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COVER: University of Texas Men’s Basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center against the Baylor Bears.

by MATTHEW WATKINS

AUSTIN — An investigation commissioned by the University of Texas at Austin has found “no evidence” of academic cheating by its basketball players, officials announced Wednesday.

The school also reported that the NCAA looked into the matter, which was first raised in news reports, and decided not to pursue any punishment. 

“After an extensive investigation and based on the information available, we find no support for the allegations of academic misconduct or violations of the institution’s procedures,” UT’s hired investigator, Gene Marsh, wrote. 

Marsh, an Alabama lawyer who specializes in college sports issues, worked with NCAA investigators to look into the issue.

The NCAA said in a letter that it didn’t see a need for further inquiry, noting the passage of time and lack of available records. 

The review was prompted by a June article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that alleged academic cheating by men’s basketball players under former UT coach Rick Barnes. 

The story’s most serious allegation was that former basketball player Martez Walker was seen “snapping pictures of test questions on his phone and looking for answers from someone outside the classroom” during a final exam in a mathematics class, according to “two former academic advisers informed of the incident.” The instructor contacted an athletic department liaison, and the liaison then passed the information up the chain to an associate athletics director, the article said. But Walker still passed the class, the report said. 

The story also alleged that athletes were funneled into easy classes, including one that teaches children’s literature. And it claimed that one athlete received inappropriate help with online courses before enrolling in the university.

Soon after the article was published, new UT-Austin President Greg Fenves commissioned a review of the athletics department, saying he wanted to learn more about how it worked and what improvements could be made. The report released Wednesday included numerous recommendations, including having employees who oversee the affairs of student athletes report to both academic and athletics officials. Currently, they only report to athletics officials. 

The report also suggested the university review the “overrepresentation” of athletes in the College of Education and develop a task force for reviewing the admissions process for academically at-risk athletes. More than 60 percent of athletes who play men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and football at UT-Austin study education, according to the report. 

“UT’s College of Education is an outstanding school that is consistently ranked among the top public programs in the nation,” Fenves said in a letter after the report was released. “But we must better understand why student-athletes enroll in it as frequently as they do and whether they are exploring the opportunities in the wide range of degree programs on campus.

MATTHEW WATKINS reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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