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July 14, 2006

NY Times: Auburn Keeping Athletes Eligible via Fake Classes?

Friday's New York Times breaks the story of Auburn's latest "academic" non-sense.

The long and short of it...the Auburn Athletic Department was driving student-athletes such as Cadillac Williams and 17 other football players towards independent study classes lead by one professor, Thomas Petee. That professor was a one man eligibility army keeping players academically alive for the undefeated 2004 season.

This should shock no one. It is Auburn after all. The issue of whether or not Auburn will get in trouble seems to boil down to 3 key things:
    1. Will any player involved come out and say, "I didn't do the work." The difference between academic fraud like HarrickGate vs. TutorGate at UT is PROOF that the work wasn't done by the kids. The NCAA had proof that the Harricks didn't require the players to attend the class. The NCAA didn't have that proof in the UT case. Just remember, in the UGA case we were talking about a mickey mouse PE course. Not a core classes like Statistics or Criminology which are part of this story.

    2. WHY was a professor working the job of 3.6 other professors just so that he could give away grades like candy. What was his financial motivation for doing so? Answer this question, and EVERYTHING else will fall into place.

    3. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Auburn on probation because of accrediation problems in 2003. They may ask questions of Auburn related to the academic integrity issues.
Anyway, some highlights from the article:

For Some Athletes, Courses With No Classes

One of the university’s prominent football players was being honored as a scholar athlete [during a game] for his work as a sociology major. Professor Gundlach, the director of the Auburn sociology department, had never had the player in class. He asked the two other full-time sociology professors about the player, and they could not recall having had him either.


A number of athletes took more than one class with Professor Petee over their careers: one athlete took seven such courses, three athletes took six, five took five and eight took four, according to records compiled by Professor Gundlach.


The sociology department became “a dumping ground for athletes,” according to one sociology professor, Paul Starr.


“It was at that point that I figured the corruption runs the full gantlet of the administration,” Professor Gundlach said. “We were getting sociology majors graduating without taking sociology classes. I’m a director of a program putting out people who I know more than likely don’t deserve a degree.”


The 18 football players received an average G.P.A. of 3.31 in the classes, according to statistics compiled by Professor Gundlach. In all of their other credit hours at Auburn, their average was 2.14.


Professor Petee offered 15 different courses as directed readings both semesters, along with teaching regular courses. His full-time-equivalent number on his teaching schedule for the fall of 2004 was 3.5, or the workload of three and a half professors. In the spring, it rose to 3.67.


“Things have reached a point where we’re getting ready to produce more James Brooks incidents,” Professor Gundlach said. “It’s embarrassing.”
So basically, this professor was offering 15 different classes to players who needed to stay eligible. Including one "class" in which the kid had to write a 10 page book report, and he got 3 credit hours. A book he couldn't remember reading.

The entire thing is shady, it's like something Georgia Tech would pull.

Although, my favorite part of the story...Auburn promoted the guy giving out bogus grades. Stay Classy Plainsmen.

I'll link to other articles tomorrow as they come online:
The AJC's article
The Birmingham News article
Paul Finebaum's article
Columbus Ledger



Anonymous said...

Classy? Does "how many points do you get for a 3-point basket" ring any bells?

Darth Scooter said...

One of the university’s prominent football players was being honored as a scholar athlete [during a game] for his work as a sociology major

Thats my personal favorite. So you give out fake grades and then you honor the guy at halftime and bring attention to the fact that you are giving him fake grades. Is it possible for a University to be any dumber?

Michael Pigott said...

I can only remember when the sanctions came down for Bama, these mofos went out and rolled Toomers Corner. As for myself, if Auburn gets bombed on by the NCAA, I'll just smile and tell em that they'll be back in 4-6 years.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

Yes, "How many points do you get for a 3-point basket" does ring plenty of bells, and we caught metric tons of shit for that when it happened. And now, Auburn, you'll catch metric tons of shit for your infractions as well. That's how it works. As I told my uncle earlier today -- who's an ACC fan and doesn't quite understand the intensity of the rivalries down here -- as a commodity, schadenfreude is as valuable as gold in the SEC.

DAve said...

In the fall of 2004, Mr. Langenfeld found himself in an academic bind. More than TWO MONTHS into the fall semester, he realized he had been attending the wrong class because of a scheduling error. Mr. Langenfeld approached Professor Gundlach about adding a class, but Professor Gundlach said he could not help him because it was too late in the semester.

Words fail so I just laugh.

DAve said...

Not to hijack this comments thread by bringing up old shit, but the basketball final administered by Harrick, Jr. is an example of making something out of nothing. Yes, the test was easy. But I'm willing to bet Harrick, Jr. administered a similarly easy test in every one of his basketball classes, not just the one loaded with current basketball players. And he wasn't the only one.

I should know - two years before the Harricks came to UGA I took basketball as a required core PE class. I can't remember who "taught" it but I do remember the final being extremely simple then as well.

But remember that PE credits are a required part of the core curriculum. The test wasn't made easy for basketball players, it was made easy for the Darias and Napoleon Dynamites - students with little or no interest in basketball who had no choice but to take the class. No instructor in their right mind would make a test in a basketball (not physics, not chemistry, but basketball) class that ran the risk of screwing up a potential straight-A student's GPA.

