Another Day, Another Controversy

By J. Brady McCollough
Updated: May 17, 2008

KANSAS CITY — The NCAA intends to closely follow the Dallas Independent School District’s ongoing investigation into whether grades were changed to keep Kansas basketball forward Darrell Arthur eligible at South Oak Cliff High.

And, at least initially, the NCAA didn’t rule out the possibility that KU could receive some form of punishment. Stacey Osburn, Associate Director of Public and Media Relations at the NCAA, told The Star on Friday that it would be premature to speculate on Arthur’s situation until DISD has finished its investigation.

Pressed to speak more generally about whether a member institution could be penalized for a player’s academic transgressions in high school, Osburn said, “We look at these situations on a case-by-case basis.”

An unnamed NCAA representative told that there would need to be evidence that Arthur or Kansas had knowledge of the changed grades for there to be punishment.

On Thursday night, WFAA-TV, Dallas’ ABC affiliate, reported three instances of Arthur having math grades changed to stay eligible. One grade was claimed to have been altered during Arthur’s junior season in 2004-05, when South Oak Cliff won the Class 4A state title.

WFAA interviewed Arthur’s freshman math teacher, Winford Ashmore, who said he was asked by then-principal Donald Moten and current boys basketball coach James Mays to pass Arthur even though he was failing the class.

Ashmore asserted to the station that Arthur “really did not pass Algebra,” and went on to say that Arthur should not have made it through the NCAA clearinghouse to play major college basketball.

“We’re very disappointed that information was given out,” Mays said on Friday. “We feel it’s false information. Darrell has always been an excellent student, and we’re under the impression that the allegations are just unfounded. That’s all we can say as of now.”

KU coach Bill Self refused comment on the situation in Dallas, but did say that Arthur’s academic record at Kansas has been “very strong.”

“We are aware of the allegations as described in the news story,” Self said in a statement. “I’m sure the high school and the school district will do a good job determining the facts.”

All parties involved are deferring to the DISD investigation — including Arthur’s inner circle. Jazzy Hartwell, Arthur’s AAU coach, said that he, Arthur’s mother, Sandra, and Arthur have been instructed not to comment until the DISD inquiry is complete.

In the meantime, all KU officials can do is wait. Jim Marchiony, KU associate athletics director for external relations, said that the school contacted the NCAA on Thursday to notify the organization of WFAA’s report.

“As we see it,” Marchiony said, “this is an issue involving a Dallas high school and the Dallas high school district. And, as we sit here, there is absolutely no confirmation that anything improper occurred.”

Marchiony said that KU followed the same steps in admitting Arthur that it would any other student-athlete.

“The high school sends a transcript to the NCAA clearinghouse, and we get the transcript as well,” Marchiony said. “We wait for the NCAA to sign off on the transcript, certainly before anybody plays for us. Those are the rules, and the NCAA cleared Darrell, and we went from there.”

Arthur, a sophomore, averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks’ 2008 national championship team. He declared for the NBA draft but has not hired an agent, keeping his college eligibility alive.

Marchiony was asked whether Arthur would have to make up high school credit if he returned to KU for his junior year. “I’m not even going to try to answer that,” Marchiony said.

The answers will come soon enough. DISD issued a statement on Friday that indicated it is close to concluding its investigation.

The “district has engaged the Collegiate Sports Practice Group at Bond, Schoeneck and King, led by Michael S. Glazier, to conduct an independent review of the district’s existing policies, procedures and practices regarding student academic eligibility with a particular focus on athletics,” the statement said.

“The initial review is nearly complete and the district is awaiting a briefing from Mr. Glazier’s review team regarding findings and recommendations for best practices.”