Since John Calipari arrived in Lexington, Kentucky basketball is now a year round affair, with stories coming every day and my morning check of the Twitter wire leading to once a week stories to digest. The latest comes from the Birmingham News and its report on the Eric Bledsoe transcripts. The news article was released just prior to the law firm findings which come out later in the week and will be the likely definitive statement as to whether Eric Bledsoe’s transcripts were legitimate. I went into some detail about the situation on the radio, but the simplistic summary is this. The article explored three issues on Eric Bledsoe’s transcripts, two of which are likely irrelevant and one of which will be the key question for UK going forward:
1. Bledsoe took BYU online classes to get eligible
2. He took Algebra 3 before Algebra 2
3. His final grades in math courses were significantly higher than the “Grade reports” of his given prior to the transcript grade.
The first two issues are ultimately of little relevance. While the BYU system (most famously shown in the “Blind Side”) is somewhat shady and is no longer allowed by the NCAA, it was at the time and was used by literally hundreds of athletes in the South and Midwest. Good, bad or indifferent, the process was legal at the time and wont effect Bledsoe. The second issue looks bad on the surface, but actually is not all that uncommon in public high schools. Because of scheduling and the like, I took Art III, having never taken Art I or II at Middlesboro High School and I was sufficiently awful at all of the classes to make my transcripts from Mr. Felice surely an issue. Will Lentz, a writer on this site, says he took Algebra III before Algebra II in high school, because the subjects were sufficiently different. It is odd, but in today’s public high school system, it does happen…so it is likely not a big enough deal to warrant NCAA attention.
What is a bigger deal is the potential grade discrepancy between the final report and the Bledsoe transcripts. If you believe the Birmingham report (and it in my view is thorough enough that it should be taken at face value), then the discrepancy is an issue. Was the grade different because it was preliminary and Bledsoe improved? Was the grade changed? Did Bledsoe know about the difference? Did the school know about the difference? All of these questions will matter, and will determine whether two grades in night classes at a high school in Birmingham will effect UK’s last season. One must first determine the factual question as to whether the grades were changed and if they were, was it a wrongful change. If that is found to have taken place, then the next step would likely be with the NCAA.
This is where the issue starts to become important for Kentucky. It is important to remember that niether UK nor the NCAA sees these “grade reports” when determining eligibility. They only see the final transcripts and thus this information, is not part of the normal Clearinghouse procedure. What happens if the NCAA later finds out that the grades differed from the transcript is not really clear. A similar situation occurred at Kansas with Darrell Arthur and the NCAA said the question was whether the school or Arthur “knew or should have known” about the grade change. But a difference with Arthur is that after the fact, it was determined he would have still been eligible, even if the original grade were used. Is that a distinction without a meaningful difference? Only the NCAA will know for sure.
Here is what we know for sure. At this point, the one issue that remains with Bledsoe’s transcript is the question of the grades his Senior year. I find it unlikely that the fact he got As and Bs his Senior year instead of Cs and Ds will end up amounting to much of anything. The NCAA knows this happens all the time for players in every program…my guess is that they dont go breaking down the grades on that micro level. However if grade changing is shown and proven (and at this point it is simply alleged), that is a different issue and one that could bring the NCAA back to the table. That is why the report by the law firm that comes out this week is so important. The newspaper reports (and this one is much more thorough and well-done than Pete Thamel’s embarassment from Memorial Day weekend) get the publicity, but the investigation will be the one the NCAA cares most about. That comes out later this week and will tell us much more about what UK is looking at going forward.
For more on the issue, check out Hour 1 of our radio show today below…and listen to the rest as well…just because.