"Kaplan State University"

Elves rejects attend Kaplan.
Elves rejects attend Kaplan.

The following is based on a true story although none of it happened. Related piece of yore: http://keithmitchell5.hubpages.com/hub/Surfing-the-White-River-Saturday-Night-Colts-Party . Adds depth, understanding. Will make you whisper “I love Andrew Luck.”

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We were driving in my dented Yaris to the Cineplex 17 to see Don Jon at a strip mall called Southern Plaza when I spotted the three-quarters full parking lot of Kaplan University at what was, until 2008, a Steak & Ale restaurant. Philosophy class, where old salad bar was. Pre-Med, back by the coat rack. Several dozen students were eight feet or more from the entrance – as mandated by county ordinance – smoking cigarettes in the October chill. My date – yet another match.com one & done, I might add … and please realize this: match.com is deplorably wretched. Don’t believe their commercials at all. Even if you are really, really drunk and very, very lonely, you would not want to marry anyone on match.com. Trust me on this: you are better off. I digress.

Anyhoo, I was slightly impressed by Kaplan University’s campus there at the closed, overpriced steakhouse, mostly because I thought it was only an on-line, scam for profit, type of college experience. I didn’t realize you could actually go there to a physical location and smoke a cigarette afterward with other actual students.

I started thinking that Kaplan needed/ deserved a rival institution. Harvard has Yale; IU has Purdue; Cal has Stanford. So I created Kaplan State. My friend/ IT wizard, Cord, whipped up a professional-enough looking webpage –kaplanstate.edu.com/turnyourlifearound. I put up posters on the glass storefront outside the closed Egg Roll #1 right next to Radio Shack on Emerson Avenue, some five miles from the Kaplan University outlet at the former Steak & Ale. Kaplan State would be smaller but the proximity was sure to spur an intensely heated, frothy rivalry.

If you’re wondering, yes I knew that Kaplan University had no actual athletic teams of its own, and that was the fun: pretending to be clueless, starting an athletic rivalry that couldn’t exist anywhere but cyberspace – where it could really take off. Since Kaplan State was a fantasy and we didn’t have to do any real work, Cord and I made up a spate of majors and courses for the webpage. Bullshit like Bullfighting Theory, NASA Studies, Coping With Diabetes, Mandarin Lit. Stuff like that. Our professors were an impressively eclectic cross-section of the living and the dead: Kurt Vonnegut, Kurt Cobain, Curtis Painter*, Milka Duno. Joe Biden, Jenna Bush, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, Pol Pot, Billy Ray Cyrus, Billy Carter. A real rogue’s gallery. Most people got the joke and approached our ‘university’ the way a serious consumer of news approaches The Onion. I’d like to think everyone who applied for admission to “KSU” got the joke, but there’s a dumbass born every minute, so you never know. Some of the application essays seemed awfully sincere and/or desperate. Among those applying for one kind of degree or another were a hand full of my former students; the actor Mickey Rourke; and former Colts quarterback Curtis Painter. Painter’s essay amused us. He wrote, “I smoke a lot of weed and know a good strand when I cross it. Smoking weed costs money. Selling weed generates revenue on the other hand. I studied useless stuff at Purdue and didn’t really do the work – Rally Girls did it for me and took my tests. I know nothing about Chemical Engineering, which I technically have a degree in. I want to grow and sell a fragile hybrid of top-end weed I call “Soft Purple Neon #7'.” Our webpage, in fact, had listed “Medical Marijuana Greenhousing” as a fictitious course of study.

*Students can simultaneously teach @ Kaplan State due to an acute faculty shortage.

If we got Painter, he could coach Kaplan State’s mythical football team but I was more interested in mythical hoops for some reason. March Madness. College basketball just seemed more Kaplan State’s thing. I mean, Florida Gulf Coast did it. Sweet Sixteen and I’m pretty sure they are strip mall school, if indeed real at all. Painter could coach basketball high as a kite for all we cared. He could shoot heroin at halftime, or even on the sidelines during a timeout. It wasn’t real but the thing is, if you get a decent graphic designer and print up your season schedule, then it seems more real. One hundred snazzy looking posters can be had for a lot less than you might think and I decided that Kaplan State’s colors were red and green like Christmas. [No teams have those colors in the pro or college ranks and I wanted us to stand out.] I couldn’t think of a good nickname but settled on the Elves. Anything like the Nordic Horde would have been much too much for poster-gawkers to get [Yet perfect for the internet!] Can’t have it all. The posters were bordered by a two-inch royal blue margin and they looked real. The posters announced:

KAPLAN STATE UNIVERSITY FIGHTING ELVES 2013-14

MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

I won’t bog you down with all the dates and home/away game particulars but the opponents included Duke [home and away], Butler, IU, Kentucky, Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas….every hoops heavyweight in the NCAA plus a few token cupcakes like Valparaiso and the University of Phoenix. We played a road game at the mythical Hawaii State and one against the Key Learning Alliance. Kaplan State even had an exhibition game vs. the Cuban national team. Home games were played all over Indianapolis: a couple at Lucas Oil Stadium, some at Banker’s Life, even one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I almost forgot to add the games against Kaplan University – six in all – that would deeply establish the heated/hated rivalry between the institutions. We opened the season with Kaplan and then played them on every major holiday from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day, three at their place in Southern Plaza and then here and there all over town, theoretically. We slapped the posters up at seedy southside bars, strip clubs, on random bulletin boards, over garage sale signs. Dumb people got curious. There was a buzz about our “season” and the surprising rigor of our schedule and just what the hell is Kaplan State University anyway? We kept going with it: When Duke didn’t show up for a game it knew nothing about against a university that did not exist, we marked it as a “W” on the posters, since it was – to our way of thinking – a forfeit. We said, “They were scared to come play us. Coach K is a pussy. Curtis Painter has our team playing some intricately inspired ball.” Kaplan University actually found eight guys who wanted to play us but we forfeited those games, claiming that several members of our team had violated NCAA policy on sexual performance enhancing substances and some for smoking weed with our coach. Kaplan State went 26-6 for the season and got some online buzz about being “on the fence” for the NCAA tournament, given our strength of schedule. Next year we’re going Final Four for sure and if Curtis Painter has anything to say about, we'll be playing Division I football also. But I am more interested in offering additional courses like Porn Editing and Andy Reid Nutrition and biggest of all, opening a satellite campus: Kaplan State Martinsville.

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Epilogue: While interviewing Curtis Painter in preparing for this story, he let loose a spate of venomous invective toward his former teammate and confidante Pat McAfee.

“He’s an asshole and a sellout,” Painter said. “We used to party and he used to swim the Broad Ripple Canal naked and do the backstroke and stuff and we’d laugh so hard till the cops came and I bailed him out. We were tight. We smoked weed and ate barbecue. Now, he’s cut his hair and become a talk show host and he’s shucking all manner of crap on commercials. I miss my friend and I pray he’ll find his true self again.”

Kerry Collins had no comment as we went to press.

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