Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University

Advisor

Twietmeyer, Gregg

Committee Member

Zimmerman, Matthew H.

Committee Member

Osman, Julia

Committee Member

Pfleegor, Adam

Date of Degree

5-3-2019

Original embargo terms

Visible to MSU Only 3 Years

Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Major

Sport Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education

Department

Department of Kinesiology

Abstract

The dissertation examines how member institutions in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) managed their college football programs during World War II. This time period in college sport history is unique because a few university presidents at SEC institutions believed the war gave them the opportunity to permanently implement reforms such as reducing practice hours and limiting the high salaries of coaches. Previous historiography demonstrates that these reforms did not come to fruition. Why were the university presidents and faculty, who claimed responsibility for governing the SEC, unable to capitalize on the opportunity they believed the war had given them to reform college sport? To examine this question, the author visited university archives of all thirteen institutions that competed in the SEC from its founding in 1933 until the end of World War II in 1945. Sources from these archives included correspondence between university presidents, faculty, trustees, athletic department employees, and other university stakeholders. The author also examined articles from newspapers throughout the Southeast, university publications such as yearbooks, alumni magazines, and student newspapers, trustee board minutes, and SEC meeting minutes. Despite the perceptions of some SEC presidents and faculty that the war provided an opportune moment for reform, how universities ran their athletic departments during World War II suggests that attempts to place less emphasis on college athletics would be temporary and driven only by pragmatics. As institutions began to lose athletes to military service, the SEC’s university presidents suspended academic reforms that existed before the war so that their college football teams could survive, which was necessary since only four of the twelve member institutions formally competed in college football during the 1943 season. Given the primary source evidence, it is clear that since university presidents and faculty were unable to reform college athletics during the war, at a time where they perceived athletics as susceptible to reform, then reforms such as reduced practice time and lower coaching salaries are unlikely to come from these university leaders at any point in the future because practicalities, not principles, were the driving force behind wartime reforms.

Share

COinS