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Report alleges academic impropriety in Texas basketball program

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From Martez Walker to J'Covan Brown to PJ Tucker, the men's basketball program isn't the unqualified success academic metrics suggest, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, Texas Longhorns men's basketball looked like a model program for years under former head coach Rick Barnes, posting six consecutive years of perfect APR scores.

But a new report from The Chronicle of Higher Education alleges that former guard Martez Walker cheated in a math class in 2013, "snapping pictures of test questions and looking for answers from someone outside the classroom," according to two former academic advisors.

When the professor informed the Texas academic support staff, it's not clear what happpened, though Walker ended up on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll before his dismissal last year. According to the report, professors have the ability to determine grade-related sanctions, but the potential issues would arrise if if the professor sought guidance from the Texas basketball academic support staff on how to deal with the cheating, which the NCAA could consider fraud.

The university responded to the allegations by releasing a statement on Wednesday:

"The university takes any suggestion of wrongdoing extremely seriously. We are always looking to identify problems that may exist and ways we can do better. Working with external NCAA bylaw and academic compliance experts Gene Marsh and Geoff Silver, UT is investigating allegations raised by The Chronicle of Higher Education and has contacted the NCAA about them.

"We determined that the university had no knowledge of two former student-athletes allegedly receiving improper help with high school coursework before they enrolled. We now are reviewing three other cases purported to have occurred over a nine-year period since 2006 to determine if any university or NCAA rules were violated and if any action is needed. The university has no information that suggests former Men's Basketball Coach Rick Barnes knew of or was involved in any academic improprieties. President Gregory L. Fenves is actively working with his leadership teams in both Student Affairs and Athletics to pursue the highest levels of integrity for all UT students."

However, the situation with Walker was not the only one in which academic advisors improperly assisted athletes, according to the report. Two other former players, J'Covan Brown and PJ Tucker, also received help that could result in NCAA sanctions:

One former academic mentor in the athletic department told The Chroniclethat he had helped write papers for J'Covan Brown, a former guard. A tutor for P.J. Tucker, another onetime Longhorns player, said Mr. Tucker had received impermissible academic assistance while he was preparing for the NBA draft.

The Chronicle previously reported on an academic "fixer" who assisted hundreds of athletes in taking bogus online courses, including Brown:

Mr. White says he enrolled Mr. Brown in three BYU courses and did all of the work for the player. He says he had Mr. Brown's exams proctored by a friend who works for a prominent youth-basketball program. During an interview at his home in November, Mr. White called the proctor, and the two men discussed many players for whom they had cheated, including Mr. Brown.

Seemingly exposing the ugly underbelly of college athletics, where many underprepared and underqualified students receive admittance for academic reasons, the report could also results in sanction for Barnes, especially if his contract language with Tennessee has any penalties for academic impropriety since the previous coach, Donnie Tyndall, was fired for breach of contract because of an academic investigation into his former program, Southern Miss.