By Steve Williams
Just what we didn’t need. Another dark cloud over the University of Tennessee men’s basketball program.
Allegations of serious academic wrongdoing in the Texas program when new Vols head coach Rick Barnes was employed there were reported last week.
Both Dave Hart, Tennessee’s athletic director, and officials at Texas have said they don’t believe Barnes had any knowledge of the misconduct, which reportedly included Texas players cheating on tests and receiving impermissible help on schoolwork.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported three claims of wrongdoing by two former Texas academic advisors, a former academic mentor in the Texas athletic department and a tutor.
This past December The Chronicle also reported results of an investigation that alleged Texas players achieving NCAA eligibility by taking bogus online classes. Since then, an internal investigation by Texas reportedly revealed the university did not have any knowledge of that happening.
Barnes was named Tennessee’s coach March 31, just days after being fired because of the Longhorns’ declining results on the court in recent seasons.
The longtime Texas coach was lauded for his coaching resume as he came aboard at Tennessee. For many fans, the sun was shining again on Tennessee basketball.
In his recent defense of Barnes, Hart said he has a “sterling reputation as a person of very high ethical standards at every institution he has represented and we are excited to have him lead our men’s basketball program.”
Barnes, to my knowledge, has made no public comment on the recent report of academic wrongdoing.
Texas is investigating the allegations, the most recent claim stemming from an incident in the fall of 2013.
Tennessee fired its last coach, Donnie Tyndall, because it believed Southern Mississippi had committed multiple NCAA violations related to academic misconduct and impermissible financial aid under Tyndall.
The NCAA appears to be cracking down on academic misconduct, based on its investigations at Syracuse and North Carolina.
NCAA coaches under investigation also now have to prove they had no knowledge of alleged misconduct and wrongdoing in their programs.
Whether Barnes is guilty or not in the recent claims made against Texas, one has to wonder if the damage already has been done as far as the Tennessee program is concerned.
Will other schools use these accusations against Tennessee in the recruiting wars? Will Barnes still be able to effectively recruit the nation’s top prospects with this black cloud hanging over head?
Before Barnes and before Tyndall, Tennessee had a basketball coach who had a sterling reputation. And the last time I looked, there was no black cloud hanging over Berkeley, Calif.