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Report: Air Force tailored class around two former star players

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The explosive story that came out over the weekend from the Colorado Springs Gazette primarly detailed alleged nefarious and illegal behavior from former cadets/football players at the United States Air Force Academy. It also puts a damning light on former administrators and coaches that allowed such a culture to foster, the purported wrongdoings spanning the course of a decade.

We've detailed AFA's impending investigation, which is mostly regarding football, over at Eye on College Football.

But there is a basketball angle to this. The Gazette's report claims one economics class was "created" to help/ease the burden on two former star AFA hoops players, back in 2004-05. The class was held to accomodate the players' schedules, reportedly taught specifically to tailor around their games and practice time.

This kind of thing isn't uncommon, but to see how former econ prof David Mullen laid it out to the Gazette, you can understand why it would raise eyebrows.

Specifically, I was asked personally to run a section of microeconomic theory where I taught it to two students -- the two star basketball players on the team at the time," Mullin said. "Not just basketball players -- only the two stars."

Mullin said he gave in to the request by his boss in 2005 and taught the course to the smallest class he'd seen -- center Nick Welch and guard Antoine Hood, who had lead the team to the 2004 NCAA Tournament, where they were knocked out in the first round.

"Antoine Hood received an A- and Nick Welch received a B. How did that happen? I tailored meeting times around their playing schedule," Mullin wrote in an email to The Gazette. "There was a stretch where we didn't meet fo rtwo weeks. Everything was customized. I watched over them as they did their homework. We had the DFEG (Department of Economics and Geosciences) conference room regularly booked for our meetings. Welch initially was given an incomplete but was allowed to complete the course several months later. This was also most unusual."

[Andy] Armacost, the dean, admits that the basketball stars got special treatment, but denies there was any wrongdoing. Often, he said, cadets -- athletes and nonathletes -- encounter scheduling conflicts that require special arrangements. The two stars, he said, needed a class time that didn't conflict with basketball practice.

"I would say what we were trying to do is accomodate the needs of an economics major," Armacost said.

Is moving class time around to help students at advantage? Some could argue yes. Others -- perhaps the NCAA -- could take issue with a course explicitly being taught for only two players.

At a time where the University of North Carolina has endured three long, ongoing years of attacks and allegations over academic improriety -- and straight-up phony courses -- for its former student-athletes, this information from another highly regarded American institution is unsettling.

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