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Penn football player may be ineligible

November 27, 1997

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A University of Pennsylvania football player may have been academically ineligible this year after he dropped a course and became a part-time student, school officials say.

Mitch Marrow, an all-Ivy League defensive tackle last year, completed two classes this semester, a course-load that made him a part-time student at Penn and ineligible under NCAA guidelines.

He was accepted for an independent study course, making him full-time, a day before the last game of the season, Nov. 15 against Cornell.

Marrow played in Penn’s 33-20 victory, but on Wednesday the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences overruled the late addition, putting the fifth-year senior’s eligibility in question again. Under NCAA rules, only full-time students can play collegiate sports.

If Marrow is declared ineligible, games in which he played may have to be forfeited and the university could face sanctions.

Penn athletic department officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The NCAA can take no action until Penn rules whether he was a part-time or full-time student, said David Berst, NCAA executive director for enforcement and eligibility appeals. Then, if there is still ``some legitimate question,″ the NCAA may investigate.

Marrow’s eligibility first came into question about a week before Penn’s season ended, associate athletic director D. Elton Cochran-Fikes told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Marrow, who is scheduled to graduate this spring, signed up for three courses, a full load, in September. But he dropped one course early in the semester. Had he continued but failed, he still would be eligible because his cumulative 2.45 grade-point average posed no threat to NCAA rules.

Cochran-Fikes, who is also Penn’s NCAA compliance officer, arranged Nov. 21 for Marrow, a history major, to take an independent study course with Kenneth Shropshire in the Wharton School. Shropshire, the school’s representative to the NCAA, said he had approved similar requests about five other times in the past 11 years, once for an athlete.

Marrow’s business course was reluctantly approved by Diane Frey, director of advising for the College of Arts and Sciences.

``The consequences for the university could have been dire″ had she not approved the course, she told the Inquirer.

Her decision was overruled and the additional course vetoed on Wednesday by Robert Rescorla, associate dean for undergraduate education at Penn. He said Marrow applied too late after the Sept. 19 deadline to add classes.

``I didn’t think there was significant justification ... for it to require waiving the rules,″ Rescorla said Thursday. ``I don’t know the standards other schools are held to. We make decisions based on the academic welfare of the students, not on other grounds.″

Marrow, of Harrison, N.Y., refused comment through his mother.

The effort to sign Marrow up for independent study upset several professors approached by the athletic department for help.

Penn athletic officials ``don’t have a sense of the academic mission of the university and they don’t have any sense of scholarly values. They embarrass us,″ said Bruce Kuklick, who oversees undergraduate history studies.

``It seemed quite clear what they were trying to do,″ said Lynn Lees, history department chair. ``They were trying to get an academic cover for this kid so he can play football.″

Marrow had a spectacular junior season but played intermittently this year, missing two games because of injury and sickness. He played only the first quarter of Penn’s win over Cornell, which left Penn 6-4.

``There was no reason for Mitch to play on Saturday,″ Shaun May, spokesman for Penn athletic communications, told the Inquirer. ``He did it because he wanted to help the team.″

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