FSU Athletes In Academic Scandal

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Two athletic department academic assistance employees have resigned and 23 Florida State University athletes were implicated in cheating on tests given over the Internet, school officials said Wednesday.

The athletes represent nine sports and 17 of the students are or have been on scholarship. Officials could not identify the students and could not say which sports are involved because of federal confidentiality restrictions.

University President T.K. Wetherell reported the findings in a letter to the NCAA. He indicated inquires are continuing although an internal investigation failed to find conclusive evidence of a more widespread pattern of cheating.

The students could face punishment from the university and NCAA including loss of eligibility. The NCAA also could sanction the university, but spokesman Erik Christianson said it would be speculative and declined comment.

"I think the school took appropriate action," said Jim Smith, chairman of the university's board of trustees and a former Florida attorney general. "It's unfortunate something like this could happen."

Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information an athletics department learning specialist had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another and then provided the answers.

The student who took the test was not enrolled in the class and reported what happened to his athletics academic advisor. Neither he nor the other athlete, who had been unaware someone else took the test for him, were disciplined, the report said.

The investigation then found the learning specialist also typed papers for five students who apparently didn't qualify for that service and a tutor provided answers or other unethical assistance to 23 students for online tests. The testing involved a single course, which was not identified.

"Some students from the 2007 semester indicated that it was common knowledge among the student athletes that the tutor would help with the exams in the class," the report said.

The learning specialist and tutor resigned. They are not named in the report.

The tutor confirmed in an interview with the school's auditors that he had been assisting students with answers for the online exams since the fall of 2006, according to the report.

"Student testimony as well as the students' grades indicated the amount of assistance the tutor provided escalated from fall 2006 through his resignation during the summer semester 2007," the report stated.

The auditors also found the learning specialist had failed to direct athletes with disabilities to Florida State's Student Disability Resource Center where they could have received legitimate assistance.

The NCAA is also awaiting more details.

"We are aware of the situation and we will work with the institution when more information is submitted to our office," Christianson said.

Florida State University's athletics made headlines earlier this month when linebacker Geno Hayes was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors after a bar fight, according to the Florida Times Union.

A senior fullback who also was charged in the incident, will not be able to return to the team until his legal status is resolved.
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