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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Brigham Young University sent a proctor to watch an athlete in Mississippi take a final exam in an effort to save the reputation of the school's online learning program.
The move comes after allegations surfaced that student athletes throughout the country were abusing BYU's online program to gain eligibility to play college sports.
For the past five years, according to two NCAA investigations and federal criminal indictments in Kansas, the online program has been used by coaches and athletes as an easy way to improperly gain or maintain athletic eligibility at other schools.
So last week, BYU paid to fly a test proctor to Mississippi to watch Jerrell Powe take an online algebra test.
Powe, a star defensive lineman at Wayne County High School, is one of the athletes being questioned over online courses he took through the Provo school.
"It's a rare but regular procedure," BYU spokesman Michael Smart said, adding that a proctor flies to testing sites about three times a year. "But this is the first time we've done it for an athlete."
Powe twice signed letters of intent to play for the University of Mississippi but when he finished his senior year in 2005, he didn't meet basic academic requirements for college. He enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., and took online courses through BYU to make up credits.
The NCAA later determined that Powe had received "significant" help with those courses, they were suspicious of the speed with which he completed some of the course work and declined to accept the credits to allow him to play. Powe appealed the decision and the NCAA Student Records Review Group denied the appeal in August, his spokesman Joe Barnett said.
Powe hasn't given up and BYU appears willing to help rectify the situation. He is retaking the 16 credits he needs to earn a high school diploma, four through BYU's online course and the rest through Wayne County High School and other online courses, Barnett said.
Barnett hopes Powe can have all course work finished by the end of May so Powe can sign a third letter of intent with Ole Miss in time to begin summer training. He said he has arranged a backup plan at an onsite school in case BYU's credits fall through.
Smart said the publicity the case has garnered did not affect the decision to send a proctor.
"We just want to make sure there would be no doubt about his exam," he said. "We mainly just want to ensure we preserve the integrity of the entire independent study program."
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)