More Eric Bledsoe Q&A

The Birmingham News has a follow-up report to the Eric Bledsoe academic investigation, findings of which are reported to be due out this week from the Alabama state high school athletic association.

Read its story here.

The main point, as pertains to discussions around here, is this:

The four-year transcript submitted by Bledsoe to UK and the NCAA contains a grade in an Algebra 3 night school class that differs from an individual grade sheet from the class. Bledsoe’s transcript shows a grade of A in Algebra 3, the grade sheets show an average grade of C from the class. Calculations by the newspaper show that a grade of C would have put Bledsoe below the NCAA’s core requirements and made him ineligible.

There’s a bunch of other stuff, and while it’s interesting and newsworthy, has no real bearing on what’s going on with UK.

Now, on to some Q&A . . .

Q: Is Kentucky being accused of any wrongdoing?

A:
No.

Q: Could Kentucky, nonetheless, be forced to vacate wins from games in which Bledsoe competed?

A:
Yes.

Q: How?

A:
If Alabama school officials change his transcript or his academic record to a lower grade than was provided the NCAA, and if that change means Bledsoe’s grades then were not sufficient to qualify for NCAA competition, the NCAA could (not necessarily will, mind you, but could) rule that Kentucky achieved its victories with an ineligible player and, as it has done with other schools, mandate that its victories be vacated.

Q: What if Alabama school officials take a look at everything, and the report is issued later this week and the state takes no action, or says that the grade is legitimate?

A:
Then this thing is over and everybody moves on. The entire key in this is what Alabama school officials do. If they change Bledsoe’s academic record, the NCAA then could move forward and take action. If they make no change, then it’s over, and that’s that.

Q: So you’re saying that even if UK did not know, and made a good-faith effort to verify his academic records, and got help from the NCAA in doing so, it could still possibly have to vacate wins?

A:
Possibly, yes. Bledsoe’s situation differs from, say Derrick Rose’s SAT situation at Memphis, because it would appear that there was more consultation between the school and the NCAA before Bledsoe ever took the court. You have to wonder if that might mitigate things some in favor of UK.

Q: Can the NCAA actually hold a school accountable for something it did not know.

A:
Yes. Remember this phrase. “Strict liability.” In legal terms, it is a situation in which a person is responsible for the ramifications of his acts regardless of his culpability (fault or blameworthiness). In the case of Rose at Memphis, the NCAA actually ruled that whether or not Memphis knew Rose’s SAT was fraudulent at the time was, and this is the NCAA’s word, irrelevant. It concluded that the canceled SAT score brought about a strict liability situation. Whether it would conclude the same for a revised transcript is a matter of speculation. For more insight on the NCAA’s view on this, read this section of the NCAA report on Rose (page 13), a one paragraph explanation followed by a transcript of a discussion with a lawyer from Memphis (I have italicized some key phrases).

The committee concluded that, due to the fact that student-athlete 1’s SAT score was cancelled by ETS, student-athlete 1 was rendered academically ineligible to compete during the entire 2007-08 season, including the 2008 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. This is a “strict liability” situation. The institution’s assertion that, prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, it did not have sufficient information to conclude that student-athlete 1’s SAT test would be cancelled was not relevant under the circumstances. This was discussed during the hearing in the following exchange:

COMMITTEE MEMBER: But I want you all to address, both sides, the issue of if either one doesn’t have a valid test score — let me give you an example. We have situations that come up from time to time before this committee where something is learned after the fact, such as person actually played sports at another institution. Nobody knew, but that person didn’t have eligibility remaining, so they were ineligible. If you have a test score that is invalidated, you didn’t have the scores to be admitted to begin with. Where am I wrong?
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: At the time he was admitted on the score that was provided at the time, is that your question? Was he eligible, in looking backwards, whether he was eligible or not
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Yes. He didn’t have the score.
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: We have acknowledged that.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: You have acknowledged that he was ineligible.
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: Yes, and we have to address that, based on the after-the-fact information.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: It doesn’t matter.
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: I understand, but that is the basis. We don’t believe — we do believe that the university proceeded appropriately based on the information that it had at the time in allowing him to play.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Even if they had not known and his score was later cancelled, it will be the same problem. It is not about what they did or didn’t do. I am only saying they had some information that there could have been a problem, and they proceeded after the fact. If nothing had happened, i
f you had no information and ETS cancelled his score at a later date, he didn’t have an admissible entry qualification.

UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: That’s correct. We have not contested that.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Okay. So, he was ineligible?
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: Yes; yes, sir. The university was not aware at the time he was ineligible.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: I didn’t suggest that they were.
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: Okay.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: I am not saying they cheated. I am saying this young man was not eligible to participate.
UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL: That is correct.

Q: I’ve heard people mention Darrell Arthur, who played for the Kansas NCAA championship team in 2008 and who was found to have grades changed in high school. Kansas was not penalized. Wasn’t it because Kansas didn’t know?

A:
Darrell Arthur was one of several players found to have had grades changed in an investigation of his high school in Dallas. Texas athletic officials stripped his school of a state high school basketball championship as a result. Kansas, however, received no sanctions even though Arthur played for its championship team in 2008. The question is why, and that question, as far as I can tell, has never been officially answered by the NCAA. All I have found is a report from ESPN, before the finding, that stated: “An unnamed NCAA representative told ESPN.com that there would need to be evidence that Arthur or Kansas had knowledge of the changed grades for there to be punishment.” Now, this isn’t exactly handed down from NCAA headquarters. A lot of people are assuming that this is the reason Kansas wasn’t sanctioned. I have a different assumption. I think the NCAA took no action because Texas school officials did not move to invalidate Arthur’s high school transcript or amend his grades in any way. The NCAA would only move if he became (I hate this phrase) retroactively ineligible on paper. He did not.

Q: So what does all this mean?

A: Everything, I believe, hinges on what the Alabama school officials do. And I mean actual action. If they find that Bledsoe’s transcript was inaccurate, but do not retroactively change it back, then the NCAA likely does nothing. What they say, or what the media reports, and in essence, what actually is the truth, matter less than what the state does. If Bledsoe’s transcript is amended, then UK could be looking at losing victories — though again, that’s not a given. But if Bledsoe’s high school transcript is left as-is, whether irregularities are confirmed by the investigation or not, then I don’t think you’ll see any action by the NCAA. What the body says about grade changes, or even any action they take against him athletically (making his high school team give up wins, etc.) is of no consequence to his NCAA standing. What they do with his transcript, however, could be.

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