Athletic Scandal Breaks at USC

LOS ANGELES--Thirty-four athletes at the University of Southern California (USC) were slated to receive passing grades in courses they had not attended, university officials admitted two weeks ago.

Disgruntled non-athletes in the same courses protested to the administration and the athletes were either given incomplete marks or took a crash course to justify the academic credit, officials said.

John DeBross, director of forensics, resigned after records showed that 19 of the athletes were enrolled in Speech Communication 380, a forensics laboratory supposedly open only to members of the debate team. The university also suspended Jeff Birren, academic coordinator to the football team, pending an investigation of Birren's conduct.

The athletes in the debate laboratory received credit for an entire semester's work by attending a special five-day crash course during Christmas vacation. After the Rose Bowl, the athletes also had to grade participants in six debates in local tournaments.

Eleven other athletes enrolled in Speech Communications 422, Problems in Argumentation Theory, received incomplete marks and will make up class requirements this spring, sources said.


Athletic director Richard Perry, who would speak only with a university lawyer present, said he had met with commissioners in the Pacific-10 conference to discuss the situation. The commissioners said USC was not in violation of National College Athletic Association rules, Perry said.

In another athletic credit scandal, the student newspaper at the University of Santa Clara in Santa Clara, Calif., reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice and a New Mexico grand jury are investigating charges that athletes at the University of New Mexico received academic credit for non-credit extension courses offered by the University of Santa Clara.

Transcripts from some athletes at the University of New Mexico allegedly were doctored so that students could remain in good standing academically.