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Air Force Academy probes alleged cheating, athlete misconduct

Air Force Academy freshman cadets for the Class of 2021 march into Jacks Valley during basic training.

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 17, 2017

Cheating by more than a dozen freshmen Air Force Academy cadets on a low-stakes test and alleged misconduct by members of the school's lacrosse team were under separate investigations at the school Monday.

The academy said 13 freshmen were accused of cheating on a test of basic Air Force knowledge. The test includes simple questions, some asking cadets to recite quotes and name key military leaders.

"These tests are part of their military instruction and consist of questions related to military history, rank structure and other general knowledge," academy spokesman Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said Monday. "Because that investigation is ongoing as well, I can't divulge any further details."

Less was released about alleged problems on the lacrosse team.

"I can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation into the conduct of several players on the team," Herritage said. "Because that investigation is ongoing, I cannot disclose any further information."

Both issues are familiar ones for the academy, which has faced repeated probes into the conduct of its athletes and has had several cheating scandals involving freshmen.

In 2007, 36 freshmen cadets including 24 athletes were accused of cheating on the freshman knowledge exam. In 2004, the school's 4,000 cadets were restricted to the campus for a weekend after leaders found that 26 freshmen had cheated on the knowledge test.

The knowledge test is a low-stakes endeavor that's designed to give the freshman class an introduction to the military. No formal grades are given, but the freshmen are expected to know most of the facts before spring.

Cheating on that test, though, brings huge consequences at the academy. Cadets are expected to adhere to the honor code, which forbids lying, cheating, stealing and tolerating those who break the oath.

First-time cheaters are generally given a stiff probation. The second offense almost always results in expulsion.

The issues with the school's lacrosse team come after the squad reached the NCAA tournament last spring before bowing to the University of Denver.

What happened to trigger the investigation hasn't been disclosed, but the probe involves several of the more than 50 members of the men's team.

After a 2014 Gazette investigation revealed misconduct by academy athletes, the school undertook an internal investigation and redoubled efforts to ensure it was recruiting players who would avoid trouble.

The school also began a series of training programs to help athletes avoid strife.

Last summer, then-superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the academy had put its athlete-conduct woes behind it.

"Now they are our shining stars," she said in July.

Herritage said new academy commander Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria was taking the allegations against his cadets seriously.

"That's why these investigations are ongoing - because the concept of accountability is essential, both as we run an institution of higher learning and as we develop leaders who will lead airmen in the future," Herritage said.

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©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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