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Report: Auburn athletics intervenes to save popular major with athletes from chopping block

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

The Wall Street Journal published a report Wednesday night documenting steps taken by Auburn athletics’ department to save an academic major popular with student-athletes.

Auburn’s curriculum review committee evaluating the university’s political science department supported suspending the major on the basis it doesn’t contribute “a great deal to the Department’s education mission” in early 2012, according to the report.

Provost Timothy Boosinger supported the motion, and faculty in the department voted to remove the public administration major with a 13-0 vote, according to the report.

READ: WSJ's full report on Auburn's public administration major

Citing unspecified internal documents, along with internal athletic department emails, the Wall Street Journal says Auburn’s senior associate athletic director for academic services Gary Waters lobbied behind the scenes on the major’s behalf.

He eventually arranged a meeting with athletic director Jay Jacobs, and Boosinger where the athletic department offered use of its own funds to help pay professors and support staff in order to keep the major at the school.

Documents reviewed by reporter Ben Cohen showed 51 percent of the 111 students enrolled at Auburn majoring in public administration in the fall semester of 2013 were student athletes.

No student-athlete is mentioned by name in the report, but the WSJ alleges the 2013 football team had a number of high profile players majoring in public administration including the Tigers starting quarterback, running back, top receiver and three statistical leaders on defense.

The school’s institutional research office gave the WSJ data showing 32 percent (26 players) of the 2014 football majored in public administration.

Efforts to remove the major from the school’s curriculum fell through in September of 2013.

In response to the report, Auburn officials said provost Boosinger turned down the athletic department’s offer for funds to help the public administration program, but also outlined a number of instances where the athletic department has offered similar funds toward academic programs.

Waters offered a comment through a spokesperson outlining his concern that cutting the program at that time would have had a “detrimental impact” on those students enrolled in the program.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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