UK Men's Basketball

Eric Bledsoe investigation fails to prove academic fraud

Eric Bledsoe played one season for Kentucky, during which the team gained its 2,000th victory.
Eric Bledsoe played one season for Kentucky, during which the team gained its 2,000th victory.

An independent investigation into the high school transcript of former University of Kentucky basketball player Eric Bledsoe found no direct evidence to support allegations of academic fraud.

The report commissioned by the Birmingham City Schools and made public on Friday found that several grades were "conspicuously changed." The investigators found that a teacher's explanation for one questionable grade change was "not credible."

But the report seemed to stop short of a conclusion that could lead the NCAA to retroactively rule Bledsoe ineligible for college competition last season.

Such a ruling would raise the possibility of the NCAA ordering UK to vacate the 34 victories in which Bledsoe participated last season.

Incomplete records hampered the investigation by the Birmingham law firm of White, Arnold and Dowd. The four-page report notes that Alabama regulations require grade books (which include the teacher's name, class, names of students and their grades) to be maintained for three years.

The first high school Bledsoe attended, Hayes High, was unable to provide any of the grade books for the former UK player's 11th-grade year, the report said.

"We are unable to make a determination of whether the Hayes High School grades were changed," the report said.

Bledsoe transferred to another Birmingham high school, Parker High, where his transcript showed he took 15 courses in the 2008-09 academic year, the report said. Investigators obtained grade books for only six of those courses.

Names, classes and grades were redacted on the report released by the Birmingham Board of Education. However, The Birmingham News confirmed the class in question is Algebra III and was taught by Larry Webster.

The three-month investigation by the Birmingham law firm concluded that Webster changed Bledsoe's Algebra III grades for the first and second terms in 2008-09, the report said. Webster acknowledged making the changes, according to the report, and explained that Bledsoe completed "make-up and extra work" that justified the grade changes.

"We do not credit this explanation," the report said. "We note that the teacher changed (Bledsoe's) grades far more frequently than those of any other students in his class."

The Associated Press reported that Craig Witherspoon, the Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools, said the investigators found no documentation to justify the improvement in Bledsoe's grade.

But, he said, the investigation did not prove the higher grade was improper, either.

Reginald McDaniel, a Birmingham-based attorney representing Bledsoe's coach at Parker High School, voiced his disappointment that the report did not affirm the former UK player's transcript as valid.

"This dampens the day for those who were hoping (for such validation)," McDaniel said.

The report does not address an article written by the Birmingham News earlier this month that said the transcript showed that Bledsoe took Algebra III before taking Algebra II.

Joseph Martin, the principal at Parker High when Bledsoe enrolled in the night-school course, was asked by the Birmingham News whether it was common for students to take the Algebra classes out of sequence.

"It isn't normal for a person to do that or be allowed to do that," Martin told the newspaper. "Had I looked at the transcript, I wouldn't have allowed him to do that. By the time he got to us, I guess what we had to do ..."

Martin paused, the paper said, before continuing, "Well, I ain't even going there with that. I'm going to my grave with that."

Martin was removed as principal in December 2008, when an audit revealed money was missing at the school, The Birmingham News reported.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart issued a statement in response to Friday's release of the Birmingham City Schools report.

"Eric Bledsoe was part of our normal institutional process, the NCAA's normal eligibility cycle and a more extensive secondary review by the NCAA Eligibility Center, as well," he said in the statement. "We maintain our reliance on the high school, university and NCAA Eligibility Center for initial eligibility and will continue to do so."

Barnhart also noted, "At no point was the University of Kentucky under investigation by the NCAA nor had any reason to believe we were ever under investigation."

As for Bledsoe's eligibility status and any repercussions for UK, NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said, "We'll have to review the report and work with the University of Kentucky to determine if there's any impact."

However, UK sees no repercussions ahead.

"It is our understanding that this matter is closed," UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy said last night.

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