LSU informs NCAA of academic investigation

Discussion in 'The Tiger's Den' started by Ellis Hugh, Mar 22, 2002.

  1. Ellis Hugh

    Ellis Hugh Space Wrangler

    Aug 9, 2001
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    LSU informs NCAA; Saban discusses probe

    Advocate sportswriter

    LSU has notified the NCAA office in Indianapolis of its ongoing self-investigation into allegations of preferential, academic treatment of athletes.

    "We've notified the NCAA," associate athletic director Bo Bahnsen said Thursday. Bahnsen is the athletic department's compliance officer and promised a thorough investigation.

    "We are continuing our investigation," he said. "We've informed the NCAA that we're looking into these allegations, and they're going to allow us to do our job."

    Bahnsen, who along with legal counsel has participated in more than 50 interviews of athletes, said LSU contacted the NCAA on Wednesday after briefing Southeastern Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer on the investigation Tuesday on campus.

    "Once we conclude, we will forward everything in the form of a report to the conference and to the NCAA," Bahnsen said. "There's no set time frame."

    Roger Grooters, executive director of the academic center for student-athletes, informed LSU officials in January that student-athletes were possibly receiving excessive help from tutors and that faculty members may have been pressured to give better grades to student-athletes.

    An unnamed kinesiology instructor also met with LSU officials on March 8 and described improper academic support as well.

    LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said the investigation centers on five-to-10 football players and possibly athletes from other sports. Of the 102 football players pictured in the 2001 LSU football media guide, 21 are majoring in kinesiology, which in basic form is physical education study.

    LSU football coach Nick Saban spoke of the investigation for the first time publicly Thursday night at a Tiger Athletic Foundation function in New Orleans.

    "I was blindsided in January when we started this investigation," he said. "But it's kind of like the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). If the IRS comes to get you, they're usually going to find something. The big thing is to handle it in the right way. And I think it's been handled the right way."

    Saban praised Grooters, who worked with Saban in the same capacity at Michigan State before coming to LSU nearly a year ago.

    "If we should be accused of anything, it's investing $14 million in the academic center and bringing Roger Grooters in," Saban said. "I have total confidence in the academic integrity and credibility of people running the academic center. I feel good about what we've tried to do in our two years here.

    "We have a 100 percent better academic support program now than when I came to LSU."

    Asked what other sports may be involved, Bahnsen said, "I really can't answer that until we complete the investigation. I'm not sure what other sports now. I hope it's as isolated as it is.

    "We're going to take this to the nth degree. I can't tell you where it's going to end up. I want to do a thorough job."

    Bahnsen has worked in compliance since 1989 at LSU.

    "I want to make sure we get to the bottom, and that could lead in many directions," he said. "It's kind of like tackling the iceberg, and you don't know what's under the surface. We're slowly getting there. So it could take some time."

    LSU's investigation centers on rule 16.3 in the NCAA manual -- "academic and other support services."

    Violations involving tutors and academic support could be classified as secondary or major violations.

    "Generally we don't categorize violations unless we know the specifics of each case, said Jane Jankowski, the NCAA's assistant director for public relations. NCAA officials cannot speak about specific schools. "We look at the seriousness of each violation before deciding on penalties."

    Saban, who opens spring football practice Saturday, has not been close to the investigation.

    "I'm not really involved," he said. "It's not my department. But I'm concerned that we have academic integrity. I've told players to come to me and let me know if something's wrong. No players came to me."

    LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert took issue with some reporting of the investigation.

    "There's some misperception that there's two investigations going on," Emmert said Thursday. "There's never been two investigations. It's always been one investigation. I have no idea where people got the idea there were two investigations."

    That idea came from Bertman and others.

    "It would be better to say it's one investigation with several facets to it," Bertman said at the TAF function.

    Emmert also praised Grooters.

    "Mr. Grooters brought to the attention of the office of academic affairs concerns that he had," Emmert said. "And that's what prompted us to begin an investigation.

    "He has been misreported as a whistle-blower as part of a variety of pejorative descriptions of what's going on. He was doing routine procedures, and indeed that's precisely what you want him to do. Mr. Grooters has been conducting himself in a highly professional and highly appropriate and highly ethical fashion."

    LSU economics professor Pat Culbertson, who is chairman of LSU's athletic council, is worried about possible NCAA penalties because the LSU basketball program is still under NCAA sanctions.

    "That probably means that what is uncovered in this investigation could be treated more seriously by the NCAA because we're on probation right now," said Culbertson, who was at the meeting with Kramer and other LSU officials Tuesday.

    "But I'm happy with the progress of the investigation as it's been reported to me," Culbertson said.

    (Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.)

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