Teachers at Southwest High School, where former Kentucky basketball player Eric Manuel
Teachers at Southwest High School, where former Kentucky basketball player Eric Manuel graduated, are convinced he was a victim in the NCAA’s finding that he was guilty of academic fraud and misleading investigators.
MACON, Ga. (AP) _ ″I think whatever happened, he was led to do it,″ English teacher Carline Leonard said. ″I think they wanted him on the team, and they did whatever it took.″
Manuel, whose NCAA career is in grave doubt as part of the recent sanctions against the Wildcat program, was accused of lifting another student’s answers when he took the American College Test in June 1987 in Lexington, Ky.
Reports show that 211 of Manuel’s 219 answers, including an estimated 60 incorrect answers, were identical to those of another student who took the test at the same high school that day.
″I’m not saying he should have passed the test; I’m saying he would not have cheated ... unless someone else had something to do with it,″ said John King, Manuel’s algebra teacher, in a story published in Sunday’s editions of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The NCAA ruled that Manuel could never again play for an NCAA school, unless that school successfully appealed for him.
The NCAA said Manuel could save some of his eligibility by confessing, but Manuel has maintained his innocence for more than a year.
Another defender of Manuel is his high school coach, Don Richardson, whose program has sent 87 players to college through athletic grants.
″I told him, ’Don’t protect anybody, because now, Eric, you’ve got to survive,‴ Richardson said in recounting a talk with Manuel.
″That’s why, if anything was done in terms of that test, it had to have been done after he took it because I don’t believe he had any knowledge of it,″ Richardson said.
″Here’s a guy who loves basketball, hopes (it) will be his future, and would (he) just stand by and see that go down the drain just to protect somebody?″ he asked.
David Berst, the NCAA’s director of enforcement, said: ″I don’t think this was a matter that was arranged and perpetrated by him alone. ... We tried many times over a long period of time to convince″ Manuel to talk.
″I think the young man got bad counsel from somewhere - by that, I don’t mean his lawyers, I mean someone else,″ Berst said.
Part of Manuel’s defense was to suggest the possibility of tampering, without his knowledge, after he turned in his paper.
In its final ruling, the NCAA did not suggest that Kentucky helped Manuel allegedly cheat. But it said the university should have known the score was bogus and that Manuel was ineligible.
Bob Bradley, Kentucky’s assistant athletic director for academic affairs, disputed that assertion. Like many athletes, Manuel never had his two failing Scholastic Aptitute Test scores sent to Kentucky so there was little basis for comparison, he said.
However, the school has strengthened its efforts to check all scores before certifying eligibility, Bradley said.
His former teachers described Manuel as a good student who was always willing to stay after school and work on his weaknesses.
Larry Ramey, a counselor at Southwest, said the school didn’t shortchange Manuel in terms of his education.
″The school really tried to put forth a great effort to help Eric,″ he said. ″Because not only were they proud of him, his accomplishment on the court, they admired him as a person and an individual.″
Manuel played in 32 games his freshman year, averaging 7.1 points and 3.2 rebounds. He had 74 assists as Kentucky went 27-6.
Manuel voluntarily benched himself his sophomore year when the allegations about the ACT arose.
His mother, Mary Manuel, said there is no rush for her son to leave Kentucky.
″Leaving would be like running,″ she said. ″He has nothing to run for, nothing to be ashamed of. If we run from every little obstacle in life, we’ll always be running.″
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