Thank You, Andy Geiger

Thad Matta has coached the Buckeye basketball team to Big Ten championships, NCAA tournament bids, and the NCAA championship game, and this year’s team is the last undefeated team in major college basketball.  Jim Tressel has coached the Ohio State football team to another Big Ten championship and another win in a BCS bowl game and has won a national championship during his tenure as the Buckeyes’ head coach.  Both of these fine coaches are working at Ohio State thanks, in part, to a man named Andy Geiger.

Andy Geiger was the Ohio State Athletic Director from 1994 to 2005.  He presided over some momentous and controversial times for the Buckeyes. Geiger’s biography on the official OSU athletics website focuses principally on his work on Ohio State’s facilities.  He expanded Ohio Stadium, built Bill Davis Stadium for the baseball team, built Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center for the basketball teams, and added the Jesse Owens track to the complex of  Ohio State athletic facilities.  During his tenure Ohio State went from a school with aging facilities to one with new, updated facilities in virtually every sport.

The Buckeye Nation might argue about the modifications of Ohio Stadium and the merit of the Schott as a basketball facility, but there can be no dispute about the merit of two of Geiger’s decisions.  He hired Jim Tressel, and he hired Thad Matta.  It may be difficult to preside over capital campaigns to expand facilities, but that job is child’s play compared to selecting a head football coach and a head basketball coach at a major university that has legions of rabid, unforgiving fans.  Deciding whether an individual will have the unique combination of class, character, coaching and recruiting ability, organizational skill, and public relations savvy necessary to be successful in such high-profile jobs is no easy task, and countless universities have stumbled badly in making those decisions.

On that crucial task, however, Geiger twice succeeded beyond any and all expectations.  Thanks to his selections, Ohio State has in Coach Tressel and Coach Matta the best tandem of college football and basketball coaches in the nation.  Was Andy Geiger an extraordinarily good judge of people or was he wildly, improbably lucky — not once but twice?  Either way, the Buckeye Nation should be forever grateful that Geiger was at the helm to make those decisions.

Rejecting Robot Caregivers

Japan has a problem.  It has a rapidly aging population of senior citizens and not enough younger people to care for them (or for that matter to contribute to the social welfare programs that support them, but that’s another story).


Japan had hoped that robots would be the answer.  They envisioned robots that would care for the elderly and staff nursing homes and hospitals.  They have developed robots like Ri-Man, which can lift and carry hobbled senior citizens, and robots to serve as guides in hospitals.  Manufacturers have sunk millions of dollars into efforts to develop such robots.  Now they have concluded that robots are too expensive and impractical — and, even more important, are unwanted by patients and unwelcome, even in robot-friendly Japan.  As one person plaintively said:  “We want humans caring for us, not machines.”

No one should be surprised by this reaction.  It is not just because Ri-Man and the other caregiving robots look like full-scale toys or embarrassing caricatures of the robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still.  Instead, the breathless and triumphal tone of the video introducing Ri-Man, below, demonstrates the disconnect between the views of the entrepreneurs and engineers developing the robots and the seniors who are supposed to be buying them.  Elder care isn’t about technological advances or new frontiers in the science of robotics.  Instead, it is about helping human beings who are failing and who seek companionship and comfort as they decline.  Having to rely only on robots for help would be sterile and depressing. 

The elderly want to know that there is some person who cares enough about them to help them and spend time with them.  Can anyone blame them for concluding that metal and plastic robots are no substitute for a meaningful human connection?