It is a spirit. It is an attitude. It is a way of looking at life and at one another. It is, almost, a way of living. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know what it is; you will never understand it. Once you have experienced it, you will never be the same. A part of you will, forevermore, be an Auburn man or an Auburn woman.
— David Housel
David Housel leans forward in the booth at Chappy’s Deli, his main hang out. He greets the older man two booths away. He takes a sip of coffee.
“John Wayne was an Auburn Man,” he says.
He takes another sip.
“So was Gary Cooper, especially in High Noon.”
Sip, sip, sip, sip.
Shug Jordan. Pat Dye. Tommy Tuberville. George Petrie. All Auburn Men.
But what is an Auburn Man?
Petrie thought that Auburn men and women believed, as he did, in things like education and honesty and the human touch. And because they did, he believed in Auburn. And he loved it. And wrote all about it in The Auburn Creed. (The title of Petrie’s biography published 60 years later? Auburn Man.)
But the existence of the Auburn Man obviously predates the Creed, written in 1943, because the Auburn Man is referenced in it (at least a lowercase version). And unless we think Petrie, Auburn’s first football coach, was the original Auburn Man, then the Auburn Man predates Auburn football.
“One doesn’t have to be a huge athlete or SGA president to be an Auburn Man,” says Eric Clemmons, an Auburn junior in forestry and wildlife sciences. “An Auburn Man uses his class and character to put a positive light on Auburn. I think of someone who bleeds orange and blue and will carry the Auburn name with pride.”
George Brown, senior in communication, says he connects the attributes of an Auburn Man to altruism, as well as to a sense of character and class.
Both Clemmons and Brown use nebulous words like “class” and “character” in their definitions, words often used to describe good people, but never clearly defined.
Ruth Crocker is director of Auburn’s Women’s Studies Program, which might make her an Auburn Woman. She defines class as “income, wealth, background.”
She’s not sure Clemmons’ definition is accurate. She’s not sure if it’s balanced.
Crocker feels that Auburn is a diverse campus full of differing ideas and opinions and that the idea of the Auburn Man of traditional “class” and “character” is antiquated and bigoted.
“[That] image of the Auburn Man is dated,” Crocker says. “Maybe it never was a reality.”
David Housel (somewhat) agrees with her. The idea of the Auburn Man is complex, he says, and not necessarily divided along gender lines.
“I think when you say Auburn Man and define it on the Auburn Creed, like most people do, I think that dates and antiquates and does disservice to the Creed,” Housel says. “I think the Auburn Creed and the Auburn Man (persona) extends to people of all faiths and all sexes. I don’t think you define, or limit, love of Auburn to gender.”
But he thinks old man Petrie had it right: an Auburn Man might not be definable by the Creed—after all, the Creed will be interpreted differently in different generations—but an Auburn Man can always be identified by it.
The post-war students Petrie wrote for thought of the Auburn Man as “a scrappy underdog who had ideas and principles he was willing to fight for,” Housel says. “Auburn’s nature, its persona, was a fighter.”
That echoes what Wayne McLaughlin, class of ’52, told me. An Auburn Man, he said, is loyal, and doesn’t lose faith in Auburn. An Auburn Man doesn’t boo. An Auburn Man is there till the end.
Exactly, says Housel.
“(An Auburn Man) sticks with Auburn through thick and thin,” Housel says. “And Lord knows Auburn has been through thick and thin.”
Housel, class of ’69, feels the “glory days” of Auburn Man-ness was the 1960s, when he was roaming The Plains, ha ha ha. (That’s another piece of the Auburn Man puzzle, he says—not taking yourself too seriously.)
Back then, he says, there was a lot of that Gary Cooper-style sense of duty and dedication to do what was “right.”
What is right? Housel doesn’t know. He is not sure how anyone can know beyond watching Cooper and John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart do what they do.
Take Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. He wasn’t sure what was right, Housel says. He went with his gut, and (with a little help from on high) came back to reality.
The rightness of an action might be debatable, he says, but not the person behind it. To Housel, the Auburn Man is a combination of the tough and soft—a Wayne, Cooper and Stewart cocktail, each part integral, stirred, but not shaken, by the Creed.
And if that’s the case, then the personality of an Auburn Man is more than that of the Auburn fan. It’s wrapped around the Auburn Creed, but not only the creed. It’s all gunslingers and “come get some” mixed with love of family and respect of self. It’s dedicated to duty and striving to discover right action. It’s complex and confusing and more and less.
“There is no simple definition of a good Auburn Man,” Housel says. “Because a good Auburn Man is a good man who learned to be a good man through the influence of Auburn.”
This he tells me sitting, and sipping, in the last booth of the main room at Chappy’s, his back to the wall. When I sat down and introduced myself, he told me he always sat near walls, a habit learned when he was athletic director.
The Auburn Man says he was afraid he might get shot in the back (presumably by an Auburn Man).
Ben Bartley is a student at Auburn University. Most of his time is spent doing as little as possible, eating and controlling manageable vices. He will one day graduate with a degree in journalism and maybe find a job. Fingers crossed.
