Harvard Football Said to Risk Losing Players in Cheating Probe

Harvard University’s football team, favored to retain its Ivy League title in a preseason media poll, could lose some players this year because of the cheating probe disclosed by the school last month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Details regarding the number of players who might leave the team because of the investigation -- their names, and whether they’ve been required to withdraw for a year -- weren’t available, said the person, who declined to be named because the probe is confidential.

Harvard, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Aug. 30 that it was investigating about 125 students for academic misconduct on a take-home final exam. Students have said that collaboration on homework and exams was common and tolerated in the class, which they identified as a government course, Introduction to Congress.

Harvard’s Administrative Board, a disciplinary body established in 1980, investigates such allegations and hands out punishments. Jeff Neal, a Harvard spokesman, declined to comment today and referred to a Sept. 3 statement in response to questions.

“The board will meet with each student who is under investigation and work toward the resolution of each individual case,” Neal said in the statement. “We expect to learn more about the way the course was organized and how work was approached in class and on the take-home final.”

Easy Course

While the college revealed the existence and scope of the investigation, Harvard has declined to identify the course and students involved because all such information is legally confidential, Neal said.

Introduction to Congress, which had 279 students enrolled in the semester that ended in May, is thought to be a relatively easy course, students have said. One student’s 2010 evaluation called it: “An awesome class which is not very time consuming.”

Students found to have violated school rules can face a number of Administrative Board penalties, including a warning, academic probation and requirement to withdraw for a year. Some may be exonerated, Neal said.

Students who believe they’ll be told to withdraw can take a leave of absence, Neal said. Those who move to take leave early in the year may avoid paying at least some tuition and other charges, Jay Harris, Harvard’s dean of undergraduate education, said in an interview Aug. 30.

Harris called the cheating investigation the biggest in “living memory” at Harvard.

Harvard, undefeated in Ivy League play last season, gave up 17.1 points per game, the lowest in the league of eight private schools in the northeastern U.S. Harvard’s 37.4 points and 435.6 yards of offense per game were also both league-best.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Lauerman in Boston at jlauerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.