The University of Texas is facing allegations of academic misconduct involving a number student-athletes, namely its basketball players, during the Rick Barnes era, according to Brad Wolverton of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
His June 10 report hones in on three players in particular: Martez Walker, who has since transferred to Oakland University, and former players J’Covan Brown and P.J. Tucker.
Texas released a statement later in the day on the allegations:
Academic integrity is at the core of The University of Texas. Our student-athletes’ academic progress rates are among the best in the nation. And we continually seek to foster an ethical culture that reduces the risk of wrongdoing, manages our internal controls, and responds to inappropriate conduct.
The university takes any suggestion of wrongdoing extremely seriously. We are always looking to identify problems that may exist and ways we can do better.
Working with external NCAA bylaw and academic compliance experts Gene Marsh and Geoff Silver, UT is investigating allegations raised by The Chronicle of Higher Education and has contacted the NCAA about them.
We determined that the university had no knowledge of two former student-athletes allegedly receiving improper help with high school coursework before they enrolled. We now are reviewing three other cases purported to have occurred over a nine-year period since 2006 to determine if any university or NCAA rules were violated and if any action is needed.
The university has no information that suggests former Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Barnes knew of or was involved in any academic improprieties.
President Gregory L. Fenves is actively working with his leadership teams in both Student Affairs and Athletics to pursue the highest levels of integrity for all UT students.
On June 16, the university announced an independent investigation into the academic services offered by the athletic department, according to Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman:
“We have a very storied athletic program, a long tradition of integrity. The motto has been winning with integrity,” Fenves told the Statesman late Monday. “As a new president, with all the issues going around collegiate athletics in general, coming into the position, I want to have an independent study of our programs to make sure we’re doing everything we should be.”
According to UT, Marsh’s review will be a “thorough examination” of all procedures and policies that impact the student-athlete’s experience, “from when they are recruited until after they have left the university,” according to a UT news release.
That includes the athletic department’s admissions process, academic advising and tutorial assistance, choices of majors and coursework and interactions with athletic employees and UT faculty members.
Texas coach Rick Barnes waited until June 29 to offer up comments on the investigation, per Patrick Brown of timesfreepress.com:
I think Texas has said everything that needed to be said. I'm sure they'll pursue whatever they think they have to do there, but it was made clear that I had no involvement in it, which I knew. If I thought there was something, I would address. The fact that it has no legs, I'm not really concerned about it.
Math instructor Pamela G. Powell allegedly caught Walker taking pictures of a test on his phone and seeking answers to those questions, "according to two former academic advisers informed of the incident." Powell passed on the information to "Adam Creasy, her liaison with the athletic department," and the information was then sent to several other folks within the university.
The result? Walker passed the class and "was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, for earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average."
Per Wolverton, "One former academic mentor in the athletic department told the Chronicle that he had helped write papers for J’Covan Brown," while a final paper was submitted on Tucker's behalf for his "Leadership in the Community" class, despite the player reportedly being out of state at the time preparing for the NBA draft.
Texas is already investigating prior allegations of academic fraud, as "a Chronicle investigation detailed how hundreds of college athletes, including two former Texas basketball players, had reportedly gained NCAA eligibility through the use of bogus online coursework," so this latest batch of allegations adds to the school's growing list of accusations.
If Texas is found to have harbored an institutional culture of academic fraud, the university could face major NCAA sanctions—as could Barnes, now the head coach at Tennessee.