Auburn officials investigate directed study course for athletes

According to the Huntsville Times (link here), Gundlach said that as many as 152 directed study students at one time were taking courses from department head Tom Petee by the spring semester of 2005. Gundlach told the Huntsville Times that even five directed study students would be a heavy load. The report stated that Petee stopped the practice after Gundlach discussed the issue at a faculty meeting.

Gundlach provided his own research to demonstrate that the course was intended as a method of providing preferential treatment to football players. As printed in the Columbus Ledger Enquirer (link here), Gundlach alleged Petee gave high grades to athletes for little or no work. Gundlach confirmed to the Ledger-Enquirer that, in 2004, 18 members of Auburn’s football team took a combined 97 hours of classes from Petee. At the time, the football team was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation. His research also showed grade inflation for athletes: players received 81.1 percent A’s and 16.8 percent B’s, but those numbers changed to 40.9 percent A’s and 51.7 percent B’s after his confrontation with Petee. Gundlach said the players received an average grade point average of 3.31 in Petee’s classes, compared to 2.14 in all their other credit hours. Gundlach said he compiled his information by cross-referencing Petee’s student list with a list of athletes receiving varsity sports credits during a two-year period.

Petee has denied all allegations of academic misconduct. Several players who took the course denied preferential treatment and told the Hunstville Times (link here or link here) they completed the work that was required, and received legitimate grades.

Auburn University officials told the Huntsville Times (link here) that Gundlach brought the issue to light because he was passed over for promotion in 2002. However, Gundlach told the Columbus Ledger Enquirer, “”Somebody has to protect the students’ degrees and what they mean. I’d like to be seen as someone preserving the value of my work instead of cheapening it to keep football players on the field.”

On June 5, the provost of Auburn University set up a committee to investigate the matter, but there has been no discussion of when the findings will be reported.