Friday, July 14, 2006

At Auburn, They Have No Class

Looks like they are running a diploma mill at Auburn, where athletes are getting top grades without having to go to class. Professor James Gundlach spilled the beans about the work of sociology department colleague Thomas Petee to the New York Times. It's a disturbing piece, starting with Gundlach watching a Tiger game on TV in 2004. Up pops a graphic showing that one of Auburn's prominent players was being honored as a scholar athlete for his work as a sociology major. Gundlach had never had the player in class, and two of his colleagues could not recall having taught him, either. So Gundlach checked the player's academic files, which led to the discovery that many athletes were receiving high grades from Petee through directed-reading classes. In fact, 18 members of the 2004 football team, which finished undefeated and No. 2 in the nation, took such classes. ... Now there's a lot of material here and yes, Auburn should be ashamed. But rather than taking the opportunity to jump on the predictable bandwagon and bash Auburn, let's be honest here. This type of stuff goes on at every big-time football factory. Athletes are coddled, they get top-notch tutors. Seldom do they mingle with the general student body, and when they do it's usually at a nightclub with disturbing results. Auburn's crime is that it once again got caught (the end of the piece spells out the university's many embarrassing incidents involving athletes). While it appears the academic experience for athletes at Auburn falls short, the football team is a big winner, so everybody looks the other way. Gundlach, who plans to retire at the end of next year, said as much when he commented about prominent athletes cutting academic corners. "It was at a point that I figured the corruption runs the full gantlet of the administration," he said. "We were getting sociology majors graduating without taking sociology classes." Auburn officials, by the way, are promising a full investigation (wink, wink).


Cool Hand Mike said...

Cow College got popped again...hahaha. War Chicken and MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Anonymous said...

The real red flag is that, even after the complaints were brought against him by the faculty, the university put this professor in charge of the department. That certainly indicates a certain indifference by the administration on how students get their credit hours.

Also, the story about the football player that wanted to major in nursing, but was talked into sociology because it would be less work, is a little disturbing.

Anonymous said...

What is with the picture for the story??? Geez.

Anonymous said...

Cool hand mike is a card carrying clown who prefers that college players be bought (see Albert Means). Here's hoping Mike Shula stays put in his present job!

Ben said...

As a regular critic of the academic compromises that come with big-time sports programs, I was fully prepared to believe the worst. But after reading the NYT story and various follow-up articles, it is clear that this story is crap.

A single professor was evidently being a bit too accommodating to any student that hit his door, including football players. As unforgivable as it is, almost every college has something similar (at UC-Berkeley, you can get college credit for going to class and watching porn films -- no, really).

NYT reporter Pete Thamel was tipped off about a "big athletic scandal," and went down to Auburn champing at the bit to write the story. After he found out there was just no there there, he went ahead and shoehorned a boring story of academic infighting into his preconceived narrative, anyway. That, my friends, is unprofessional crap reporting -- exactly what we have come to expect from the Times in recent years.

Maybe for his next "big scoop," Thamel should do an expose on Matt Leinert's ballroom dancing class, or on Alabama's J.B. Closner and Brodie Croyle about the "directed reading" class each took to stay bowl-eligible and then laughed about to the Dallas Morning News.