Blog Entry

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

Posted on: September 25, 2010 12:29 pm
Can I say one more thing about the Eric Bledsoe story?


I'm not outraged by the decision.

Honest to God, I'm not.

Just confused.

As I wrote last week, I do not think it's right for the NCAA to punish a school for playing a player it initially cleared. So I was never publicly or privately hoping that Kentucky would vacate the season if Bledsoe's transcript was retroactively changed in a way that would give him a 2.3 grade point average in his high school core classes. I merely pointed out that the Derrick Rose case at Memphis seemed to set a precedent for strict liability, and that it would be difficult for the NCAA to explain why Memphis had to vacate that season if Kentucky didn't have to vacate this season provided Bledsoe's transcript was retroactively changed in a way that would've never made him eligible at Kentucky.

But the Birmingham Board of Education isn't going to change the transcript.

So it's all a moot point now.

Over and done, far as I'm concerned.

Either way, my post from Friday night wasn't about how wrong it is that Kentucky won't have to vacate the season; it was about how confusing it is that the Birmingham Board of Education can hire a firm to investigate the matter, then disregard the firm's conclusion. And, yes, I know all about the "makeup work" Bledsoe supposedly did, know that's the reason the teacher said he changed Bledsoe's grade from a C to an A. My point was that the independent and reputable firm hired to investigate the matter doesn't believe the teacher's reasons for changing the grade are credible, which, in my mind, suggests the grades were changed inappropriately.

Now let me ask a serious question.

(Just play along, please.)

Imagine there was a gradebook that showed Bledsoe initially had an A in the class, but his transcript showed a C, and there was an investigation into this grade change, because it made Bledsoe ineligible to play as a freshman when he, according to the initial grades, should've been eligible. So the Birmingham Board of Education hires a firm to investigate, and that firm then asks the teacher why he changed 10 of Bledsoe's 14 grades from the first term and seven of Bledsoe's 10 grades from the second term, and why he changed Bledsoe's grades more than he changed any other students' grades.

Now imagine the teacher has his reasons.

Imagine the teacher says it's because Bledsoe was tardy for 11 classes, that he caught him cheating on three tests, whatever. It doesn't matter what the reasons are, exactly, just imagine that the teacher has his reasons for changing the grade from an A to a C. Now imagine the firm hired to investigate listens to all the reasons, but ultimately concludes the teacher has "no credible reasons" for changing Bledsoe's grade from an A to a C.

(Got all that?)

Now here's my question: Would you still stand by the teacher?

If not, then what you're telling me is that you think it's crazy for a teacher to be allowed to change grades for what an independent and reputable firm called no credible reasons, which means you agree with me that what happened Friday in Birmingham is crazy because the only difference between what really happened with Bledsoe and my hypothetical situation with Bledsoe is that in one scenario the grade was changed from a C to an A to make him eligible, and in the other scenario the grade was changed from an A to a C to make him ineligible. Both changes were made, according to a firm hired to investigate, without credible reasons. And if a change made without credible reasons that hurts a student-athlete is wrong, then I think a change made without credible reasons that helps a student-athlete should be wrong, too.

So that's my position.

And I hope this clarifies things.

If not, man, I give up.

It's Saturday for crying out loud.
Category: NCAAB

Since: Aug 24, 2009
Posted on: September 27, 2010 11:18 pm

Confused? You and me both.

It's already been said, but maybe with repetition, like water dripping onto a concrete block, it will eventually soak in.

The school board was the decision maker in this process, not the law firm.  The law firm was the fact-finder.  An
d the school board based it decision on the facts found.

What you're not appreciating is the distinction between fact and opinion, between the objective and the subjective.  Clearly the legal investigators were not persuaded by the teacher's explanation.  But it wasn't their call; that's not what they were hired to do.  And what position were they in to judge?  They weren't teachers.  They weren't high school principals or administrators.  The school board understood far better how these things work and had no trouble finding the teacher's explanation entirely credible.  It knew him well.  He had an excellent reputation.  And that is the only part of the fact-finding report the school board rejected:  the unsolicited feeling that the teacher was lying.

Looking at that issue more closely, the investigators found the explanation incredible because - the report devotes only one lonely sentence to this! - the teacher changed Eric's grades "far more frequently" than he did the grades of other students.  How frequently did he change the grades of other students?  Did the investigators expect grade changes to be equally distributed among the other students, is that what surprised them?  Did they know whether any other student had turned in as much extra-credit work as Eric?  Were any of the other students as motivated to achieve a particular grade as Eric?  Who knows.  Who knows what they were thinking.  That's what confused me.

But you, Gary, you took the credibility opinion at face value, without question or curiousity.  You accepted it as fact.

