece of steel forged in the fires of Mount Dune, ready to face me in an epic showdown on the big screen in front of a live audience.”
This dystopian declaration came from mild-mannered Scott Dalrymple, the newly minted president of Columbia College in Missouri.
The diehard Buffalo Bills fan pledged in an “epic trash talk video” to pay for a student’s textbooks for a full academic year if the student beats Dalrymple in a “no-holds-barred” tournament for the 2013 football videogame Madden NFL 25 next month.
(The school changed the game to Madden NFL 15, the 2014 version, after securing promotional support from game maker Electronic Arts. Dalrymple joked that EA’s support helped “level the playing field … as I had become quite a force in Madden 25.”)
The President’s Inauguration Video Game Challenge, scheduled for his Oct. 17 inauguration, is meant to liven up the “stuffy events” that sometimes accompany school inaugurations, Dalrymple told The College Fix in an email.
“I wanted to find a way to energize the students and engage with them,” Dalrymple said. “This seemed like a pretty good way. Plus I like to play video games, and I’m the President, so I simply decreed it!”
The rules of the tournament are simple: Games will be played on a PlayStation 4 with 2-minute quarters, and a 20-second play clock will keep the game moving along at a quick clip. Students can pick their own team. The tournament will go from 11:45 am to 4:30 pm, with the winner facing Dalrymple at 5 p.m.
In the trash-talk video, Dalrymple even gave a few NFL teams some jazz for being underachievers, telling students they can play as “the St. Louis Rams, the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears – you can even choose a professional team.” Dalrymple will be playing as “the greatest team in the history of professional sports, which is, of course, the Buffalo Bills.”
Though the tournament is open exclusively to students at Columbia College, the school has 30,000 students spread across 13 states, with 18 of its 35 campuses on military bases, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Two students from among the school’s “nationwide” and online programs who win a “social media trash talk contest” will be flown to Columbia free of charge to take part in the tournament, the school said.
Dalrymple is also hoping to visit every Columbia College campus across the country. According to the Columbia Tribune, Dalrymple and his wife, Tina, have already traveled more than 5,800 miles to 10 “remote” campuses in just four months.
Dalrymple’s campaign trades on the rising price of textbooks, the subject of many analyses by economists and laymen over the past several years, but does not explain the factors behind the price increases.
According to a 2012 study by the American Enterprise Institute, the 812 percent increase in textbook prices since 1978 dwarfs both the increase in new home prices (325 percent) and cost of medical services (575 percent) over the last three decades.
Students have also dealt with astronomical tuition rate increases. The price of college tuition, which is correlated with the rising price of college textbooks, has risen 538 percent since 1985, “compared with a 286 percent jump in medical costs and a 121 percent gain in the consumer price index,” Bloomberg reported last year.
Dalrymple told The College Fix in an email that he might consider making the “Trash Talk Campaign” a perennial event, something that opens every fall semester. But, he cautioned, “let’s see how things go. If I lose, we may need to pick a different game next time.”
College Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student and an editorial assistant for The College Fix.
IMAGES: YouTube screenshot, Columbia College