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Newspaper: Arizona made exceptions to keep basketball player eligible

October 11, 1997

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Arizona basketball star Miles Simon did not get special treatment from the university, school officials insisted Friday.

An article in The Kansas City Star on Friday suggested that the university took advantage of loopholes in school and NCAA rules to keep Simon on the basketball team despite an abysmal academic record.

University officials said Simon took advantage of programs and exceptions available to all students, not just athletes. The university investigated the allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing, university lawyer Michael Proctor said.

``There is nothing that has been done wrong to my knowledge,″ athletic director Jim Livengood said. ``Everyone has looked at it, and nothing has been done wrong.″

The newspaper used Simon’s case to illustrate its contention that many schools make eligibility rather than education the main goal for athletes.

Simon, who was named most valuable player in the Wildcats’ national championship game this year, has been on academic probation almost his entire playing career, the Star reported.

But Simon was able to remain eligible because of a series of exceptions Arizona made in its own academic policies, possibly in violation of NCAA policy, The Star said, citing documents obtained during an 18-month investigation.

Simon, a guard, is a senior this year and there has been no indication he will not be eligible for the coming season. Arizona requires fourth-year students have a grade-point average of 2.0, while the NCAA requirement is 1.9; Simon’s GPA is over 2.0, the newspaper said.

NCAA officials said such a rules violation could only be determined through an investigation, and they would not speculate whether they would look into specific cases.

The newspaper said documents and interviews show Simon:

_ Was academically suspended for a time last year after getting a D-minus average one semester. Nonetheless, he was allowed to take at least one class for credit.

``We have a mandate to try to help students get their degrees,″ Proctor said. ``There is a discretionary process involved here for all students, not just athletes.

_ Had his suspension rescinded at the request of the director of a university college who later flew with the team on a three-week trip to Australia.

Proctor said the director, Rodney Cate, wrote a memo to a university official at his level, not a higher-level official. The newspaper said Cate taught a NCAA-approved course for the players in Australia to help them catch up with the studies they missed during their tournament run.

_ Was allowed to enter one of the university’s schools with a grade point average far below that which is usually required.

Proctor said university rules create an exception for students rejected from another college and Simon was one of 18 students admitted to another college last year under that exception.

_ After sitting out 11 games last year _ the only playing time he missed for academic reasons _ was able to rejoin the Wildcats for their championship run by getting an A in a class in which everyone got an A.

_ Received credit as a junior for a class that the course catalog restricted to freshmen.

_ Finally, after earning a B in Cate’s course this summer, got off probation by bringing his grade point average up to C.

Any single exception for Simon in itself may not have violated either NCAA rules or University of Arizona rules, which school officials say are flexible enough to allow for exceptions.

But Dave Knight, chairman of the NCAA cabinet on academics, eligibility and compliance, said he found it ``very disturbing″ that any student could play basketball despite being on probation three years.

``There are no exceptions to the NCAA rule that student-athletes are not to be treated differently from an academic perspective than other students,″ said Bob Oliver, the NCAA’s expert on academic rules.

Several faculty members said an athlete given such exceptions clearly would be treated differently from other students. John H. McElroy, an English professor who has not had Simon in his classes, said Simon’s case apparently constitutes ``a level of corruption I hadn’t heard before.″

``Universities have become minor league, semiprofessional farm clubs, and I think it stinks,″ McElroy told the Tucson Citizen on Friday. ``They’re recruited and they’re given tutoring services that no other students have available to them. As far as I’m concerned, most of these big stars are not legitimate students.″

Proctor said he was considering sending McElroy a copy of the university catalog to prove Simon did not receive special treatment.

The Star said Simon declined through school officials to be interviewed.

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