Maybe you should ask yourself why.  Because that confuses me, too.

Since: Nov 27, 2006
Posted on: September 27, 2010 3:18 pm

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

Can we look at the big picture?

1.  Bledsoe is a good kid.  He has never been in trouble with the law, with drugs, having babies, etc.  He grew up very poor, and avoided the temptations of taking the easy way out.

2.  Bledsoe worked his tail off to try to get eligible.  He took night classes, online classes, did make-up work, etc.  He did all of this while (at least part of the time) living out of a freakin' car for pete's sake.

3.  He now has the chance to lift himself and his family out of poverty. 

4.  He can do all of this because A TEACHER CARED!!  A teacher worked with him, a teacher gave him a chance, a teacher inspired him to do better, and now A TEACHER can take at least partial credit for his success!!

$10,000, retired judges, high priced attornies, Pete Thamel, The New York Times, and Gary Parrish can find no proof of wrong doing, yet you still want to tarnish this kids reputation.  That is what really has no creadibility here!!

This teacher should get a national award!!  I hope Bledsoe becomes an Allstar, I hope he scores 100 pints in a game, then Parrish and or Thamel try to interview him, and he tells them both to get bent!!  He probably would not do that though, as he has more character than either of them!!

Since: Apr 2, 2008
Posted on: September 27, 2010 11:13 am

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

Calipari gets away again.

Bledsoe was NOT eligible.

UK should vacate all 35 wins last year.

The NCAA needs to ban coaches like Calipari and make an example out of Kentucky.

Since: Mar 18, 2010
Posted on: September 27, 2010 12:50 am

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

oh and nice edit

Since: Mar 18, 2010
Posted on: September 27, 2010 12:43 am

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

hahaha, your tags are very telling. i don't blame you though. i also think and write about UK more than any other school.

keep us in the headlines gary, it's much better seeing you get worked up, and worked over (by uk fans), than to read about other schools.

Since: Mar 12, 2007
Posted on: September 27, 2010 12:28 am

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

The big picture questions are. . . how many people think that Bledsoe did 'A' level work in this Algebra class, and was he academically successful in his freshman year at UK due to these high school preparatory classes in Birmingham?

Since: Jan 23, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2010 10:47 pm

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

The NCAA should not be clearing students and then "unclearing" them later.  I think we can all agree on that.  Nobody with a sense of fairness wants to see a school or student-athletes punished because of something so arbitrary.  Where does the school's liability begin or end if the NCAA can revisit eligibility any time it sees fit?  What is the "statute of limitations" on NCAA eligibility?

Now, contrary to the pro-UK rhetoric we have seen in response to this incident, there is still a fairly convincing body of evidence that Mr. Bledsoe should not have been enrolled at UK.  He is, by all accounts, a marginal academic student.  His transcript was barely acceptable by NCAA standards, which are not very high to begin with.  Upon review, initiated by someone violating his privacy, some blatant and untenable inconsistencies have been uncovered on his high school record.  He couldn't have enrolled at any number of schools based on his academic record, because some schools have higher standards than those mandated by the NCAA.  He wasn't going to graduate at UK, because he wasn't going to stay there for 4 years.  As an athlete, he had a legitimate reason to be there, but as a student-athlete, he did not.

Kentucky had no knowledge of the grade issue in Alabama when Bledsoe was recruited, so there was no wrong doing committed there.  By the letter of the NCAA rulebook, Kentucky was in the clear to recruit Bledsoe, so technically at least, no wrong doing there, either.  Still, I think John Calipari showed poor judgment in recruiting this athlete, and in doing so for many others in his career.  He is the coach of a sports program at a major academic institution.  The sports programs at our universities exist as extra-curricular extensions of the entire institution; there are not independent entities.  Calipari, and thus the University of Kentucky, recruited a marginal student who had little or no chance of long-term academic success.  Calipari recruited Bledsoe not to help him better himself, but to help him better the basketball team.  This is a violation of the intent, if not the letter, of the entire philosophy behind NCAA athletic programs.

I don't expect to ever see it, because money talks more than ever now, but the NCAA needs serious reform.  It's the governing body created by the member schools to oversee athletics, including making the rules (with input from the members) and enforcing those rules.  What we have now are some schools who try to follow the rules (and more importantly, the intent of those rules), and then we have some schools who may or may not follow the rules and are clearly not interested in the intent.  Calipari pushes the limits of the rules, he looks for loopholes, he splits hairs by interpreting vaguely-worded rules one way when the intent is clearly different.  Is he a cheater?  Maybe not by the letter of the "law".  Is he unethical?  Probably so.  Let's be honest:  he doesn't exploit these loopholes for the purpose of helping the NCAA close them.  The courts offer no recourse for the institutions or for the NCAA, because it's a non-profit organization whose membership is voluntary.

