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Tennessee Football Scandal

The best team in college football last year — the national champion Volunteers from the University of Tennessee — is under investigation.

College footballÂ's national champions have a scandal on their hands, as several players are accused of cheating in the classroom, reports Correspondent Rob Manning of CBS affiliate WTVF-TV.

This scandal surfaced at the University of Tennessee two days ago and since then itÂ's been the talk of the town.

The University of Tennessee has suspended four players following reports that paid tutors did academic work for them.

"Certainly we addressed it with the team before practice," Coach Phillip Fulmer told reporters. "ThatÂ's all I have to say."

Tennessee President J. Wade Gilley, who started his job last month, said Monday the school is following "normal procedure and has turned this matter over to the (university's) general counsel's office for review."

"Once this review is complete, the university will announce its findings and, if necessary, take appropriate action," he said.

Athletics Director Doug Dickey said the university also has reported the matter to Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer.

Some students arenÂ't surprised. Matthew Bessom says heÂ's seen athletes break the rules before.

"IÂ've heard older adults say, donÂ't worry about going to class. IÂ've got your notes. That just blew my mind. They donÂ't have to go to class," Bessom said.

But most students arenÂ't in a rush to judgment. They're confident the truth will come out in the end. Both the university and NCAA are launching separate reviews into this matter.

"It is pretty early at this time to know where any of this may go," NCAA spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said. "Typically, in these kinds of scenarios it is very common that the university and the NCAA will be in touch."

School investigators will want to determine how many current players might be involved, the "failure to report" the problem to higher-ups in the program, and the "overall picture of who is managing what," Dickey said.

It will be several months before we hear a decision on the matter. In the worst case, the school could be stripped of its championship.

Tennessee has investigated allegations of academic fraud before.

In 1992, the university rescinded advanced degrees to two University of Tennessee Space Institute graduates who provided government contracts to a professor who supplied them with plagiarized dissertations. All were later convicted of federal fraud charges.

Three years later, the university found 41 athletes charged $26,000 in long distance telephone calls to a stolen university phone card. Two players were suspended for a season and others received lesser punishment.

The new allegations come less than a month after Tennessee touted a much improved graduation rat of 57 percent for all football players who enrolled in 1992. The graduation rate for players enrolled in 1991 was 11 percent — one of the worst rates in the country.

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