Thursday, May 16, 2002

More Disturbing News about the Tennessee Volunteer football team from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Bob Gilbert, a syndicated columnist whose writings are published in six newspapers in Tennessee, is scheduled to meet today with Southeastern Conference investigator Bill Sievers. Gilbert says he has evidence of academic misconduct involving several players on Tennessee's 1998 football team, which won the SEC and national championships.

Tennessee, the SEC, and the NCAA have investigated the claims over the past three years, but the SEC is apparently taking another look at the allegations, which were first made public by Linda Bensel-Meyers, an English professor at the university.

''A blind man couldn't miss a lot of the manipulation that was going on with those (academic) transcripts,'' Gilbert said. ''The SEC didn't want to see it. The NCAA didn't want to see it. The president of the University of Tennessee didn't want to see it. They're all in denial.''

Gilbert said SEC commissioner Roy Kramer called him Tuesday to voice concerns over his column published Monday. In the column, Gilbert wrote that the SEC ignored ''compelling and incriminating'' evidence when it first looked at the allegations two years ago.

Gilbert, 65, is a 1960 graduate of Tennessee and worked 29 years as the university's director of news operations until retiring in 1996.

Gilbert's allegations include:

A Tennessee football player was expelled at the end of the fall semester in 1998. Under university regulations, the student-athlete should have sat out a full year before re-applying for admission, but he was reinstated the following semester and participated in spring football practice.

A football player who was on academic probation for four semesters had eight grade changes to remain eligible under SEC and NCAA requirements. In the fall semester of his last year of eligibility, the student-athlete flunked four courses.

On several transcripts of football players, failing grades were changed to incomplete marks and then changed back to failing after football season.

Bensel-Meyers complained in 1999 about plagiarism and grade changing involving student-athletes. Tennessee conducted its own investigation in the fall of 1999, but the school said it found no improprieties. The NCAA performed a follow-up audit and informed Tennessee in March 2000 that it was discontinuing its inquiry.

The NCAA looked into the matter again in August 2000, but again found no wrongdoing. However, following the investigations, Tennessee took its tutoring program out of the hands of the athletics department and turned it over to the provost's office.

''According to (Bensel-Meyers), the NCAA has never looked at this evidence,'' Gilbert said. ''She offered it to the investigator, but he
wouldn't take it.''

Gilbert's accusations come less than two weeks after Wayne Rowe, a sportswriter with the Mobile (Ala.) Register, said he sent $4,500 to former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin while he was still playing for theVolunteers. A Mobile businessman said the money was embezzled from his insurance company by an employee who wrote Rowe two checks. Rowe resigned from the newspaper on May 10 and has yet to provide the newspaper with wire transfer receipts that prove the money was sent to Martin.