Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?

Where have we heard that before. . . There is an excellent piece up at ESPN.com on Arizona State baseball coach Pat Murphy which is worth reading in its entirety. It also contains a few new details on the alleged misconduct within the program:

The complexity and seeming candor of Pat Murphy, undoubtedly, is making things difficult for Arizona State. When a coach is the subject of a university investigation and a school hires an outside firm to determine if he's broken NCAA rules, the normal protocol is that all parties must keep quiet.

"BASEBALL QUESTIONS ONLY," an ASU media type barks after the top-ranked Sun Devils blast Michigan on a cool desert night recently. A gaggle of reporters has little interest in Ike Davis' bat but ample curiosity about the internal rift that could put a major dent in one of college baseball's powerhouses. "IF YOU ASK A NON-BASEBALL QUESTION, THE PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE OVER."

Murphy, it seems, can't help himself. . . .

Step almost anywhere near Brock Ballpark, and they'll say Mikel Moreno is wrong and Pat Murphy is right. They'll paint Moreno as a bitter 32-year-old valet with fading dreams, an ex-employee bent on taking down a man who's been near the top of his profession for almost two decades. They'll say Moreno's allegations of academic fraud, recruiting violations and other improprieties are unfounded.

But step further, past the campus skateboarders and fist-pumping boosters, and you'll hear people call Moreno a "true Sun Devil," a hard-nosed former MVP outfielder who lived for the maroon-and-gold and just wants to do what is right. . . .

Moreno told investigators from Ice Miller, an Indianapolis-based law firm hired by ASU, that he called and made at least one recruiting visit to meet with coveted junior-college slugger Kiel Roling, eventually convincing Roling to withdraw his commitment to Mississippi and instead go to Tempe. Moreno was listed as a graduate manager at the time. Under NCAA rules, only coaches are allowed to recruit.

Moreno also made allegations of academic fraud.

When word of the university investigation hit in late-February, rumors swirled that more than half the team would be suspended for academic reasons. Murphy has disputed the rumors. The Sun Devils shrugged off the talk and rolled to a 12-0 start.

But questions still linger. Former ASU pitcher Jason Mitchell, who transferred to Central Arizona, told ESPN.com that he and a handful of teammates took online quizzes together last year and helped each other with the answers. Mitchell says the course, Music 354, was popular among baseball players. One semester they'd learn about the history of Elvis; another semester delves into the Beatles.

"We'd take it one at a time," Mitchell says. "One person would go, and the next person would go, and the answers would be the same.

"It is cheating, but I don't think it was anything major. I have friends outside the baseball team in the same classes, and they'd do the same thing. Every single person I knew did the same thing."

Mitchell says Murphy never encouraged him to cheat. The players knew grades were important. If you weren't dedicated enough to go to class, you weren't dedicated enough to play. In team meetings, Murphy called out players who struggled with grades. . . .

Though he calls Mitchell "a good kid," Murphy says he's upset by his former pitcher's claim. He says the university needs to take a serious look at online classes and whether they lend themselves to misdeeds. . . .

Murphy says he's confident the only thing the investigation will drudge up is ticky-tack unwitting violations.

We will see.

1. Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program
2. Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out
3. ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?
4. ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible

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