An egregious case of standardized test fraud on Tuesday drew the wrath of the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- and prompted the punished university, in turn, to sue the test provider, ACT.
The NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions on Tuesday imposed a set of penalties on the sports program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette after concluding that a former assistant football coach there had arranged with the head of a Mississippi testing center to falsify the ACT scores of five players or prospective players since 2010. The coach was also found to have made cash payments to one player.
As is the NCAA's practice, the association's report does not identify the parties involved, but Louisiana-Lafayette's own statements identified the former coach as David Saunders and the test center administrator as Ginny Crager, a former teacher at Wayne County High School.
According to the NCAA, Saunders knew Crager because he had previously recruited a player from her high school. (Saunders formerly coached at the University of Mississippi, as well as at Baylor, the University of Tennessee and Arkansas State University, among others.) The coach arranged for the recruits to take or retake the ACT at the Mississippi high school even though it was, for most of them, hundreds of miles from where they lived. The test center administrator in question administered all their exams. In most cases, the players had performed poorly the first time they took the test, and on the answer sheets from the Mississippi center, scores of responses were changed.
The association's investigation found that Saunders exchanged dozens of text messages with some of the players (or their family members) on the days they took the exams in Mississippi.
Louisiana-Lafayette dismissed Saunders in October 2014, according to the NCAA, which praised the university for its aggressive investigation of the violations and said it found no evidence that anyone else at the university acted inappropriately.
University officials generally accepted the NCAA's findings (though disputing the conclusion that Saunders had paid one of the players) and the penalties, most of which Louisiana-Lafayette had imposed on itself.
But the university, in turn, wants ACT to pay a price for its role in the wrongdoing and for the painful aftermath, which has brought bad publicity and forced the university spend heavily on legal fees.
"The damages and harm suffered by UL because of ACT's misrepresentation of the prospective student-athletes' exam scores to UL and the NCAA were the direct and foreseeable results of ACT's failure to act," the university said in its lawsuit.
As Louisiana-Lafayette explains it, ACT failed to take "reasonable precautions" to ensure that the scores it reported to the university and to the association were valid, by inadequate supervision of the testing center's staff and failure to investigate "when it knew or should have known facts indicating there was an actual or potential problem with the validity of the scores it reported."
Louisiana-Lafayette suffered because it relied, to its "detriment," on ACT to report valid scores. The university seeks unspecified relief from a state court.
An ACT spokesperson said the test provider never comments on pending litigation.