Pending investigation into Texas Athletics an opportunity for change

On Monday, President Gregory Fenves ordered an independent review of the University’s athletics department (Texas Athletics) following allegations of academic misconduct against three former student-athletes by the Chronicle for Higher Education. Fenves said he has “no concerns” that the allegations of academic misconduct are true. This may very well be correct, but his decision to initiate an independent review, overseen by Gene Marsh, former chairman of the NCAA’s infractions committee, was both a responsible and proactive step towards identifying and eliminating potential misconduct within Texas Athletics as a whole.

The NCAA has been rife with accusations of student-athlete academic misconduct in recent years, with more than twenty pending investigations in January alone. Though the NCAA is not currently pursuing an investigation into this University, Marsh will know how to identify cases of wrongdoing and implement responsible solutions from his vast experience from his years with the organization. This is a promising indication that Fenves’s decision could effect real change in the dangerous culture that created these allegations.

The decision to investigate the whole of Texas Athletics, as opposed to isolated groups such as the basketball team, was a good — if somewhat unexpected — decision. As the Chronicle only reported incidents involving the basketball team rather than the entire department, the investigation appears to be targeting administrative complicity in these incidents, rather than isolated episodes of student wrongdoing. We feel confident that the decision to re-examine the entirety of Texas Athletics makes the first step toward systemic improvement.

Steve Patterson, UT men’s athletic director, was included in a conference call between Fenves and the press Tuesday morning. The administration’s inclusion of Patterson is in line with Fenves’s confidence in the department’s lack of wrongdoing. We hope Patterson’s involvement thus far is an indication of departmental cooperation in the investigation to come.

According to Fenves, in comments he made to the press via conference call Tuesday morning, the investigation into Texas Athletics will last for several months. As a developing story, we reserve judgment of Texas Athletics, in full knowledge that a department-wide investigation has been launched over alleged misconduct; as far as we know, many current UT student-athletes may be the model of academic integrity. What we choose to focus on, instead, is the decisiveness of Fenves in seeking to root out whatever toxicity led to the allegations. We hope that this investigation will lead to a healthier system for student-athletes at UT and that Fenves will continue to confront systemic malaise University-wide.