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Auburn Coach Confident Of Review

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Published: July 29, 2006

HOOVER, Ala., July 28 — The Auburn University football coach, Tommy Tuberville, distanced his program from an internal investigation of possible academic fraud involving members of his team and expects no repercussions once that review is complete.

“It’s an academic issue,’’ Tuberville said Friday during the annual Southeastern Conference football gathering for members of the news media outside Birmingham. “Our president obviously gave me strict orders: Let’s complete the investigation before we make any rash judgments. If we’re doing something wrong, please look at us and tell us. I promise you, we’ll change it. We’re going to do things right.

“I don’t foresee anything happening.’’

It was one of the few comments Tuberville has made since a report in The New York Times earlier this month that Auburn athletes took advantage of so-called directed-reading courses to help boost their grades and remain academically eligible to compete. A professor in the sociology department said 18 football players were among the students who took the courses in 2004. In some cases, the courses in sociology and criminology involved no class time and little work. Tuberville had earlier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he did not expect the report to lead to an N.C.A.A. investigation.

Tuberville did not respond to a question about how long he has known some players were taking these courses. When asked why a number of junior college players had enrolled in them, he said the football team did not steer players there. “Obviously, when you come in from a junior college, you want to make sure they’re successful early,’’ said Tuberville, who pointed out that Auburn had graduated 98 football players in the past three years. “But you want to make sure they get a degree in what they want to get one in. We don’t pick them for them.

“Whether it’s sociology or pre-med, you know, it’s up to them.”

Auburn is expected to be among the top teams in the country and the investigation has not affected preparations for summer camp, some players have said.

“It has not been a distraction, not to the team,’’ linebacker Will Herring said. “Has it been fair? I can say it hasn’t been fair, but life’s not fair, you know? We’ve climbed up to the top of the nation academically and when you’re on top, people want to shoot you down.’’

Herring was referring to the N.C.A.A.’s new rankings of student-athletes’ academic progress, which gave the Auburn football team the highest ranking of any Division I-A public university among college football’s six major conferences.

The report has not gone unnoticed by others in the conference. It prompted Florida Coach Urban Meyer to look into any potentially similar problems in his own program.

“Certainly, I think when you read it, you kind of sit back in your chair and say, ‘My goodness, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,’ ’’ he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not. We did meet with our academic people. At the appropriate time, we’ll meet with our players.

“I have great confidence. We have an excellent graduation rate. We really keep an eye on those things.’’

Although Tuberville said he was confident the report would find no wrongdoing with his program, he did acknowledge that ultimately, academic problems involving his players were the coach’s responsibility.

“I’m the bottom line,’’ he said when asked if coaches need to have more access to players in order to be accountable for their actions. “If we made a mistake, something was wrong, I try to keep an eye on all of it.

“This thing that happened the last few weeks, I feel bad about it. Were we wrong? We’re going to find out. I’m glad we’re looking into it. If I’ve made a mistake in anything we’ve done, we’ll definitely adjust that, and it will make our team better.’’


Few coaches endured as difficult a season as Louisiana State’s Les Miles, who had to guide the Tigers through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But he said not all was bad. “I’ll look on how this team responded, and I will forever cherish that memory,’’ he said of L.S.U., which finished 11-2 in 2005. ... CURTIS LEAK, father of Florida quarterback CHRIS LEAK, recently told CBS Sportsline.com that some Gators fans dislike his son because he is black. But Chris Leak avoided that controversy when asked about his father’s comments. “I’ve enjoyed all my time as a Gator at Florida,’’ he said. “I really don’t listen to things outside of me getting my education and me leading my team. I really haven’t listened to any outside things.’’ Leak said he talks to his father every day, but has not discussed his comments about race.

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