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Why Auburn Deserves the Death Penalty

 I [have a] hunch this will get a big reaction from the blogs and traditional media, but I'm kind of underwhelmed---based on my reading of the Thamel piece Auburn wasn't intentionally gaming the system here. This was an oversight by the athletic department and a rogue professor more than a cynical attempt to boost the academic performances of several athletes.

  College Football Resource

 I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.
  I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.
  I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.
  I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports to develop these qualities.
  I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

  The Auburn Creed

The Auburn Creed was cited by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Tony Barnhart following the most recent previous incident impeaching the integrity of Auburn University and its athletic department. That sordid sequence of events involved an embarrassing attempt to hire Bobby Petrino to replace Tommy Tuberville, who had not yet been fired, and the consequences were so severe that Auburn's president and athletic director both lost their jobs and the university's accreditation was placed on one year's probation.

Tommy Tuberville . . . 2004 Coach of the Year . . . five Western Division championships in the last six years . . . almost ousted in an ugly incident that put Auburn's accreditation in jeopardy.

"Probation" is not an unfamiliar word on the Plains. Auburn's N.C.A.A. infractions history includes seven major infractions cases in the last 50 years, not including the present unpleasantness in the so-called Loveliest Village.

Auburn's history of major violations includes getting slapped with three years' probation in 1957, three years' probation in 1958, and a two-year ban on postseason and television appearances in 1979.

Shug Jordan . . . winningest football coach in Auburn history . . . namesake of Jordan-Hare Stadium . . . Auburn alumnus . . . during his tenure, Auburn was put on probation by the N.C.A.A.

Auburn was held responsible for unethical conduct in November 1991 and sanctioned for unethical conduct and a lack of institutional control in August 1993.

In the latter instance, the N.C.A.A. imposed punishments upon the Auburn athletic department just as Terry Bowden was about to begin his first season as the Tigers' head coach. Following his subsequent resignation under fire, Coach Bowden said on tape that A.U. boosters were funneling large amounts of cash to recruits.

Terry Bowden . . . led Auburn to an undefeated season in 1993 . . . guided the Tigers to a 20-game winning streak . . . was taped making incriminating statements about Auburn's recruiting practices.

The most recent instance of wrongdoing on the Plains occurred when Auburn was placed on two years' probation on April 27, 2004. The N.C.A.A. news release announcing the latest penalties against the Plainsmen stated that, during the probationary period from April 2004 to April 2006, "the university shall continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation and submit periodic reports to the NCAA," including "a preliminary report that sets forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program."

"At the end of the probationary period," concluded the N.C.A.A. (with emphasis added, by me), "the university's president will provide a letter to the committee affirming that the university's current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations." Finally, the Division I Committee on Infractions noted:

As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, Auburn University is subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw, concerning repeat violators for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, April 27, 2004.

If the Committee on Infractions determines "that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty," the institution guilty of such conduct shall be deemed a repeat violator and may be subject to increased penalties.

Pat Dye . . . won four conference championships in the 1980s . . . namesake of the playing field at Jordan-Hare Stadium . . . named S.E.C. Coach of the Year three times . . . during his tenure, Auburn was put on probation by the N.C.A.A.

Neither I nor anyone else learning of these latest accusations through the mainstream news media knows for certain whether there has been any wrongdoing here. However, it is clear that, if there was wrongdoing, Auburn University officials had no excuse for not knowing about it and putting a stop to it.

The institution's president and athletic director received clear direction from the N.C.A.A. to clean up what is historically the most shameful morass in intercollegiate athletics. Extra vigilance was warranted, in light of Auburn's frequent instances of recidivism.

If you, like C.F.R., found yourself "underwhelmed," you should consider yourself underinformed. The Tigers went undefeated while on probation in 1957. They did it again in 1993. What in the history of War Eagle athletics gives us any reason to doubt allegations that improprieties occurred while the Plainsmen were going undefeated in 2004?

Furthermore, what aspect of the present situation suggests that these allegations concern events which were either isolated or legitimate? This so-called "rogue professor" was, in fact, the interim director of Auburn University's sociology department, who took on numerous "directed reading" students.

One of the department head's colleagues, Paul Starr, was quoted in a news report as saying that a "professor normally doesn't take on many of these," yet, in this case, 15 such courses appear to have been offered. Another sociology professor, James Gundlach, is cited by The New York Times as the person who compiled the relevant records.

Professor Gundlach's statistics evidently indicated that Auburn football players with an average G.P.A. of 2.14 in their other classes had an average G.P.A. of 3.31 in the "directed reading" course. Unsurprisingly, this supposed athletic department "oversight" ostensibly involved Auburn's director of student athlete support services playing "an important role in funneling students to the sociology program."

However, this purportedly Oxford don-like method of individualized instruction was endorsed by a former A.U. football player. Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, a product of this one-on-one tutelage involving rigorous reading and critical analysis, eloquently expressed his articulate defense thusly: "I didn't do nothing illegal or anything like that."

You think this is "The Swamp"? Auburn . . . now that's a swamp!

Whether fire underlies the smoke surrounding Auburn University remains an open question, but there can be no doubt that, if fire is found to be present, the sordid history of A.U. athletics has left too much tinder lying about for the N.C.A.A. to do anything less than drop the hammer on these latest Yellowhammer State shenanigans.

Go 'Dawgs!