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Comparing Jan Kemp's Apple to Thomas Petee's Orange

Unsurprisingly, my recent animadversions upon Auburn University's recidivism drew the inevitable (and unimaginative) reference to Jan Kemp from an anonymous commenter. While this warranted a response, I did not want to dignify it with a reply on the main page, so I am taking up space in the diaries to offer a brief rebuttal.

Although my alma mater certainly has had its share of run-ins with the N.C.A.A., the distinctions between the Georgia and Auburn athletic programs are not terribly fine ones. How many times have the Bulldogs been banned from participating in a bowl game? How many times have the Red and Black been forbidden to appear on television? How many times have the Classic City Canines been declared ineligible to compete for the conference championship? How many times have the 'Dawgs been denied the opportunity to be ranked in the coaches' poll?

As for the Jan Kemp matter itself, I will let Cale Conley tell it (with emphasis added for the benefit of the Auburn faithful), using the following excerpt from War Between the States:

In Athens, the Bulldogs had weathered a slap-on-the-wrist from the NCAA for minor recruiting violations that cost them seven scholarships in '85, but the NCAA was not the object of their worries.

Instead, they were concerned with the aftermath of the "Jan Kemp affair." Kemp was a UGA professor that was fired by the University in '85. She then sued the University, claiming that the reason for her dismissal was rooted in her protests against the preferential treatment of Georgia athletes. The courts agreed with her and awarded her a $1.08 million verdict, which was the legal equivalent of a big black eye on the countenance of UGA.

The NCAA never penalized the Dogs for any wrongdoing, but the entire athletic program was suddenly under a microscope.


What was at issue in the Jan Kemp lawsuit was not whether the University of Georgia was guilty of giving preferential treatment to athletes; what was at issue was whether her firing was because of her claims that preferential treatment was being given.

After a high-profile lawsuit resulted in a million-dollar verdict, public embarrassment, and the end of Fred Davison's distinguished presidency, the ensuing punishment levied by the N.C.A.A. was . . . absolutely nothing. Sometimes, it's true that, where there's smoke, there's fire; in other instances, there's just smoke. Jan Kemp's subsequent behavior, to put it delicately, does not mitigate in favor of her credibility.

The clearest aftereffect of the Jan Kemp affair is, of course, the change it caused in the academic culture of the University of Georgia, whose standing as an institution of higher learning has improved considerably, with respect both to student-athletes and to the rest of the University's academic community. (This increase in University of Georgia standards and prestige certainly has been a boon to the Auburn football team, which regularly has signed recruits from the Empire State of the South who lacked the classroom credentials to qualify for admission in the Classic City but who more than cleared the virtually nonexistent bar in the so-called Loveliest Village.)

Meanwhile, in the 20 years since the Jan Kemp lawsuit embarrassed the University but produced no N.C.A.A. sanctions, Auburn has been held accountable for major violations three times (in 1991, 1993, and 2004) and had its academic accreditation placed on probation. The current controversy, if it produces N.C.A.A. penalties, would be Auburn's fourth major infraction in a 15-year period. Georgia's record, regrettably, is far from spotless, but, when it comes to breaking the rules, Auburn is in a (lack of) class by itself.

The Auburn Creed, which I cited previously, ends with the statement that, "because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it." It is clear to anyone who is paying attention that the admirable values eloquently extolled by George Petrie (earning your way through hard work, training the mind through education, honesty and truthfulness, clean sports, and obedience to the law) are not honored on the Plains . . . not in the days of Shug Jordan, not in the days of Pat Dye, not in the days of Terry Bowden, and not in the days of Tommy Tuberville. Because Auburn men and women evidently do not believe in these things, I do not believe in Auburn and I hate it.

Go 'Dawgs!

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