since campus was 75% empty over the summer, Southern Michigan University ran a number of “camps” for younger grade school students, which allowed many staff to keep drawing their salaries over the summer while providing a much-needed influx of hard cash.

Football Camp was incredibly popular, despite the mediocre performance that the SMU Fighting Grizzlies had experienced on the gridiron since their high-water mark in 1969. It was, however, no predictor of eventual success on the field, for a number of reasons. The kids were generally 12-13, so their eventual adult height and weight were still up in the air regardless of how much they trained. The camp also skewed rich and white as lawyer dads smarting over lost field glory pushed their kids into it, and “rich and white” has rarely been a descriptor in the background of the true NFL greats.

Math and Science Camp was also popular, again in spite of the middling national rankings that the associated departments had. Surprisingly, it too was not a predictor of eventual success; it had been once, but the kids associated with it had a blisteringly high burnout rate. Many wound up boomeranging or slacking into minimum wage jobs once they escaped from their tiger moms for the first time. Also 12-13, the kids were working on linear equations and testing hypotheses when their peers were running free and wild–a fact not lost on many of them. They tended to be quite diverse in ways that did very little for the camps’ image as bastions of privilege, with the Indian subcontinent and The Two Chinas being highly represented.

One would think that, due to the strong jock/nerd archetypes associated with them, that the campers would be intense rivals. In fact, they barely met. Football Campers used the Athletics facilities to eat, train, and sleep, and–as faculty often complained–those facilities were a world apart, inaccessible to the campus at large and generally of a much higher quality. Math and Science campers slept in disused dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and worked out of Kirtland Hall. They were, indeed, unaware of each others’ existence.

That is, until the day an errant squirrel exploded the generator on the west side of SMU’s campus thrust them into the same sphere.

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