I'm willing to bet good money that finals in classes such as the one Harrick, Jr. taught are simlarly simpleton-easy at many other universities, and for the same reason.

(This is the closest I will ever come to even remotely defending either one of the Harricks. And I still feel a little dirty.)

Anonymous said...

Dave - the test being easy wasn't the problem that got UGA in trouble.

It was the fact that Cole and the basketball players didn't TAKE the test AND still got an A.

That's the thing. The NCAA doesn't care how easy your classes are. The accrediation boards care about that.

But they care that you do the work and not lie about it.

If AU had easy classes, they just look bad and may get in trouble with the accreditation police.

If they had easy classes that the kids didn't actually have to show up for / do anything for to get grades, then it's fraud.

And that's where the NCAA swoopes in and kills folks.

DAve said...

Yeah, I should've been more clear.

I was responding to "Anonymous"'s comment, as if he/she were suggesting that the simplicity of the test was somehow exclusive to UGA and even more specifically to student-athletes. I guarantee it's not in either case.

I wasn't directly defending Harrick, Jr. *shiver* Perish the thought.

Michael Pigott said...

Doug, please educate my pulling- for-Bama ass. What the hell is "schadenfreude"?

Anonymous said...

I'm not Doug, but schadenfreude is a German word for taking delight in the misfortune of others.

I think here on the GSB, people like working schadenfreude into a post or comment almost as much as we enjoy the misfortune of our enemies. I know I do.

Michael Pigott said...

Thanks for the education of an Irishman.

Anonymous said...

mike - AllSchool nailed it.

There's actually no single word in the English language that properly translates.

I believe it was Plato who said it best circa 200 BC. "If you can't delight in the misery of others, you aren't much of a college football fan."

Dawgnoxious was the first blogger to weave the word to the blogosphere.


Dawgnoxious said...

I took Professor Petee's German independent study class.

Anonymous said...

Not the anon who whined about 3 point baskets. Just wanted to say that the commentary is nearly as good as the original post (especially DAve, in this case), and I predict that Professor Petee will now get the Presidential Medal of Honor just before the Bush Admin leaves office.

Anonymous said...

Just like the Harrick situation?

Georgia took action for allowing 11 athletes taking an easy one hour PE class by banning the hoops team from post season,, firing the coaches involved, releasing recruited players from scholarship obligations, and removing the course from its curriculum. This matter and Georgia's academic program for athletes was investigated by the University, the NCAA, ESPN, and the Atlanta media. The NCAA also applied additional scholarship restrictions.

Auburn's situation is different. Auburn already had its accreditation revoked for these types of practices, hired and interim president who cut a deal with SACS to restore their accreditation, and then did nothing to change the primary reason why they lost accreditation in the first place.

Two years later, Auburn still has an interim president (read puppet for the Trustees' athletic interests). What was reported may have been just the tip of the iceberg as not only was it discovered that 97 hours of a core academic class was fraudulent, but its athletes in the past year showed a remarkable improvement in academic performance. Auburn's athletes finished #1 in the nation's major conferences, while in previous years its marquee football and basketball programs consistently graduated less than half of its athletes.

What happens next is unknown.

The NCAA is unpredictable (some might say corrupt) enough where you never know what they will do.

Recent activity indicates Tennessee, Ohio State, and Southern California have strong influence there, while Alabama, Kentucky, and South Carolina do not. I don't know about Auburn.

If it turns out that Auburn does not have strong influence and there is an inquiry, Auburn will do itself well to fight it with full vigor. The NCAA punishes the weak-willed and backs off on those who fight fire with fire. Tennessee and even North Dakota have demonstrated this.

The wild card is the SACS accreditation. Auburn interim president was able to convince SACS to restore the University's accreditation two years ago, saving Auburn students from losing scholarship money.

I don't know what kind of deal was struck with SACS, but it is clear that nothing has substantially changed there since SACS revoked Auburn's accreditation a few years back.

Will SACS or the NCAA act? Maybe. Maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Help me out here....

If a University as large as Auburn loses accreditation, does it lose all its scholarships, and thus fails to field a football team?

Jeff said...

Anonymous-3 is right that Auburn should fight this tooth and nail, regardless of what violations did or did not occur. When Georgia Tech cooperated fully with the NCAA, they regretted it. After providing the NCAA with all requested documents, including those which may have fallen past the statute of limitations, Tech got a worse deal than they might otherwise have.

From the AJC: "In the end, [associate AD] Griffin said, Tech might have paid for being too cooperative.

'We need to not look at the NCAA staff as our partners but as our adversaries,' Griffin said. 'If any institution is ever confronted with these type of allegations, the first call is to legal representation, and listen to them.'"

Anonymous said...

Anon - there's no chance that AU will lose its accrediation as much as continue to lose academic credibility.

The SACS won't step into the state of Alabama and cripple the state's higher ed by doing that to Auburn.

To lose accreditation would mean a mass exodus from the school academically. It would mean they would have to be thrown out of the SEC and NCAA Div 1.

It would put them on the same academic plain as Morris Brown and Malcom X college.

It won't happen.

But they can "lose face" and be humilitated academically.


Anonymous said...

Well, loke on the bright side here Auburn fans. Now you have a new nick name to go along with the others. Just think how good it will sound at kick-offs. WE"RE CHEATERS, HEY!

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