Report: Auburn investigating athletes' academics

Updated: July 14, 2006, 3:05 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and other Auburn athletes received high grades from the same professor for sociology and criminology courses that didn't require them to attend classes or do much work, The New York Times reported.

Williams, the former star running back who now plays for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told the newspaper the only two classes he took the spring semester of his senior year were one-on-one courses with Professor Thomas Petee, the sociology department's highest-ranking member.

The Times reported on its Web site Thursday night that 18 members of the 2004 football team -- a team that went undefeated and finished No. 2 in the nation -- took a combined 97 hours of the courses during their careers. The newspaper said the offerings resemble independent study and include subjects as statistics, theory and methods, which normally require class instruction.

Under the NCAA's academic reforms, programs that fail to meet the NCAA's minimum academic progress rate -- determined by a points formula that rewards long-term eligibility and retention of student-athletes -- can lose scholarships. NCAA president Myles Brand has pushed the reforms, emphasizing student-athletes are students first.

"Academic integrity is at the foundation of every university," Auburn Provost John Heilman said in a statement. "In May, a complaint was made ... alleging that a single professor gave grades to student athletes for courses that required little or no work. The Office of the Provost takes any concern related to academic processes at the university seriously. As a result, on June 5, I appointed a committee to investigate the anonymous claim."

The report will be made public when the investigation is complete.

"I want to assure everyone associated with Auburn that upon completion of the investigation we will deal with this issue as we have dealt with other challenges -- directly and openly," Auburn interim President Ed Richardson said in a statement.

The Times, citing records compiled by Professor James Gundlach, the director of the Auburn sociology department who reports to Petee, reported one athlete took seven courses with Petee, three took six, five took five and eight took four.

Former Auburn defensive end Doug Langenfeld told The Times a directed-reading course with Petee required he read one book and write a 10-page paper. "I got a 'B' in the class," Langenfeld told The Times.

The newspaper said Gundlach found that more than a quarter of the students in Petee's directed-reading courses were athletes.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press