Jon Solomon, a reporter for the Birmingham News, has written a story published today on the on-going Eric Bledsoe eligibility saga which answers a few questions and raises even more. Solomon, in his piece, does a nice bit of straight reporting on the issues surrounding the elevation of Bledsoe's core class GPA from 1.75 to 3.0 after his senior year transfer from Hayes High School to Parker High School.
Recapping what we already know: Bledsoe, during his first three years of high school, attended Hayes High School in Birmingham (Bledsoe transferred to Parker because Hayes was closing its doors). In his three years at Hayes, Bledsoe had a 1.75 core class GPA, allowing him to remain eligible for athletic competition per the Alabama High School Athletic Association standards. At Parker, Bledsoe raised his core class GPA by making an A in a night school course in Algebra 3 -- The night school course was separated into two terms, each nine weeks long --and by erasing a D he received in biology during his sophomore year at Hayes with an A which he earned through Brigham Young's Independent Study course during his senior year at Parker.
Without the raising of Bledsoe's GPA in his core classes, he would not have been eligible to play college basketball in the fall on 2009.
The New Finding
At the heart of the matter lies this new finding: According to Solomon's report, Bledsoe's official transcript shows he made an A in the night school Algebra 3 class, but a grade report for the class shows he made a C, with a low C recorded in the first nine-week session and a low B in the second session. Bledsoe also took the Algebra 3 course before he took Algebra 2 (which he took in the spring of his senior year). The A Bledsoe is credited with in the Algebra 3 class, coupled with the A he received through the BYU on-line course (erasing the D from his sophomore year), enabled Bledsoe to raise his core GPA from 1.75 to 2.5, barely bringing him above the required 2.475 needed to be college eligible based on the NCAA's sliding scale eligibility metric.
The Changing Grade
Bledsoe's Algebra 3 teacher at Parker, Larry Webster, gave this comment to Solomon over the phone concerning the discrepancy, "You've got the wrong grade. There are two printout sheets. I already talked to the (school) board attorney," he then declined further comment and "hung up."
Joseph Martin (now retired), who was Bledsoe's principal at Parker until he was reassigned in December (2008) of Bledsoe's senior year due to an audit which revealed missing funds (he still owes over $17,000 to the school according to Solomon's article), said he never changed a grade for Bledsoe, and furthermore, never saw his transcript, "I wouldn't have any reason to look at it (Bledsoe's transcript), and when the grades were posted, I was long gone."
The interim principal who took over at Parker High School for Martin in January on 2009 (Bledsoe's second semester at Parker), Allen Lewis, said the first semester grades were already "finalized" when he took over the post as principal at Parker, and that he also did not change any of Bledsoe's grades.
Raquel Williams, Parker's night school principal when Bledsoe took the night course, declined to comment on the matter. Susan Parks, Parker's "primary eligibility contact with the NCAA" also chose not to speak on the Bledsoe situation, saying instead about the potentiality of Bledsoe's grade being changed, "I can't answer that intelligently, because I'm not looking at the transcript and anything on the transcript is supposed to be confidential information. I don't feel well discussing that with you." Aaah, finally someone with a modicum of ethics in this little drama.
Parks did, though, volunteer this information regarding how Bledsoe was dealt with by the staff at Parker High School: "We kept a close eye on him. We knew that he was an inner-city student that just needed more guidance and that's what we did. We put his foot to the fire." Parks stated that herself, Maurice Ford (Parker's basketball coach), teachers, and the principal all participated in helping Bledsoe gain college eligibility, saying Bledsoe was an "average" student who needed an "extra push." It must have worked, because at Parker, Bledsoe received an A or B in seven of his 10 core classes, after making nothing higher than a C while at Hayes (other than a B Bledsoe made in a summer school session at Woodlawn High School, which made up for a previous failing grade in the class).
Jiving with Parks' recollection of how the Bledsoe eligibility issue was handled by the Parker staff: Upon Bledsoe's arrival at Parker High School (a month before the end of his junior year), Maurice Ford reportedly looked at Bledsoe's transcript and asked a school counselor to make a determination on what courses Bledsoe needed to make up in order to become eligible to play college basketball.
Out of Sequence
As noted above, Bledsoe took the Algebra 3 course prior to taking Algebra 2. Bledsoe's original principal at Parker, Joseph Martin, said this when asked about the unusual sequence in which Bledsoe took the two Algebra classes: "It isn't normal for a person to do that or be allowed to do that. Had I looked at his transcript, I wouldn't have allowed him to do that. By the time he got to us (Parker HS), I guess what we had to do" .... he then pauses ... "Well, I ain't even going there with that; I'm going to my grave with that."
Now, if that quote doesn't raise a rather large red flag ...
What is Martin hiding, if anything? One can only be left to make uneducated guesses, so I'll leave others to disseminate exactly what Martin means by, "I'm going to my grave with that."
Bledsoe's interim principal at Parker, Allen Lewis, stated he had "concerns" about the sudden elevation in Bledsoe's academic performance, but did not say anything to anyone because "he had no evidence of impropriety."
What It All Means
If (and that is a big "if") the NCAA determines that Bledsoe's grade was changed from a C to an A (without merit) in his Algebra 3 class at Parker High School, thus rendering him ineligible for collegiate competition, they then probably attempt to determine whether it was reasonable for UK coach John Calipari to have known about the change in grades. Of course, the NCAA Eligibility Center twice cleared Bledsoe for collegiate competition, and UK's compliance department also exhaustively investigated his grades. If the NCAA rules that Calipari had no real way of knowing about an (undeserved) grade change, then I believe UK's 2009 season is safe from attack, but, if they rule Calipari should have known, and that it is reasonable for him to have known, then a vacation of wins is certainly possible, and more than likely, probable.
Also, the troubling quote from Allen Martin could hold all manner of bad news, or, it could be lacking in any real impact concerning Bledsoe's college eligibility. Bledsoe having taken Algebra 3 before he took Algebra 2 certainly seems a bit odd, especially for someone who has struggled academically. But how that fact potentially affects Bledsoe's eligibility remains to be seen.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association requested that an independent law firm delve into the Bledsoe matter, specifically, Bledsoe's academic records from both Hayes and Parker High Schools. Their report is due any day now. When the report is released we'll know much more regarding this issue, and whether Kentucky basketball is at risk of having to vacate its 35 victories from the 2009 season.
Lastly, I don't recall ever witnessing what is supposedly a confidential document being so readily available to anyone with a pulse. Eric Bledsoe's high school transcript has now been issued to Pete Thamel of the New York Times, Pat Forde and Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com, and Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News ... and I'm sure there are others. Someone has broken the law with the release of the document, and at some point an investigative body must determine who the offending party is, and, who paid for the release of the document, if in fact any money changed hands.
Thanks for reading, and Go Cats!