The question at Auburn is whether there’s a first university. I guess certain parties at Auburn would like to think so; but when one quarter of your trustees played football for the school, and when until very recently the school was run by the legendary Bobby Lowder… And so many academic scandals UD has lost count… I mean… really?

So now there’s this breaking story about the jock major du jour at Auburn – public administration. How legit poli sci professors at the school tried to shut it down, and how the athletics department kept that from happening, in part by offering to pay for the major. The Wall Street Journal seems the main source for the story – they quote from various emails in which athletics personnel worry themselves sick about the intellectual well-being of their players if the major is punted – but it’s all over the place now…

What UD finds moving about Auburn is its tragic endless search for a home – a warm permanent curricular roof over the team’s head. Not long ago, under their legendary chair of sociology, Thomas Petee, a man who, like North Carolina’s legendary Julius Nyang’oro, was able to chair a program, teach regular classes, and teach AT THE SAME TIME hundreds of independent study classes per semester, Auburn athletes en masse took soc. That scam got blown and they reeled over to public administration, which is now also well on its way to oblivion.

What next?

Athletes at Auburn are like passengers on the listing Titanic, grasping desperately at one side of the ship for survival and, water rising, racing desperately to the other side.

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See, what people don’t realize is that when the athletics department chooses a major for the lads it’s not just a matter of looking for gut courses. You need an entire organization – you need please-mister-quarterback-let-me-touch-you professors, downtrodden and manipulable tutors, mercenary administrators (remember: athletics has huge money to spend on selected departments and majors), etc., etc. You have to set up a whole world for this to work, and you have to watch out for people who (cough) might be inclined to leak incriminating emails about what you’re doing. I’m sure that, even as I write, everyone at Auburn – trustees, deans, students, boosters – is working overtime to create this new world.

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UD thanks Derek and Andrew.

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4 Responses to “‘Michael Stern, the chairman of Auburn’s economics department and a former member of the faculty senate, said athletics is so powerful at Auburn that it operates like a “second university.”’”

  1. Pete Says:

    Don’t forget that Jay Gouge, Auburn’s president was not just an Auburn undergrad. He played on the varsity basketball team.

  2. Jack/OH Says:

    I like Stern’s “second university” phrase. Our local Podunk Tech is really Podunk Tech Alpha, the university the provost, department chairs, and earnest faculty and students care about. Then there’s Podunk Tech Beta, which is, oh boy, everything else.

  3. charlie Says:

    So, the AU Athletic Department is now determining curriculum, is it? In keeping with the ‘athletics is a component of the university academic mission” bullshit,the poli sci department should decide the football team’s starting lineup. They should demand that the head coach junk his spread offense, put in the pro style or we’ll get you fired? Fair is fair…

  4. University Diaries » Coming to America’s Big-Time Sports Universities: Litmus Tests for Economics Professors Says:

    […] Even Auburn hears occasional squawks from its econ department. The chair of economics there warns that sports is so autonomously powerful on campus that it represents “a second university.” […]

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