Saturday Bledsoe column

This column appears in Saturday’s print edition of The Courier-Journal.

I wonder if, when he was sitting in that fateful Algebra 3 class in high school, Eric Bledsoe ever imagined this equation: u + A = UK2K.

Something feels wrong when so much time, interest and intensity is focused on one kid’s grade in a math class. I know people who spent more time lately thinking about the former University of Kentucky basketball player’s Algebra 3 grade than they did their own kids’ grades. Come to think of it, I was probably one of them.

Today, UK’s victories (including No. 2,000) that were earned last season with Bledsoe’s help look safe.

Though an independent legal investigation found it was “not credible” for a teacher to have changed Bledsoe’s senior year grade in Algebra3 from a C to an A, the teacher told investigators that Bledsoe did makeup work to raise his grade, and Birmingham superintendent Craig Witherspoon said he hadn’t seen anything to suggest the transcript should be changed now.

NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said the NCAA will look into the report with UK, but UK spokesman DeWayne Peavy said the school’s understanding is “that the matter is closed.”

And if the NCAA’s past behavior in grade-change situations means anything, it does not take retroactive action on a player’s eligibility unless another sanctioning body changes the player’s academic status first.

Translation: If the transcript fits, you must acquit.

The timing of all this locally has been interesting. Over the past few days we’ve seen stories on the front page of this newspaper about Louisville public schools struggling to keep pace with national standards, even as the interest level in this one grade from one young man has reached a fever pitch because of his status as a UK basketball player.

I don’t know how much passion is being aroused by the latest round of test scores out of Jefferson County public schools. I do know that Eric Bledsoe is one child who was not left behind.

So where does this rather ambiguous turn of events leave me? Somewhere between outrage and amusement.

My assumption is that there are thousands of Eric Bledsoes running around the fields and courts in NCAA contests, players who got assistance here or there, some deserving, some not. I spoke to several high school teachers who wouldn’t dare be quoted for fear of e-mail blasts from Big Blue Nation. But all shared a belief — a kid’s grade is what the teacher says it is.

I sure can’t look at Bledsoe, who lived in poverty I’ve never experienced, and pass any kind of high-minded judgment.

At the same time, the one independent body that had no stake in whether or not Bledsoe played basketball came back with no credible reason for his grade to be changed. Every other institution that had a stake in his basketball — his high school, the school district, UK and the NCAA — saw no credible reason for him not to “bring his A-game” and lace ’em up.

Is that an overly cynical view? You better believe it. But none of this is new, nor is it surprising, nor is it unique to Bledsoe or UK or John Calipari.

They all will roll on. The ball will keep bouncing. Bledsoe, though his academic record has been paraded before the nation, is no victim, either. He’s a millionaire and a beneficiary of the system, not a victim of it.

All of this could be addressed. Colleges could be forced into more transparency on what classes their players are taking. The NCAA could become more rigorous in its eligibility process. These issues with grades and test scores could be settled before a player plays and not after.

But right now, that’s not the way the game is played.

Reach Eric Crawford at (502) 582-4372 or ecrawford@courier-journal.com. Comment on this column, and read his blog and previous columns, at www.courier-journal.com/crawford.

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