Now, before the angry responses come back, let me say this.  Eric Bledsoe got to the NBA, where he wanted to be and where he probably belongs.  I'm happy (really, I am!) for him.  The problem is that he got there the wrong way.  Someone else lost his chance to go to college and earn his way to the NBA because Bledsoe was given a chance instead.  Beyond that, Kentucky gained an advantage over the other member schools by recruiting someone that other schools wouldn't/shouldn't/couldn't have recruited.  It's the NCAA's fault, it's Calipari's fault, it's Bledsoe's fault, it's the Alabama school system's fault; most of all, it's the NBA's fault.  Bledsoe should have been able to bypass college, where he didn't belong.  He should have been able to go directly to the NBA or to one of its developmental leagues.  Instead, the NBA has turned the NCAA into a free developmental league, mainly because they can't or won't make their own developmental league financially competitive.  Actually, the NCAA earns money for the NBA by giving their future players free exposure.  This situation is unacceptable, because it encourages abuse and cheating.  If the NBA really "cared" about people like Eric Bledsoe, and if they really "cared" about our colleges and universities, it would get rid of the one-and-done rule.

I wish Eric Bledsoe well - he's not a bad kid, and he's not the first kid to be enabled all the way to a million-dollar paycheck.  In so many ways, he is a victim of the system described above.  He has been passed along the educational system, he has been exploited by the University of Kentucky and the NCAA, and now he will be used by the NBA.  I hope he has some good and honest advisors to help him navigate the chaotic life and the temptations NBA players endure, and hopefully he will have people who help him manage and save his money.  The NBA looks like the perfect fantasy life to casual observers, but there are a lot of sad stories that people don't see when a player doesn't make it, or when he makes a mistake, or when he retires and has nothing left from all those paychecks.

Since: Apr 21, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2010 3:52 pm

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

The Board of Education of Birmingham (or whomever) has absolutely NO incentive to change Bledsoe's grade, absent clear and convincing evidence of fraud or other wrongful conduct.  It was raise too many questions of "who's watching over this stuff".  They will think its better to leave what is done as done.  They are the judges of their own conduct, and they won't be overly critical.

Since: Sep 7, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2010 2:05 pm

One last thing on Bledsoe (I promise)

First off, I appreciate you logically concluding that it's misplaced punishment to go after a school and/or coach for stuff they have no control over. Here's my response to your article:
I think you're confusing the law firm's fact finding conclusions and their own opinions on the issue. They concluded that they could find no evidence that the teacher broke any rules regarding Bledsoe's grades. The explanation of make-up work is something that is within the school boards rules even if it was applied more than with other students in Bledsoe's case. Barring a finding that the make-up work was never given they can't conclude that the grade he received wasn't legit.
They also gave an opinion that they don't believe this is what actually happened and that, in their opinion, the teacher's explanation while technically within the school board's current rules isn't credible. This is their belief, they can't prove that it's actually the case. When it comes to a law firm doing an investigation for a school board what matters is what they can prove, not what they believe.
As far as your flipping the script comparison, the reason the teacher gave would be very relevent to what conclusion I came to. If the teacher said the grade was lowered because it was shown the kid cheated on tests then I'd have no argument againt changing the grade. If the reasoning was anything that was accepted in that school district as a means to lower a grade and there was no proof the teacher was lying I'd have to accept the change. Even if it was applied more liberally to a particular kid unless there was some limit as to how much that particular grade lowering action could be used. However, if the reason was tardies and that wasn't a way that grades can be changed in the school district then the grade change would be illegitimate. because it isn't an accepted means for raising or lowering a grade in that district.
Basically, it comes down to what they think as opposed to what they can prove. The burden is on them to prove that the transcript was incorrect and they can't do that. However, they believe the transcript grade was incorrect, but since they don't have evidence to back up that belief the ruling is as it is.
I would also add that in the grand scheme of things the ruling brings about a just outcome. Even if his grade was raised from a C to an A illegitimately by ruling that they would open up UK to punishment under an illogical and incorrect NCAA rule that punished people who have no control over the act they're punishing them for. Despite what rival fans want to see for selfish reasons that outcome would have been unjust considering UK and/or Calipari have no way of controlling this HS situation and they did two checks on Bledsoe at the time he was ruled eligible and nothing was found at that time. My example is always that it's like punishing a bar for letting in a kid with a spot on fake ID when later on it is found he's underage. As long as the bar gets credible proof of age they aren't responsible. That's logical, the NCAA rule isn't and this ruling from the school bpard keep this ridiculous rule from being used.


Since: Feb 15, 2009
Posted on: September 25, 2010 1:40 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or