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Thursday, August 23
Tutor-written papers lead to probation news services

LOS ANGELES -- The NCAA placed the University of Southern California athletic program on probation for two years and cut scholarships Thursday because tutors wrote papers for three athletes three times in the late 1990s.

The NCAA and the university refused to identify the athletes -- two football players and a woman diver. The diver was expelled in 1997, right after the academic fraud was discovered. Two tutors were fired while the third quit.

There were also allegations of significant recruiting violations in the men's basketball program involving an assistant coach, but the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions agreed with the university's findings that no violations were committed.

The probation covers the entire athletic department. Two football scholarships for the 2002-03 academic year were cut and half a scholarship for the women's swimming and diving team was canceled.

The probation will have no ramifications on postseason football bowl games.

The school said it had changed the athlete tutor program in an effort to prohibit more fraud.

USC initiated the investigation -- one violation each in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Jack Friedenthal, chairman of the NCAA Infractions Committee and law professor at George Washington University, said during a telephone conference call.

One football player got an "A-" in political science in 1996 after submitting a tutor-written paper.

The diver turned in a rough draft of a paper for a 1997 writing class handwritten by the tutor, then submitted the final paper in her own handwriting.

A second football player got a "C" in a religion course in 1998 after a fraudulent paper was submitted.

The NCAA and the university refused to release the names of the tutors involved. Friedenthal said that when the school learned the diver had committed academic fraud, her grade was changed to "F" and she was expelled.

Two professors, whose names were not disclosed, refused to change the grades for the football players and they remained at the university. It was not immediately known whether the players were allowed to remain on the team. The school also wouldn't say if the students were still enrolled.

"We do not tolerate cheating at USC, and this case should signal our seriousness and our determination to root out those who do," said Mike Diamond, USC executive vice provost. "Even a single instance of improper assistance for a student-athlete is too many."

The NCAA said it had no evidence that coaches or assistant coaches or tutor directors asked the athletes or tutors to take part in the deception.

When the NCAA asked the professors involved why they didn't change the grades and expel the football players, they were told it was "a matter of academic freedom," Friedenthal said.

"The athletes were very forthcoming," Friedenthal said. "We don't have any information to indicate that the coaches inadvertently or deliberately had specific knowledge that anything improper was going on."

All of those involved were placed under a show-cause order, meaning for the next two years any NCAA-covered university that hires any teacher, tutor or student who took part must show they are not engaging in activities that would be in violation of NCAA rules, Friedenthal said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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