The University of Texas athletic department will not face any NCAA punishment over a published report alleging academic misconduct by former men’s basketball players.
In a letter released Wednesday, independent investigator Gene Marsh, an Alabama-based attorney who once was chairman of the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, said his team found “no support for the allegations” outlined by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Chronicle story, published June 10, 2015, alleged that one former player cheated on a test and that an academic tutor had written papers for another player. Former men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes claimed no knowledge of any wrongdoing.
UT President Gregory L. Fenves, who asked for the review days after taking office last June, has insisted all along the school did not commit any violations. The overall review was expected to cost at least $200,000, a UT spokesman said.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m very pleased,” Fenves said in an interview. “But like any large organization in a dynamic environment, there are things we could do better.”
University officials also released a letter from the NCAA stating “there is no need for further inquiry into this matter at this time.” In the eyes of NCAA investigators, the case is closed.
Marsh’s 49-page report examines almost every aspect of the academic services offered by UT athletics. It does not mention any administrator by name, but it pulled the curtains back on the department overseen by Randa Ryan, the executive senior associate athletic director for student services.
Marsh’s report recommends that Ryan, who missed the entire fall semester on UT-approved medical leave, possibly should report to the UT provost office along with the athletic director. “We will examine the pros and cons. We look at how other universities do it,” Fenves said.
Ryan has not been made available for interviews to the American-Statesman for the last last two years. A UT spokesman would not allow Fenves to answer questions about Ryan during an interview session on Wednesday.
Marsh’s team conducted 83 interviews of UT players, coaches and administrators and examined various reports, protocols, guidelines and handbooks.
“We know of no unresolved issues or loose ends,” Marsh said in a letter to UT, “but should any additional questions arise, we will be pleased to pursue them at your direction.”
The report offered numerous suggestions on how UT athletics could bolster its academic services. Fenves asked men’s athletic director Mike Perrin and women’s AD Chris Plonsky to implement the recommendations.
According to Marsh’s report, a large concentration of UT athletes in the four major sports — football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball — are enrolled in the College of Education. More than 70 percent of those athletes are black. Athletes are enrolled in Applied Learning and Development: Youth and Community Studies or Physical Culture and Sports majors.
Seventy-one football players of 115 are enrolled in the College of Education, as are 11 of 15 men’s basketball players.
“Some coaches and faculty expressed the concern that the Office of Athletics Student Services exerts too much control over the student-athletes in their selection of courses and majors,” Marsh’s report stated. “These are not opinions that came from only one or two people.”
Some athletes “expressed frustrations with the quality of tutors,” the report said. Athletes told Marsh that some of the better tutors work exclusively inside the UT football complex and are perceived as off-limits to non-football athletes. And some coaches and administrators expressed concern there was “too much focus on team GPA” as the ultimate measure of academic success.
The Faculty Athletics Council, a panel full of UT faculty members who serve in an advisory role, was somewhat dismissed in importance. Since the council serves only in an advisory capacity, “has resulted in some belief that their involvement has no meaningful impact,” Marsh’s report said.
“It is our view that an enhanced role for the faculty in athletics at UT should be an agenda item in the Men’s and Women’s Athletic Councils and the Faculty Council,” the report said.