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SMU responds to grade scandal report

SMU guard Keith Frazier (4) in game against Sam Houston State on Nov. 26, 2013. (Courtesy of SMU Athletics)
SMU guard Keith Frazier (4) in game against Sam Houston State on Nov. 26, 2013. (Courtesy of SMU Athletics)
SMU guard Keith Frazier (4) in game against Sam Houston State on Nov. 26, 2013.
(Courtesy of SMU Athletics)

Sunday night after the SMU men’s basketball team’s win over The University of Houston, WFAA reporter Brett Shipp questioned SMU Head Coach Larry Brown about his attitude toward student athletes not going to class and not turning in their work and then having their grades changed so they can graduate and attend SMU.

The vague question caught Brown off guard and fans were confused when they heard the news that a report from Shipp was coming out on Channel 8 later that night at 10 p.m.

The report, which has since been edited after SMU released a statement, focused on SMU first-year Keith Frazier’s academic and attendance records at Justin F. Kimball High School in Dallas.

The report states that Kimball soccer coach DeMarco King went to Kimball counselor Hanan Ali with a report card for Frazier and that the physics grade in question had been raised.

King later admitted to improperly changing Frazier’s grade. Shipp’s report claims that SMU Assistant Coach Ulric Maligi called Ali before King came by shortly after with the new report card, saying that Frazier’s GPA was not high enough for NCAA eligibility.

Ali told Maligi that nothing could be done about Frazier’s grade before King came to her office.

SMU released a statement correcting Shipp’s report Monday afternoon:

“Assistant Coach Ulric Maligi asked for an update on the student’s grades, about whether the student needed to do extra credit assignments or take an extra course during the summer,” the statement said. “He spoke with a higher education adviser who represented herself as the point of contact for the student’s academic performance. Previous grade reports indicated a passing grade in physics and other subjects.

“Subsequently, Coach Maligi conferred with the student’s high school counselor, a DISD employee, who instructed him to disregard the interim grade report he had just received. She indicated that DISD had experienced a problem regarding alleged grade changes at Kimball High School. This conversation led Coach Maligi to believe that DISD had addressed the issue and that forthcoming information on student grades would be accurate, as DISD has affirmed.”

SMU received Frazier’s final transcript July 1, which did not reflect the changed grade, and Frazier was already qualified for SMU admission and NCAA eligibility.

The Dallas Independent School District also confirmed Monday that Frazier rightfully earned his high school diploma, but did add the district is reviewing how a Kimbal coach was able to change one of Frazier’s grades against district rules.

Shipp said Monday night that Maligi had called, but didn’t have any proof of a connection to the grade change. Shipp also said SMU does not get attendance records for high school students applying for admission.

The statement continued, “It is unfortunate that misinformation has been publicized, even before SMU received the 500-page document on the investigation at 8:15 a.m. today. As DISD addresses its issues with personnel and procedures, we hope that future media reporting on such important matters will be more accurately conveyed.”

At this point, the investigation appears to be more of a problem for DISD and Kimball. SMU did its due diligence when deciding whether Frazier earned admission to SMU according to the statement.

NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford also responded to Shipp’s report, but declined to talk about Frazier.

“The NCAA typically does not comment on individual student-athlete academic records,” he said. “At this point, your questions are better directed towards SMU and the high school in question.”

Frazier went down with an ankle injury during the game against Houston, but has been averaging 5.6 points per game and close to two rebounds a game in 16.4 minutes per game this season for SMU.

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