NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference officials Thursday began looking into allegations against USC of academic improprieties involving an academic advisor, The Times has learned.
The investigations center on allegations by two USC student-athletes that an athletic department advisor, Janice Henry, enrolled them in an education class last spring in which they never completed any course work, yet received the grade of A.
The students claim that Henry, responsible for football and baseball players, told them they didn't have to attend the class or do any work for it. Of the 40 students in the class, 30 were athletes, including 15 football players--14 of whom were on the 1996 Rose Bowl team-- and eight baseball players. Nearly all of the students in the class received an A.
But of major concern to the NCAA and Pac-10 is the allegation that a paper was prepared on one student-athlete's behalf and turned in for credit at the final examination. The student, who has asked to remain anonymous, said it is unclear who prepared the paper, but said it was Henry who told the student to attend the final. The student had not attended any of the other class meetings during the semester. Henry was seen at the class regularly and was present at the final, sources said.
Henry, reached at home Thursday night, refused to comment. NCAA and Pac-10 officials could not be reached. However, the Pac-10 began interviewing students from the class on Thursday, sources said.
If the allegations are found to be true, and any member of the 1996 Rose Bowl team received improper credit from this class, the 1995-96 football season and Rose Bowl victory could be jeopardized. Under Pac-10 rules, if individuals competed while ineligible, the outcome of the game would be reviewed by a special panel to determine if the victory can stand. It could also be a violation of NCAA rules.
The class, taught by Prof. Vernon Broussard, was investigated by a USC committee last summer because of the large number of athletes in the class and the high grades. Henry was cleared by the USC committee of any wrongdoing, according to a USC official. But the investigation was reopened Wednesday after the school learned of the new allegations from The Times.
"We are in the process of selecting a committee and plan to have our first meeting early next week with the Provost," said Dr. Richard Ide, USC vice provost of undergraduate studies.
"We want to get it going as quickly as we can. We plan to talk to as many student-athletes in the class as is possible."
Ide said the previous investigation of the class--Tutoring Elementary, Secondary or University Students--turned up problems with the instructor's grading methods, but said the review was dropped because the committee believed Broussard had retired and the class was no longer being taught.
Broussard, though, is still teaching the class, which currently contains 33% athletes, a large number by industry standards. Student-athletes should fall within no more than 10% of a class roster.
Ide said the mix-up regarding Broussard's retirement was due to a communication breakdown between departments. Broussard, though, says he took early retirement merely to start drawing his annuities and never planned to stop teaching. Broussard also said he has never been questioned about his teaching or grading methods of the class.
Meanwhile, many of the student-athletes at USC were upset about the perception raised by the allegations that they take easy classes. Mike Gillespie, USC baseball coach, said that he had no knowledge of Broussard's class.
"We've tried to reinforce in our players that what is expected of them is that they attend class, study table, take advantage of advisors and get tutoring help," Gillespie said.
"Any issue like this, whether it's true or not, unfortunately everybody is judged wrongly to be guilty. We tell everybody that it is expected of them to proceed with absolutely the greatest academic integrity."