Good job, as usual, Ben. When I think of quintessential Auburn Men I think of guys like former Journalism Department professors Jerry Brown, Jack SImms and Mickey Logue. When Jerry was recognized as distinguished Journalism Alum a couple years ago, he talked about Paul Burnett’s profound influence on him and others who had come to Auburn “out of the pea patch.” I wish Jerry’s speech were online somewhere. It embodied what an Auburn Man is all about. It would truly make you laugh and cry.
Alex P in Smyrna G says
No surprise that a women’s studies prof defines class so narrowly as “income, wealth, background” and use it to discredit the idea of the “Auburn Man.” Her life’s persuit is victimization and the study there of.
“Class” has more than one definition outside of the social standing. Cannot a poor person have “class” if he/she is well manored and have a high character?
But since Auburn is a UNIVERSITY, I think education has some bearing on what an Auburn Man truly is.
Agreed. Obviously, those guys weren’t referring to economic or social class when they used the word. They were referring to being respectful, well mannered, knows right from wrong, and acts based on that knowledge. Of course we all understood that was what the guys were referring to. Ms. Crocker just missed the mark.
Good article Ben. I also liked what was on the Pig Skin Pathos about yesterday about never arriving. That may not have been you, but regardless, keep ’em coming.
make that “knowing” and “acting”.
An Auburn man is a fan of the university; not a fan of a coach. Not a Chiz/Dye/Tub etc fan. They are only well paid caretakers of the spirit of sport. They will move on, we, however remain…….Auburn men and women who pass the spirit down to the next generation.
CD: Thanks. David Housel actually introduced me to Jack Simms at Chappy’s (famous Auburn alum hang out there on the reg apparently). I got his number but didn’t get in touch with him before I wrote the above. A lot of my professors seem to believe Simms is, or was, Auburn journalism.
Alex P: She was actually very helpful when she found out what I was trying to write. I believe she was trying to make sure I was looking at the Auburn Man from several angles, which I tried to do, not sure how successful I was. I, admittedly, didn’t look at it from an academic standpoint. I thought, and think, of it more as an underlying spirit that goes beyond academics and athletics.
Her point with the definition of class and character was that the actual definition of those words is “income, wealth, background.” The terms themselves don’t mean much on their own outside the stigma of sports – the “classy” coach, the scrappy team with “character.” She’s a smart lady. I’m sure she knew what Clemmons was referring to.
AuburnAlum05: Thanks. Appreciate it.
easyedwin: I agree. There is a disconnect when you’re paid to be an Auburn Man. I do, however, believe Tubs, Dye, Jordan, etc. were Auburn men when they coached at Auburn and can continue to be after.
“(An Auburn Man) sticks with Auburn through thick and thin,” Housel says.
But did Auburn stick with Tuberville through thick and thin…….? That is what concerned me.
And yes I am happy with current situation and also agree that an Auburn Man is fan of the university, not a fan of a coach. But what happened did not feel like it was the right thing for an Auburn Man to do.
Alex P in Smyrna G says
By that logic, we could very well still have Doug Barfield as football coach. They are paid to do a job and when it goes south that job is in jepardy. The Auburn Man should get no free pass. He should be held to a higher standard – both in performance and in character.
That reminds me of the Bobby Bowden situation and how some try to argue that he’s earned the right to quit when he decides to. It’s ridiculous to suggest because that means that he can run the program as far into the ground as it will go. You only earn the right to quit on your schedule if you quit while you’re still winning.
sinclair – I appreciate what Tubs did for the Auburn program, but spare me the hyperbole. I wish I were so mistreated as Tuberville to be shown the door to a multi-million dollar pay day.
What’s now obvious is that Tuberville, for whatever reason, didn’t recruit well over the last couple years of his tenure. We are paying for that this season, and likely next. There’s no excuse for us to be in the shape we are numbers wise. Certainly not given the types of resources Tuberville had available to him. Looking back at it, and I too was angry at the time, it might have been best for all concerned to have a parting. I wish Tubs well in whatever he does, and I hope Chizick can get us back to where we were a few short years ago.
Power Eye says
I find it odd that David Housel, the quintessentail “Auburn Man,” would go behind another “Auburn Man’s” back (Tommy T) to replace that man under the cloak of darkness, and secrecy. Or, perhaps ironic is the word I am looking for….
David Housel taught a Journalism class back in my day, the late 70s, and as a JM major, I had the displeasure of knowing him. ROTTEN to the core, disgusting man, knew where all the AU skeletons were (are) buried, and I was not surprised when he became AD (as I said, knew where all the skeletons were buried, and therefore, knew how to blackmail anyonr for anything, including the AD job). Wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire, quite frankly.
And as for the “Quintessential Auburn Man”, I threw up in my mouth when I read that one ! HA ! I tried to sell Tubby out, didn’t he, “good” Auburn man that Housel is – Yeah, right ! A back stabbing SLOB of a man, and only nice to people who kissed his fat ass. Being a rebel to the core, I never smooched the Big Butt, and was therefore not anyone he cared to associate with, but at least I slept at night, knowing I was a true “Auburn Girl”. Still am, to the core !
And lest you cry “sour grapes”, I was one of Mickey Logue’s favorite students, along with Simms and Gillis Morgan, so I wasn’t hurting for attention from Big Butt in any way. I just told the truth and didn’t kiss asses, and that made me an enemy of D. Housel. Asshole. Jerk. And NO Auburn Man, in my humble opinion.
Correction: ANYONE for anything ….