UT-Austin Investigates Academic Fraud in Basketball Program

Rick Barnes
The Associated Press
Austin, TX

Joining a growing list of universities investigating academic fraud in sports programs, the University of Texas now looks into charges of academic fraud in its own program.

On Tuesday, UT President Greg Fenves announced that the school is now investigating charges of infractions purportedly tied to the men’s basketball program. The review will be headed by former NCAA Infractions Committee member Gene Marsh.

In at least one case, it has been alleged that a former player, Martez Walker, was allowed to cheat on an exam. Walker passed the class but has since transferred to Oakland University in Michigan.

Another allegation maintains that former players J’Covan Brown and P.J. Tucker were given undue help with class work and writing papers.

All three played for Longhorns coach Rick Barnes who was fired this year after 17 seasons with the school. He now coaches the Tennessee Volunteers.

The school’s sports program has had the motto of “winning with integrity,” Fenves said. “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.”

Fenves assumed the presidency of UT-Austin just two weeks ago.

“We take every allegation seriously, and we are looking into that,” Fenves added. “We felt Gene Marsh will get to the bottom of it, but at this point, I have no concerns there were improprieties. It’s prudent and responsible to look at them in depth.”

The university reported on its website that the review will include a thorough examination of all procedures and policies that impact the academic experience of student-athletes, from when they are recruited until after they have left the university. These include:

  • admissions,
  • academic advising and tutorial assistance,
  • choices of majors and coursework,
  • interactions among Athletics employees and university faculty members, officials in such areas as financial aid and the registrar’s office, and the deans of student affairs in individual colleges at UT Austin,
  • the history of Athletics’ Student Services, which has been merged into one office during the past decade,
  • any specific incidents of concern that arise, and
  • consistency with national best practices and NCAA requirements.

“We believe in transparency and that this review is merited and timely. Athletics student services is built on integrity and overseen by staff who are dedicated to student success and leadership development,” one of the school’s athletic directors, Chris Plonsky said in the statement. “We stand ready to facilitate the review and respond to any areas where we can improve.”

The costs and time frame of the review have not yet been determined.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com