MAJOR PAIN

The Birmingham News eats The Huntsville Times' dust this morning on the about-face of Auburn prof James Gundlach, chief whistleblower in The New York Times' initial indictment of the program's practice of steering athletes towards easy courses, who now says he will not participate in the investigation - though he was met with "heartwarming" applause by 10 or 12 faculty members in the parking lot Monday.

A quick follow-up to Monday's point about other colleges steering athletes in clusters towards one or two majors. I looked up a few old media guides and programs (which restricted themselves to senior bios only) last night and found that, in 2003, Southern Miss players were overwhelmingly majoring in coaching and sport administration or criminal justice by huge margins; UAB players were only slightly less likely to be in history (one of my two majors) or criminal justice, Memphis players to take "interdisciplinary studies" or Nebraska players business administration - though, to be fair, the Huskers have a ton of players and a pretty wide range of disciplines represented on the team.

A couple quick looks at random schools' online media guides this morning shows USC has a lot of sociology majors, including Dwayne Jarrett, on its roster; Florida State has an unusual number of players studying "social science"; and in 2005, Louisville players could be largely grouped into marketing or sports administration (or, even more often, "undecided," an option certainly not restricted to jocks).

I also quickly looked at other schools, including LSU, Tennessee, Ohio State and Texas, but the information on player majors in those guides was either too time-consuming to compile (as in Texas' case, because UT, like Ohio State, hasn't released its probably record-breaking '06 media guide, at least online) or not apparently available in the bios of many players (LSU and Tennessee presume, correctly in most cases, that the media cares not about this superfluous element of athletic life). The only two guides I glanced at that seemed to show a legitimate smattering of studies in a range of fields were those of Florida and Georgia - though UGA suspiciously offers the broadest possible major, presumably to all students, termed "Arts and Sciences," a colossally comprehensive combination that seems fairly impossible to adequately cover in a few years. Why not just let folks major in "Studies"?

Anyway: not scientific, small sample size, no evidence any of those courses were or are inherently easy, etc. etc., but the prevalence of this not-at-all new or secret trend is threatened only if the NCAA finds Auburn was wrong to steer athletes toward certain classes, which it seems a large number of major athletic schools have done for decades. Otherwise, it will have to be determined that these particular sociology classes were dunce-worthy on a fraudulent level, and probably also that the AU athletic department or the university itself (possessed by its evil, evil boosters) knew it. That won't be easy to do.

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