July 28, 2006

Tuberville defends Auburn academic practices

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HOOVER, Ala. In response to a recent New York Times report that claimed Auburn football players received unearned credit in sociology and criminology courses, coach Tommy Tuberville on Friday maintained he was unaware of any academic improprieties. The coach also promised to take action if anything was discovered.

The university has launched an investigation into the matter after the July 14 report. The report said the Tigers' undefeated 2004 team had 18 players that took a combined 97 credit hours of courses with Professor Thomas Petee, the Sociology Department's highest-ranking member. One of the players was former running back Carnell Williams, who said his course work included "directed reading."

Non-athletes took similar courses with Petee.

Records were reportedly supplied to the Times by Professor James Gundlach, who reports to Petee.

Tuberville said Auburn President Dr. Edward R. Richardson instructed him to wait for the school's investigation to be completed before taking any action. There was no indication when the investigation was expected to be completed.

"If we're doing something wrong, please look at us and tell us. I promise you we'll change it," Tuberville said. "We're going to do things right. I really can't say anything about it until we get (the investigation) done.

"Hopefully, that will be before the season. I'm pretty sure it will be. Our people have been working very hard trying to catch people students that are not on campus, that are home for the summer. We'll just have to see what happens from them."

Auburn opens its football season on Sept. 2 against Washington State.

Tuberville showed little emotion when asked by a New York Times reporter why so many junior college players majored in sociology. He said they were in the sociology department by choice.

"We've graduated 97 players in the last three years. I think we had 15 in the sociology department," he said. "I don't think there's a major part.

"Obviously, when you come in from a junior college you want to make sure they're successful early. But you want to make sure they get a degree in what they want to get one in. We don't pick for them. We want them to get a degree where they're going to have an opportunity to go back home in their environment if they go back home to have an opportunity to be successful.

"Whether it's in sociology or pre-med it's up to them. We don't make those decisions for them."

Auburn's football program ranked third nationally in the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, which measures the academic standing of athletes. Auburn was the highest ranking public institution and was listed behind only Stanford and Boston College. Its football program was one of just five to receive a public recognition award from the NCAA.

Safety Will Herring, a senior majoring in exercise science, said Auburn coaches hold athletes accountable for their academic performance.

"We're at the top of the nation academically, and when you're on top people want to shoot you down. We'll let the investigation speak for itself, and let it find there was no wrongdoing.

"They (coaches) know how many hours you spend in study hall," he said. "If you don't have a certain GPA you have to put in so many hours in study hall. We know what we do."

Receiver Courtney Taylor, a senior business marketing major, agreed.

"When someone questions you as a student you listen, but at the same time we know we're student athletes and coach Tuberville and the coaching staff do a great job pushing us (academically)."

Tuberville said if the investigation turns up any violations, he will accept all blame.

"When it comes to one of my football players I'll take the blame because I do watch, will be watching and making sure they have every opportunity to get a good degree, one's that's worth something when they leave our university," he said.

Click here for more coverage of 2006 Football Media Days.

For more coverage of the Auburn Tigers, check out AuburnSports.com.


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