Auburn folks believe in honoring the legacy of former Dean of Students James Foy, if response to my blog post on the topic is any indication. Both readership and comments reflected respect and affection for the Auburn icon.
With that in mind, I wanted to do more than complain (as much as that seems to be the SOP for someone my age). So here are some ideas on how the Foy Sportsmanship Trophy ceremony — and other things on campus — can reflect the man who served for 28 years as an advocate for students on campus.
1. Put ODK, not SGA, in charge: The two schools' SGA leadership inserted themselves into the event after it was started by Omicron Delta Kappa, the senior leadership honorary that was so important to Dean Foy during his years at Auburn.
Not surprisingly, this also coincided with the addition of president speeches and the singing of the fight song, and the degeneration of the event into a rude boo-fest.
Glenn Richey, a faculty member in the Harbert College of Business, witnessed it firsthand when he served as ODK faculty secretary at Alabama. "I remember being on the court with Dean Foy and enduring a group of fans in Coleman Coliseum booing heavily during the trophy presentation," he told me in an email exchange.
Auburn fans responded the same way in the most recent "ceremony," even with a Foy family member present.
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Returning it to ODK leadership would be the first step in restoring the ceremony's original focus — honoring a man who graduated at Alabama, led Auburn's student affairs office for nearly three decades and sought to keep the rivalry from, well, what it has become.
2. A film tribute to Dean Foy: Rather than speeches and a fight song, use the time for a film tribute. As with many Auburn traditions, my guess is that the students don't know who Dean Foy is and what he stood for, and the SGA president speeches have done little to inform them.
When Auburn honors a former athlete, they often do so with a brief film that incorporates highlights of the athlete's career. Certainly, a similar informative film could be produced to let viewers know what Dean Foy means to Auburn.
That would also set an appropriate tone for such an observance, compared to the current conduct at the ceremony. "It became a big enough issue that the Alabama Athletic Department and Coach Saban became very unhappy as they considered it poor sportsmanship to put the Auburn students on the spot," Richey said. "They even suggested the event be moved to A-Day or the team not attending the event at all."
To avoid that happening, Richey said, the two SGAs compromised, and the "tradition" of the other SGA president leading the singing of the fight song was eliminated. So while Auburn's SGA president handled the singing correctly, it symbolized a program that has spiraled far from its original intent.
3. Keep it simple: After the film, the ODK representatives of the school that did not win the Iron Bowl presents the Sportsmanship Trophy to the ODK chapter of the school that won, with the Foy family representative accepting it on behalf of the school. The winning school can perform its own cheer.
And we're done.
A simple ceremony, with a touch of school spirit but centering on an individual's legacy at rival schools.
And since we're on the subject, let me add one final talking point:
4. Once and for all, can we name the Student Center for Dean Foy? That requires too many sub-points to explain here, but it's always worth mentioning.
He deserves it.
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John Carvalho is a professor and director of the journalism program in the School of Communication and Journalism.
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