Saturday, December 4, 2021

After Knight firing, notable Indiana professor to sign new book at U

September 28, 2000
After taking a leave of absence st Indiana University, professor Murray Sperber published Beer and Circus - a book looking at large universities such as MSU and how athletics affects academic program. —

Indiana University professor Murray Sperber - most famous for his role in the Bobby Knight saga at Indiana earlier this year, will visit campus today to sign copies of his new book, “Beer and Circus: How Big-time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education.”

Sperber, who has been an English and American studies professor at Indiana for 29 years, will be at the MSU Bookstore in the International Center from 4 p.m. until about 6 p.m.

Sperber became nationally known as Knight’s most vocal faculty critic at Indiana while the coach was under fire for a variety of accusations, including choking a player.

In May, the university imposed a “zero tolerance” statute on Knight in an effort to curb his famously violent temper.

Indiana President Myles Brand dismissed Knight from his position as head basketball coach Sept. 10 after 28 years on the job.

Knight was fired after he grabbed and lectured a student who addressed him by his last name.

Sperber said Knight’s firing was more a relief than a personal victory.

“I didn’t believe he would be fired until I heard Brand say it,” Sperber said. “I felt an enormous sense of relief both for the university and personally.

“I had to cancel my fall classes because of the threats I was receiving and I really miss teaching. I’m excited to go back.”

His new book, “Beer and Circus,” focuses on the ills of the collegiate athletics scene and its impact on academics at major research universities.

He claims that quality undergraduate education at schools with big-time football and basketball teams has been replaced by a “lifestyle experience” for students.

“One of the things that I’m attacking is universities that put all of their money into research and graduate studies and neglect undergraduate education. I had 150 students in my freshman English class last year and I can’t even begin to teach in that setting.

“I got a wonderful education when I went to Purdue. I can’t understand why these schools have gotten so far away from their purpose. It shouldn’t be hard to get a good education.”

Sperber, who played semi-pro basketball after graduating from Purdue, is openly critical of MSU in “Beer and Circus.”

He mentions the Munn field riot, large lecture classes, lack of faculty teaching in undergraduate courses and other aspects of MSU in the book.

“MSU was very intriguing to me because of its party school reputation and its national championship teams,” Sperber said. “The people there were terrific and the students that filled out my survey were very honest.

“I can’t write about a school critically and say I’m never going there, especially when the people were very nice and helpful.”

Sperber said he’s not worried about any negative reaction from MSU students or supporters.

“I’m the guy at Indiana University who spoke out against Bobby Knight, so I’ll be able to handle whatever the Spartans have for me.”

Sperber foresees the professionalization of college athletics in the near future.

Referring to an athletic scholarship, he said, “I can easily see if one of the guys from Flint that won the championship went to court and said, ‘look at how much money I made for MSU, I deserve more than 15,000 dollars,’ that the court would go along with it.”

Sperber plans to return to the classroom at Indiana in January.

“I love my definition of Indiana University. I love the students. I don’t agree with the graduate programs, but I refused to teach graduate courses 20 years ago,” Sperber said.

“With the Bobby Knight thing, it just seemed that the negatives started outweighing the positives. People were starting to call us Bobby Knight U. I want us to be known as a good educational institution.”

Sperber has also written three other books, all outlining the state of modern collegiate sports.

Sperber will appear in Ann Arbor on Friday during his swing around the Midwest.

Sperber has signed books at major athletics schools Notre Dame, Connecticut and Ohio State earlier this month.

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