Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michael Glover, Seton Hall, and Diploma Mills

The NCAA is almost invariably reactive rather proactive when dealing with serious problems. That said, they should be applauded for their moves to reject high school transcripts from a number of private schools which have been tarred, in most cases not unjustly, as Diploma Mills. For background see these articles in the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Now, Seton Hall recruit Michael Glover, whose senior year coursework at American Christian Academy was invalidated, is suing the NCAA and the Big East:

Michael Glover, the Seton Hall basketball recruit who was unable to play last season when the NCAA declared him an academic non-qualifier, is suing the NCAA and the Big East in an effort to get himself declared eligible to play for Seton Hall this upcoming season.

According to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Providence -- where the Big East offices are located -- Glover is seeking to have the NCAA reverse its prior ruling and declare him qualified to play, and to receive an athletic scholarship. He is also seeking to be awarded financial damages equivalent to the cost of four years' tuition at Seton Hall, plus punitive damages for his having missed the 2007-08 season.

Last fall, the NCAA decided to invalidate Glover's senior year at American Christian.

That made Glover a non-qualifier, but after he appealed the decision, he was allowed to practice with the team for a while at the start of the season. However, in December, the NCAA denied Glover's final appeal, making him ineligible to play and ineligible to receive scholarship money from the school. According to NCAA rules, the only way for Glover to qualify to play Division 1 would be to go to a junior college and receive his associate's degree, then transfer to a four-year school. . . .

Unsurprisingly, the story is rather deeper than the academic, eligibility, and legal travails of one prospective student-athlete. American Christian Academy closed its High School this summer:

American Christian Academy, a tiny private school in Aston, was known nationally last winter for having one of the best high-school-age basketball players in the country.

On Thursday, the school is expected to eliminate its high school academic and athletic programs - including basketball - in a swirl of controversy.

American Christian, which officials said would continue to operate its day-care center and programs for youngsters in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, allowed postgraduates to play on its teams for the last two years. School officials were expected to leave postgraduates off the teams next season. Now, it seems, there won't be any teams at all. . . .

"We have not been given any reason whatsoever of why the school is closing except that it's financially better to close the school," boys' basketball coach Tony Bergeron said. "In my estimation, that doesn't make any sense."

Bergeron helped develop Tyreke Evans into one of the nation's top players. Evans, the most valuable player at this year's McDonald's All-America Game, is expected to play next season at Memphis.

But the boys' basketball program has drawn criticism. Former coach Ray Carroll publicly criticized American Christian's academic standards for many of his former players, including Evans, after he was fired in June 2006, after one season. Carroll suggested that the school was a diploma mill.

Recent comments made by Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez to Andy Katz at ESPN also illustrate the primary thing driving all of this. In the hyper-competitive world of revenue NCAA sports, coaches choose, or are forced, to take both short cuts and risks with athletes who are academically marginal:

Bobby Gonzalez is clear that in order for Seton Hall to be competitive in the 16-team Big East, he's got to take a gamble or two.

The third-year Pirates coach isn't hiding from his objective. He accepted two high-profile transfers within the past week -- Keon Lawrence from Missouri and Herb Pope from New Mexico State -- with the hope that both will be eligible for this season. . . .

"If you want to get into the top six or seven in this conference, you've got to be creative and you've got to take transfers. I'm not sure what they're saying about Gonzo, saying that I'm taking too many borderline guys, a gamble. But the [Seton Hall] president backs me, and I feel they're all worth the gamble.". . .

Gonzalez said Lawrence won't be academically eligible until after the first semester because the junior doesn't have enough transferable credits from Missouri. He would have to pass 15 credits in the first semester to be eligible by mid-December, the coach said. . . .

Meanwhile, Gonzalez is waiting to see if Michael Glover, who was declared ineligible last year at Seton Hall, would win his lawsuit against the Big East and the NCAA to gain eligibility.

"If he were eligible last year we would have won 20 games, not 17; he could have been an all-rookie Big East [player]," Gonzalez said of the 17-15 Pirates last season. "He definitely would be a major impact guy. Who knows? We could believe in miracles and get Keon Lawrence, Michael Glover and Herb Pope [this season]."

It would be great for Seton Hall basketball. It would be great for Bobby Gonzalez. Who else does Gonzalez's gambling serve?


Anonymous said...

The situation with Mike Glover was different than others out there. Mike was not informed about the disqualification of his senior year until after he matriculated at Seton Hall. Since his team mate Tyrke Evans was cleared he felt that he would be cleared as well. Memphis was national runner up last year. Tyrke is a cornerstone of that rebuilding class, which has many non-graduates moving on. The problem was that even though Mike paid for his freshman year in full and has passed all of his classes, the NCAA has never given him a reason for not qualifying and the Big East conference does not allow partial qualifiers which leaves him in limbo. Other students such as Mike Davis who was deemed a academic disaster prior to matriculating has not only excelled in the atmosphere created by Athletic Academic advisor Robin Cunningham, but maintained a 3.8GPA for his freshman year. Seton Hall has most of its team pulling passing grades and staying for four years if they are a fit on the team. It is unfair to categorize every situation the same way.

Profane said...

Granted, Seton Hall does have some success stories, and, in general, is not one of the bad actors. That said, the 46% graduation rate in the basketball program is not anything to brag about.

As for Glover's case, someone dropped the ball badly if an athletic scholarship was his only prospect of paying for school (as with other students, there should have been other options). Who advised him to continue his enrollment at Seton Hall in the hopes of winning an appeal of the NCAA's determination of his lack of eligibility? Was it Gonzalez himself?