Alabama probe of Eric Bledsoe important for UK

NCAA expected to rely on Alabama H.S. probe

jtipton@herald-leader.comSeptember 15, 2010 

Precedent suggests that a Birmingham, Ala., school system investigation into Eric Bledsoe's academic records will play a key role in determining if the University of Kentucky's basketball program could be affected by questions about the former player's high school transcript.

With the results of that investigation expected to be made public as soon as Wednesday, UK can hope the case involving Kansas and Darrell Arthur two years ago repeats itself.

South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, which already had forfeited its 2006 Texas state championship because of improperly altered grades for another player, investigated whether Arthur's grades also were improperly altered. Arthur was the second-leading scorer (12.8 points per game) for the Kansas team that won the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

According to a former teacher and transcripts obtained by a Dallas television station, Arthur was not passing math as a high school junior, but his grade was changed without the teacher's knowledge.

The investigation by South Oak Cliff High found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. Kansas kept its national championship. If the investigation found wrongdoing, Kansas would have faced the possibility of vacating each victory that season in which Arthur participated and the national championship.

Potentially, Kentucky sits at a similar crossroads with Bledsoe, whose high school transcript was the focus of a New York Times story this spring that detailed a substantial improvement in grades when the player transferred from one high school to another in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. The story noted that NCAA personnel had been in Birmingham asking questions about the transcript.

At the request of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), the Birmingham school system hired outside attorneys to investigate Bledsoe's academic records at Hayes and Parker high schools compared to his final transcript.

A story in the Birmingham News on Tuesday included such details as:

■ Bledsoe got an A in Algebra 3 in night school sessions as a senior at Parker High before then taking Algebra 2 the following semester.

■ Bledsoe had a 1.75 grade-point average in core classes at Hayes High before attaining a 3.0 core GPA at Parker.

■ Bledsoe's grades in core classes at Hayes included only one better than a C: a B in a summer-school English class. At Parker, he had an A or B in seven of 10 core classes.

■ Bledsoe got a D in biology at Hayes, then got an A in the equivalent class at Parker by taking a Brigham Young University Independent Studies Course offered online. Subsequently, the NCAA banned such online courses beginning Aug. 1 of this year.

Bledsoe could not be reached for comment. Reginald McDaniel, a Birmingham-based attorney representing then-Parker High coach Maurice Ford, described Tuesday's Birmingham News story as a rehash of previously reported allegations. "The same kind of accusations totally unsubstantiated at this point," he said.

The newspaper said Bledsoe's four-year transcript shows he made an A in Algebra 3 by receiving a 90 during each of the two sessions. However, a grade report from those night sessions showed Bledsoe was recorded as making a C average.

McDaniel noted The Birmingham News story later had the Algebra 3 teacher, Larry Webster, saying the final course grade recorded on the night-school grade report is wrong. "You've got the wrong grade," he was quoted as telling the newspaper. "There are two of those printout sheets. I already talked to the (school) board attorney."

McDaniel said he did not know if Bledsoe took Algebra 3 before taking Algebra 2. He declined to comment on details of Bledsoe's core grades as reported by The Birmingham News.

As for the improvement of Bledsoe's GPA, the attorney noted the former UK player attended Parker for two full semesters and part of a third.

"Three semesters is plenty of time to raise a GPA," he said.

McDaniel expressed confidence the investigation commissioned by the Birmingham school system will bring a happy ending for Bledsoe and UK.

"I don't think there will be any credible evidence of any wrongdoing," he said.

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