Defending national champion Tennessee is investigating whether tutors did schoolwork for football players. Tennessee President J. Wade Gilley, who started his job last month, said Monday the school is following "normal procedure and has turned this matter over to the [university's] general counsel's office for review."
"Once this review is complete, the university will announce its findings and, if necessary, take appropriate action," he said.
Athletics Director Doug Dickey said the university also has reported the matter to Southeastern Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer.
Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer declined to discuss the allegations, which he termed "a concern."
"If it is anything about football, I will be glad to talk to you," he told about a dozen reporters who met him after practice. "The players are not going to allow it to be a distraction."
ESPN reported Sunday that internal memos show high-level administrators in the athletic department were told of four tutors who may have done schoolwork for at least five football players, possibly violating the university's honor code and NCAA rules.
None of the information was passed on to the proper campus authorities charged with investigating possible rules infractions, said Malcolm McInnis, NCAA compliance officer for Tennessee.
The alleged incidents dated from 1995, and it was unclear whether any of the players were on the 1998 national champion team. Three of the five players have transferred, according to ESPN.
Meanwhile, four Tennessee redshirt freshmen, including kick returner and NCAA champion sprinter Leonard Scott, were held out of the Memphis game on Saturday and placed on indefinite suspension as a result of the school's internal investigation.
"It is pretty early at this time to know where any of this may go," NCAA spokesperson Jane Jankowski said. "Typically, in these kinds of scenarios it is very common that the university and the NCAA will be in touch."
It's unclear what action might be taken by the school or the NCAA if the allegations are proven. In June, Minnesota Coach Clem Haskins resigned under pressure amid accusations of academic fraud in the men's basketball program.
The allegations come less than a month after Tennessee touted a much improved graduation rate of 57 percent for all football players who enrolled in 1992. The graduation rate for players enrolled in 1991 was 11 percent--one of the worst rates in the country.
School investigators will want to determine how many current players might be involved, the "failure to report" the problem to higher-ups in the program, and the "overall picture of who is managing what," Dickey said.