The sheikhdom of Ras Al Khamaih has purchased George Mason University, guaranteeing itself a berth in the NCAA Basketball Tournament Final Four.
Question: How do you say Kryptonite in Arabie?
Question: How do you say "Kun fi al-qimma!" in Inglizi?
>>Answer: "Go for the top!"
Question: Before they became good in hoops was GMU known for excellence in anything?
>>Answer: "Before the hoops fame, George Mason was known for its stellar economics department."
Besides the GMU Athletics Department and players, RAK also picked up George Mason's academic departments and faculty.
GMU is home to Noble Prize winning economist Vernon Smith, and to Tyler Cowen who was recently named by the New York Times to take on its weekly Economic Scene column. Ironically, GMU hired Vernon Smith away from the Department of Economics at Arizona
State where he had spent most of his career. That acquisition remains a source of enmity between the two schools.
When reached for comment, Tyler Cowen said he knew Dubai well, but he had never heard of RAK until this deal was announced.Sidebar - Good for the goose, but not for the gander? GMU's long history of buying its way up a Leibowitz-Palmer style ranking of economics departments.- 1983 - James Buchanan joins GMU. Buchanan began his academic career at The University of Virginia in 1956, and later also served at UCLA and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
- 1986 - James Buchanan wins Nobel Prize in Economics
- 2001 - Vernon Smith joins GMU after 26 years at Arizona
- 2002 - Vernon Smith wins Nobel Prize in Economics
Patriots starting guard Lamar Butler was dumbfounded to learn George Mason even has a branch in UAE. "That's 'Ripley's Believe It or Not,' because I didn't know that," he said.
In a press release issued today Ras Al Khamaih stated that day-to-day operations would remain under the control of the current management team at GMU. "It would be foolish for us to make any immediate changes in the management, particularly in the basketball coaching staff." Adopting the American vernacular the statement continued: "You dance with who brung ya."
More uncertainty surrounded the academic side of the university. "The basketball team fits well with our long term vision to put RAK on the map. Now that we have closed the GMU deal we shall have to determine whether to spin off education. We really don't know what we bought. But a long-term interest in education per se would be a new direction for us."
Sources at the NCAA who wished to remain anonymous said that GMU sports could put its amateur status in jeopardy unless it maintained the pretense of providing education along with entertainment. Critics of the NCAA have long maintained that many schools fake the provision of education. These critics applauded a more transparent approach.
Because many students in the US outsource their homework to India, employers have become skeptical of the value of a college degree. As former Dean of the GSB at Stanford, A. Michael Spence, has said recently, "people got upset when I first suggested 30 years ago that the purpose of schooling may not be to educate but to screen for intelligence. Today we can't even say for sure that a college degree is a signal. That is going to make schooling an extremely hard sell. If I owned shares in a university I'd dump them."
Senator John Warner (R-Va), who played the key mediating role in the Dubai ports deal kerfuffle, said he may introduce legislation to block the deal. "This is matter of state conceit. The Virginia taxpayers have invested in state universities for years and never had a school even get close to the Final Four. RAK's assurance that they will not control the team are a diversion." (Warner's press office later issued a correction noting that The University of Virginia had reached the Final Four twice during the 1980s. Ralph Sampson was not available for comment.)
Warner continued, "The real question is will we allow a bunch of rich foreigners to buy claim to membership in the Final Four and deny my fellow Virginians the return on their investment? Oil sheikhs have tried this before. You can't buy your way into the Final Four. March Madness is a microcosm of America; it is a meritocracy. Virginia has earned this prestige; you cannot put a price on bragging rights."
Sources indicate that Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was working on the sidelines to find a solution to the impasse. Ironically, she was one of the most vocal critics of the Dubai Ports World acquisition of six US ports. In a statement to the press issued earlier today she said "DPW is not RAK and sports are not ports. I like Arabs, I just don't trust them."
RAK specialist Secret Dubai said that like the Space Port, RAK's acquisition of GMU fits well with its core strategy to attract media attention. A consultant to Mecca Cola was more skeptical. "A clash of cultures, such as in the Chrysler-Daimler Benz merger, might mean the GMU-RAK deal will have a rocky road ahead."
When contacted just before press time a RAK official denied rumors that the team name would be changed to The Pirates. "The name Patriots may no longer make sense, but it has market goodwill. That's all we care about. It's like NCR; they're a global company that doesn't make cash registers."
Thanks to Scott of Hybla for the RAK Final Four article in WaPo.