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Lie Prompted Washington’s Suspension

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

USC tailback Delon Washington has not played this football season because he lied to Pacific 10 Conference officials during their investigation of a controversial class that allegedly gave special treatment to athletes in the spring of 1995, The Times has learned.

Washington, USC’s leading rusher last season, was originally suspended for one game by the school but then was given an additional two-game suspension by the NCAA for what the school has said was an “ethical violation.” He will miss Saturday’s game against Oregon State at the Coliseum but will be eligible when the Trojans play at Houston on Sept. 21.

The class, designed to teach tutoring methods, came under scrutiny last spring when the Times reported that 30 of the 40 students enrolled were athletes, among them 14 members of the 1996 Rose Bowl team, and that all but one athlete had received an A. Reportedly, at least two students did not attend any classes nor did they turn in any course work.

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The Pac-10’s investigation is still pending, but the university discontinued the class after conducting its own investigation of campus grading practices, which included interviews with most of the students in the controversial class.

Washington was enrolled in the class and received an A. According to sources, his answers during the investigation did not coincide with those of other students interviewed. When asked about that later, Washington changed his responses, ultimately bringing about his suspension.

USC appealed the NCAA’s additional suspension by pointing to last season, when linebacker Errick Herrin had to sit out only one game for a similar violation. The Trojans’ appeal was denied.

According to the NCAA rule manual, an athlete must face suspension when “knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning the individual’s involvement in matters relevant to a possible violation.” However, the manual does not have a guideline for disciplinary action.

“That’s why we appealed, because we had already suspended him for a game,” said a USC source. “If anything, we thought that [Washington] should have only been given one additional game, not two.”

In announcing the original suspension, the school released a statement before the Trojans played Penn State in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 25, saying that it was for a “non-football related rule violation.”

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Coach John Robinson said that “the violation was not connected to [Washington’s] involvement with the football team,” but later referred to the “infraction” as a “one-time happening” and admitted that Washington had acknowledged the infraction.

Washington has declined to comment but USC released a statement from him before the Penn State game, which said: “There’s not too much I can say. I’ll persevere. All I can do is accept the situation and just go on.”

The class in question was taught by tenured Professor Vernon Broussard and was regarded as an easy A for athletes. Two athletes told investigators that Janice Henry, an academic advisor in the athletic department, enrolled them in the class, claiming that the course workload was nearly “nonexistent.”

According to a school representative, Broussard is not teaching this semester because he chose early retirement and is on part-time status. However, he has a reputation for conducting classes that do not require much course work and rely heavily on group projects.

“The [tutoring] class did not require any real work,” said one student. “The only thing we really had to do was go on a field trip and then turn in an opinion paper.”

Broussard, whose status will be reevaluated after the Pac-10’s investigation has been completed, admitted in a Times interview in April that the class in question was not a difficult course.

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“I announce to the students the first day of class that attendance is not mandatory and that everyone in the class can earn an A,” he said. “It is virtually impossible to fail my class.”

The suspension is Washington’s second in three seasons. As a freshman in 1994, he gained 109 yards against Washington in the season opener. He played the next game against Penn State but was withheld from competition for the rest of the regular season when his college board score was challenged.

Security personnel from American College Testing challenged his ACT exam, which they said showed a marked improvement over his first score. He took the exam a third time during the suspension, passed it, and returned to play in USC’s 55-14 victory over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

Washington led the team in rushing with 1,109 yards last season, becoming the first Trojan to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season since 1990.

USC has gained 296 yards rushing in two games.

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