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Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Investigation of Tennessee complete

NCAA uncovers no violations after two-year probe into academic fraud

July 11, 2001

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— The NCAA's two-year investigation into academic fraud involving athletes at the University of Tennessee is effectively over, school officials said Tuesday.

Dr. Anne Mayhew, vice provost and Tennessee's NCAA representative, said a review of student work from an upper-level urban studies class completed last month was the final piece of the investigation. No violations were uncovered.

"Based on this report and on our review of safeguards in place to prevent any possible abuse in the future, the NCAA issued its letter June 26, indicating it plans no further inquiry at this time," she said.

University officials presented an oral report to the NCAA about its review of student records and work from Urban Studies 450 on June 19.

The course is a three-hour practicum in which students work at businesses. Mayhew believed some of the course records dated to 1991 but wasn't sure if any current athletes were part of the review.

Athletic director Doug Dickey received a letter dated June 26 from NCAA investigator Ron Barker that said there was no need for further investigation.

It added: "Please keep in mind that new information may become available in the future that would necessitate further review."

Dickey was in Indianapolis on Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment.

Cheating allegations first arose publicly when ESPN reported in 1999 that tutors had written papers for athletes, mainly football players. At the time, four redshirt freshmen were suspended for one game, and they were later cleared.

The university, Faculty Senate and NCAA investigated those claims and others. The NCAA never launched an official inquiry, which can lead to sanctions.

"There has not been evidence that has ever been developed to substantiate allegations of academic fraud (at Tennessee) that pertain to NCAA violations," NCAA spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said Tuesday.

Another part of the investigation began after a second and final interview of English professor Linda Bensel-Meyers last August.

A memo she wrote in 1995 to the Faculty Senate about problems with freshmen athletes was quoted in one of ESPN's early stories, and she has since come forward as a strong critic of the tutoring policies.

The NCAA asked for summaries of academic histories of 47 athletes she prepared and then requested confidential transcripts of two of those athletes.

Bensel-Meyers said those athletes were on academic review every term of their eligibility.

"It's clear they don't even have an opportunity to get a degree with the pressures put on them and with the system the way it is because they don't choose their own courses," she said Tuesday.

Bensel-Meyers also reported problems with athletes taking independent study courses, such as Urban Studies 450, just to keep them eligible. She remembered one course in which students went to a middle school to stack chairs.

Since the allegations arose, the university has changed its academic counseling program for athletes. The men's and women's programs now are combined and under the supervision of the provost.

The Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, funded by 52 private donors, including former quarterback Peyton Manning, opened this spring. It provides a computer lab, study rooms and tutoring areas.

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