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The Passing Game

Former Houston players allege they were forced to pursue less challenging majors

Last week an investigation into irregularities at the University of Houston turned up allegations of grade fixing. But it also uncovered a practice that, while not against NCAA rules, suggests the school tried to give student-athletes an easy academic experience, even if they didn't want it. Three former athletes told SI they were steered away from their chosen major: One, former receiver and sprinter Damien Montgomery, says advisers changed his major without his knowledge.

When he arrived at Houston in 1997, Montgomery told his counselors he loved to write and wanted to major in English. He says he was told "those classes would conflict with football practice," but he was permitted to take a few English courses and led to believe that was the degree he was pursuing. Four years later he was shocked when a counselor outside the athletic department said he was nowhere near an English degree. "My classes were so screwed up that a sociology degree was the one I was closest to," he says. (Says Dave Maggard, Houston's AD, "I have not seen people discourage an athlete from getting a particular degree.")

Montgomery says it seemed as if all football players "had a damn sociology degree." Refusing, he says, "to follow that trend," he paid his own way to pursue an English degree. Last May, eight years after entering Houston, he got it--and one in sociology. "I was close enough; I figured, why not get them both," says Montgomery, who lives in Houston, where he plays semipro football and just finished a novel about his experiences. "It makes me mad that I had a scholarship but still had to take out loans for school. But it feels good because I did this for myself." --George Dohrmann

For the complete story on the allegations of academic fraud at the University of Houston, go to



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A love of literature kept Montgomery in college for eight years.