BATON ROUGE, La. -- The NCAA will not punish LSU further as a result of an investigation into cheating and other academic misconduct at a campus athletic center for athletes, the chancellor said Friday.
The NCAA ruling grew out of allegations that LSU athletes in 2002 cheated on tests, plagiarized papers and benefited from pressure on faculty to change grades. An internal investigation resulted in an 1,300-page report to the NCAA in which the university said the violations of NCAA rules were secondary and not systemic.
"I was very proud at the time of the way this university responded," said Chancellor Mark Emmert. "I remain so."
The NCAA will take no further action beyond penalties that LSU had already imposed: the loss of two football scholarships for 2005; the loss of four official visits by recruits; and discipline against those involved.
"I don't think this hurts Coach (Nick) Saban or the football program in anyway," said Skip Bertman, LSU athletic director. "But he was penalized for actions for which he was not responsible."
LSU will sign only 23 players rather than the 25 to which it is entitled. The school could have had 52 official visits from athletes this year rather than the 55 allowed by the NCAA. Instead it had only 46, below the 52 it had imposed as a sanction.
LSU instructor Tiffany Mayne and graduate assistant Caroline Owen filed lawsuits against the university, alleging that they were told to change the grades of players who plagiarized papers to keep the players eligible for the 2000 Peach Bowl. Those lawsuits are in federal court in Baton Rouge.
"Basically it was because of the courage of my clients that LSU was able to discover the misconduct and correct it," said Jill Craft, attorney for Mayne and Owen. "If they had not been courageous enough to do that LSU might have been facing a much worse situation."
LSU transferred a former director of the Academic Center for Student Athletes and reprimanded an employee of the athletic department as corrective measures.
The misconduct was a prospective player receiving tutoring he was not entitled to receive free. The player was unaware that he was not entitled to the tutoring, but donated $40 to charity to cover the cost of the tutoring. A text book also had key passages underlined by a tutor so two players would not have to read the entire book.
The school said there was no plagiarism, cheating or serious misconduct at the academic center. The NCAA agreed by ruling that the violations were secondary instead of major. Secondary is an isolated or inadvertent breaking of an NCAA rule, said Chris Howard, who is in charge of overseeing compliance at LSU.
LSU also made changes concerning athletes and the academic center that took effect last fall and were aimed at preventing future problems. Under the new rules, no test will be given in the center under any circumstance, no one in the center is allowed to type a paper for an athlete, even if they are paid and "off the clock."
LSU also ruled that no class on campus could be composed of more than 30 percent athletes. And each fall, the dean of students or his designee conducts a seminar for student-athletes on plagiarism and other academic dishonesty issues.
"We responded to this issue in the right way," Emmert said. "The academic performance of our athletes is at an all-time high and our academic integrity is in tact."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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