Buffalo Dope: Two Stories on Incentives



What do you do with a buffalo in a hospital?


Boulder, Colorado
I have an eye on what Deion Sanders, aka Coach Prime, and his team are doing at The University of Colorado.
It’s arguably the biggest story in college football at the moment, surpassing the momentary wins and losses.
In a short period of time, a team that had a one-win season a year ago now has the opportunity to flip the script and bring America along for the ride.
However, Colorado’s achievements so far aren’t just about talent-packed Louis bags.
Sanders brought in more than just players—he ushered in an era of radical change. He clarified the mission, streamlined the route to achieving it, bid adieu to anyone not aligned with the mission, and fortified those committed to its realization.
This isn’t merely a unified ambition; it’s the fusion of myriad individual endeavors converging harmoniously.
For those in the know, Coach Prime’s marketing finesse can be traced back to his days as Prime Time, a sought-after recruit at Florida State, with his dual forays into both the NFL and MLB—remarkably, sometimes even on the same day.
His developing coaching skills, honed from mentoring youth football in Dallas to rejuvenating an HBCU in Jackson State and now pioneering change in a power-conference setup, are undeniable.
Sanders is a man who follows his passion, seeks accolades, and remains unwavering in his commitment to excellence—attributes likely honed during his athletic pursuits.
His achievements are not just a testament to raw talent but underscore the power of skill refinement.
Sanders seems to be navigating the minefield of the principal-agent problem, heralding a transformative approach in collegiate sports. This economic dilemma arises when an agent (in this case a coach)’s goals diverge from those receiving a benefit (the player).
An evolution is palpable, facilitated by the redistribution of college sports’ economic dividends via NIL. College athletes are now brands, cutting deals and reaping financial benefits (You may see a couple of Colorado Buffs on the list).
Gone are the covert deals involving Taco Bell for Michigan’s Big Five or the mysterious appearance of a Golden Trans-Am at Eric Dickerson’s Texas residence.
Sanders, by aligning passion with purpose, is crafting a formula powerful enough to influence not only his team but the entire world of collegiate football, sports in general, and even our self-perception.
Some might see this as excessive praise, but Sanders’s strategy, reflecting the spirit of our ultra-connected era, is groundbreaking in design yet familiar in its goals and potential outcomes.
We’ll see what comes next.
New York, New York
In 2019, the New York Psychiatric Institute, in collaboration with Columbia University, aimed to explore levodopa’s potential—a drug primarily prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease—in treating depression in the elderly.
They recruited fifty-one individuals over sixty, grappling with mild to moderate depression and a slower pace, and divided them into two groups: those receiving levodopa and those given a placebo.
Tragedy struck when a placebo recipient took their own life.
A glaring oversight emerged in the study: an inadequately executed wash-out period for prior medications. It’s paramount to ensure no remnants of old medication conflict with the study’s drug to avoid confounding factors in the study, but more importantly, to protect the participant from potential side effects due to drug-drug interactions.
As reported by the New York Times:
Eight participants had barely ceased their antidepressant regimen, a sharp deviation from the required 28-day “wash out.” On average, these subjects had stopped their medication only ten days before, with one having just a day’s gap.
The inclusion of subjects with varying depression severity might have been influenced by treatment protocols. While mild cases often don’t require SSRIs, moderate ones usually do. Such a delicate balance demands optimal conditions for participants.
The study was temporarily suspended January 2022.
By May 2023, the study was terminated.
Numerous journals retracted related papers. The principal investigator resigned, all ongoing trials were stopped, and grant renewals ended.
Once the dust cleared, Columbia University suspended an astonishing 417 human-subject research programs, 124 of which had federal support—a rare occurrence in academia.
A somber reflection came from a research assistant, disillusioned enough to leave scientific research altogether.
Clarity of purpose can be elusive. I feel it. Yet, its absence can sometimes guide us towards that aim.
Goals evolve, and the journey frequently takes detours.
Each change is revealing, leading to introspection and potential adjustments to one’s objectives.
In a world hyper-focused on binary results, true success isn’t about being right or wrong—it’s the ability to adapt, unlearn, and learn again in the chase of one’s goals.
As we delve deeper into the information age, our benchmarks for knowledge rise. With this advancement, we hope our ways of gathering and applying knowledge also progress, achieving a balance between personal growth and real-world application.
Although we might be pulled in various directions, by staying true to our genuine pursuits, ensuring that knowledge is both accessible and clear, and never forgetting the human core of every undertaking, we remain grounded.
Regardless of the context—whether academic, on the football field, or in our personal lives—what sets us apart is our unending quest for knowledge, natural curiosity, and the bravery to challenge the norm.
That’s my hope.

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