An open letter from Jefferson Davis to Jim Delany

You look like you could use some good advice. - The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

A few pointers on principled secession from a guy with experience.

Commissioner Delany,

Greetings and salutations! Imagine my surprise when I put on my robe and slippers this morning, went to the gates of Beauvoir to pick up the morning Sun Herald, and read that you are considering leading a secession of the Big Ten from major college sports in the event that Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA is successful. Perhaps a collection of drubbings at the hands of some Southerners has you thinking about surrender? Sure wish that Abe Lincoln would have had the same thoughts after Billy Yank's Chickahominy Blues. But I'm not bitter. Life on the Gulf Coast suits me, and you should see what they've done with Biloxi.

Anyway, when I read about your situation, it really struck a nerve with me. You're feeling concerned about the federal government telling you that you have to pay the guys working for you. Providing food and shelter just won't cut it anymore according to that dictator in a black outfit. Your whole economic model is based on this source of unpaid labor and now that model is threatened. I know where you're coming from. You want to opt out of the system so you can do things your way, right? I've gone down this road, and if you aren't careful, you end up wearing your wife's coat in Irwinville, Georgia.

Let me give you some pointers on how to handle a secession the right way. You're a fan of open letters, so you'll surely take this seriously.

1. Line up some allies.

I spent a good portion of my time as the President of the Confederacy trying to get Great Britain and France to aid the South. You would have thought that the English and their vast appetite for Southern cotton would have come in on our side. Frickin' replacement imports from Egypt and India. I digress. Anyway, my point is that America would have lost the Revolutionary War without assistance from France, and the South's chances to prevail in the Civil War would have been greater if Great Britain or France would have come in on the side of the Confederacy.

So think about outside powers who could help you if the Big Ten chose to stop giving athletic scholarships. The SEC would no longer have a rival for the richest conference in America, so maybe Mike Slive could do for you what Lord Palmerston could not do for me. There will no doubt be professors and administrators on Big Ten campuses who will be pleased by the idea of their charges opening a book on a fall Saturday instead drinking themselves into a stupor.

And I'm sure you'll find some allies in the Northeastern media who have never liked college football. Maybe start with that Bissinger guy?

2. Pay attention to morale on the home front.

Bless his soul, Robert E. Lee could not be beaten by the Union Army. Even U.S. Grant was having a hard time topping the Army of Northern Virginia until Lee's men started losing numbers as a result of the letters they were getting from home. Letters that said things like, "our money is worthless because of inflation and the kids are going to starve." Or, "the Yankees are burning everything in their path and they're headed straight for us." Or, "the only military-age men in the area are the sons of the local planter." Go figure, these sorts of statements hurt morale and cause soldiers to desert.

it turns out that printing money isn't a solution for everything

So Jim, you might want to think about keeping your constituents happy. For instance, your stance against paying college football and basketball players on the grounds that there is no room to do so in athletic department budgets would cause the Big Ten to drop down to a lower level of competition ... which would reduce revenues on a massive scale as 110,000 Ohioans aren't going to pay to see a D-III football game ... which would cause you to have to lay off the athletic department employees whose jobs you were trying to protect in the first place? It's almost like seceding to protect an economic system and then seeing that system banned four years after seceding, whereas it would have taken decades for the political process to have banned that system had we not seceded in the first place. Irony abounds.

Did I have a point? Oh, yeah: think about the financial implications of your course of action because it turns out that printing money isn't a solution for everything.

3. Managing people is important.

Seems pretty obvious, right? Well, I made a total hash of it in the West. I let Braxton Bragg remain in charge of the Army of Tennessee despite the fact that everyone reporting to Bragg hated their boss. I didn't have the stones to replace Bragg with Joseph Johnston, a general whom I later fired and whose firing contributed to the loss of Atlanta and Lincoln's reelection. I endeared myself to the population of Vicksburg by putting a Philadelphian in charge of the Army of Mississippi. I then compounded my error by not reinforcing the Army of Mississippi or coordinating forces in that area, thus leading to the loss of Vicksburg and the entire Mississippi River.

Man, it feels good to get that off my chest in a succinct fashion as opposed to that two-volume morass of legalistic arguments that I dumped onto posterity.

My point is that you have to make sure that you have the right people in place when you willfully destroy millions of dollars in equity that you have built up in your management of the Big Ten during your tenure as commissioner. For instance, that guy who paid Kirk Ferentz $981,250 per win last year and who gave Ferentz such unassailable job security that Ferentz can retain Greg Davis and hire members of his immediate family with impunity? There's your Braxton Bragg. Don't trust him with moving the paper clips as you move the Big Ten to athletic irrelevance. And that guy who didn't take a bowl ban when his team went 6-6 and thus deprived it of the chance to play for the national title when it went 12-0? Stonewall Jackson he's not.

When you have decades to ruminate on your mistakes as I have, you know how to spot a bad general or two. You have a couple on your roster.

And for the love of all things holy, neither I nor the Railsplitter were cursed with a general or colonel as offensively challenged as Jim Bollman. (Although come to think of it, Bollman's mustache would have fit in nicely in my era.)

So there you have it. I respect your strong stance against paying those who work in the fields. If you start paying them, then what's going to be left for the guys in charge? The world can use more principled stands, like the one that the Confederacy took that left 625,000 people dead and most of the South in ruins. A leader has to follow his moral compass, regardless of the destruction that results. With your declaration to the Northern District of California, you are on the right path.

Unless, of course, you were just engaging in a case of puffery to help defend against a legal claim.

Yours faithfully,
Jefferson Finis Davis

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