Cajuns sue ACT over fraud scandal _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Scott Farmer, director of athletics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, speaks during a press conference Tuesday, January 12, 2016, at the UL-Lafayette Athletic Performance Center in Lafayette, La.

LAFAYETTE — On the day it received a ruling from the NCAA regarding alleged academic fraud committed by former assistant coach David Saunders, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette filed a lawsuit seeking recompense from ACT Inc.

The lawsuit stems from the NCAA investigation into Saunders, particularly on the allegation that Saunders directed prospective student athletes to the Wayne County High School testing center, where his accomplice, exam administrator Ginny Crager, would alter or fill in exam sheets so the student athletes received a passing grade.

“We think there is another entity that could have stopped some of this from taking place on our campus,” UL-Lafayette Athletic Director Scott Farmer said. “An entity that presidents around the country rely on to validate scores that are used for entrance into universities and for scholarships and so on and so forth.

“We feel that they somewhat slipped up on that responsibility.”

The university posits in the lawsuit that ACT either knew or should have known that exam personnel were altering students’ exam sheets as part of a “reasonable implementation of its duties to ensure valid testing conditions and exam scores.”

Taking that as a reasonable assumption, the suit points out that ACT also failed to notify the university of the existence or potential existence of fraudulent tests.

“Due to the failure to detect improper test administration or exam results at one of its Mississippi testing sites, failure to timely investigate the matter and failure to notify the NCAA or UL-Lafayette of exam score improprieties, the university chose to file a lawsuit against ACT Inc.,” Farmer said.

Furthermore, the lawsuit states the media coverage of the NCAA investigation into the allegedly fraudulent exams that took place at Wayne County led to “adverse publicity” that is “damaging to the UL’s reputation for integrity and impairs its ability to attract qualified students and faculty.”

The ACT test is one of two college readiness exams accepted at universities across the country, and students must earn specific “threshold scores” in order to gain admittance into a university.

The NCAA investigation focused on five prospective student athletes were sent to Wayne County High School to take the exam, most of whom had to travel a long distance to get there, including a pair who traveled more than 800 miles according to the NCAA’s findings.

Four of those five student-athletes’ exams were later canceled because of “unusual increases in the exam scores and substantial erasure patterns evincing numerous changes to the prospects’ answer sheets that resulted in numerous correct answers added to the prospects’ exams,” according to the NCAA investigation.

It’s worth noting that much of the data requested by the lawsuit dates on or after Jan. 1, 2005, though Saunders was not hired by the Cajuns until January of 2011. Saunders said during the investigation that his relationship with Crager started in 2005.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.

UL-Lafayette president Joseph Savoie said the suit goes beyond the investigation into the Cajuns football program.

“This is bigger than the Ragin’ Cajuns,” Savoie said in a statement. “This is bigger than college football. The credibility of college readiness test administration significantly affects higher education and needs to be addressed.”