PHOENIX—A fifth-period gym class at Derndell Middle School is under investigation by local authorities for failure to hustle during a basketball drill Monday.

Students in Coach Peeler’s fifth-period gym class could be trying a lot harder, officials say.

The gym teacher, coach Irv Peeler, is cooperating with authorities and has not been charged.

"I did everything I could," Peeler said in a press conference Monday. "I yelled, 'Come on, people, let's go, let's move,' and when that produced no effect, I yelled, 'Let's see some hustle out there.' But even then I could discern no evidence of hustling."

Peeler went on to say that the students displayed "very poor" effort.

Eyewitness testimony corroborates allegations that even during warm-up exercises, at least a dozen students failed to rotate fully during trunk twists, and that "a significant number" also failed to "adequately bend at the knees" during squat thrusts.

Among those named in the investigation were Brian Ericks, Dan Chester, Howie Goldberg, Tim Miraglia and Todd Pollack.

The report also indicated that of the 30 pupils in the class, six failed to come to class dressed in the proper gym gear. Those six were instructed by Peeler to sit on the mats along the far wall for the duration of the class. Their unpreparedness was also noted with a 'U' next to their names in Peeler's gym log.

Despite the class' poor performance during warm-up exercises, the main focus of the investigation is the basketball drill that followed. After counting off by fours in a somewhat lethargic fashion, the class then formed two teams of roughly equal abilities. However, upon commencing play it became obvious that none of the students, including some who are active in Derndell Middle School athletics programs, were in any way "hustling."

According to early reports, some members of the class weren't even up on the balls of their feet. Further, none of the students were observed going for the ball, showing good effort or otherwise "digging it out" in any way.

In addition to the lack of hustle, evidence indicates that there was a considerable amount of talking during attendance-taking, delaying the start of the physical-activity portion of class for nearly seven minutes.

"After blowing my whistle failed to achieve quiet, I made it clear to the class that if they did not settle down, they would sit for the entire period," Coach Peeler told local authorities. "I also made it clear that I did not care if it came to that, as I had grading to do."

"These students," Peeler said, "are motor mouths."

Only one class member, Randy Grabecki, was cleared from the investigation, as he has been excused from gym class all semester with a signed doctor's note. "Randy has flat feet," the boy's mother, Helene Grabecki, told reporters.

Peeler said he sensed trouble early on in the period. "I had them run some easy laps around the gym to warm up before doing stretching exercises," he said. "But when they went to stretch, well, they just sort of sat around on the mats. That should have been an indication to me right there that something wasn't right."

Eyewitnesses report that Peeler did seem to be trying to "fire up" the class by clapping his hands and yelling, "C'mon, people!"

If investigations do produce sufficient evidence to prove a lack of hustle, consequences for the fifth-period class could be fairly serious. Extra laps would likely be assigned, and revocation of "outside gym" privileges for when the weather becomes nice would be all but certain.

In addition, scoliosis checks—during which students must stand shirtless in the gym for upwards of 30 minutes while waiting to be examined by the school nurse—would be upped from once a year to twice a week.

Severe as that may seem, for two members of the class, the punishment could be even worse.

"This class includes Jeff Johnson and Tim Schutz, two of the most athletic boys in school," said Bob Joravsky of the National Council on Physical Fitness. "For them not to hustle, well, we'd have no choice but to strip them of their Presidential Physical Fitness awards. It's that bad."

According to Joravsky, in a high-profile case such as this, President Clinton would likely come to Derndell Middle School and ceremonially remove the Presidential Physical Fitness patches from the boys' denim jackets himself.

Monday's incident is the most serious scandal to rock Derndell Middle School's physical education department since 1991, when five students were permanently expelled from school for "failure to rotate" during a volleyball match.