WICHITA, Kan. -- A federal judge today refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have allowed Wichita State starting center Ozell Jones to play in tonight's NCAA tournament game.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Kelly said there was a rational basis to the NCAA's ruling that high schools were the best qualified to decide whether a student is academically eligible.
'The NCAA has determined that each high school has the responsibility to set its standard,' Kely said in denying Jones' request for the injunction.
'It strikes me that under the rules, notwithstanding different methods authorized to compute grades, each must involve all the students, and this is not the case with Polytechnic, the school he (Jones) graduated from.'
The judge's decision -- which will keep Jones off the court -- came just eight hours before Wichit State was to play Southern University in the first round of the NCAA subregional at Wichita. Jones had been declared ineligible last week by Wichita State, and Jones was seeking to win a continuance of the 10-day court restraining order issued March 3.
The suit was filed by Jones and his attorney, Lee Woodard, against the NCAA, Wichita State and the Missouri Valley Conference. The league was dropped from the suit Thursday.
The school had declared Jones ineligible because of the NCAA rule governing whether high schools could use physical education grades in computing an athlete's grade point average. Jones had a 2.38 GPA with P.E. grades computed, but was below the NCAA's 2.00 limit without those grades.
The school that Jones attended, Polytechnic H.S. in Long Beach, Calif., occasionally used both methods to compute students' GPAs, but the NCAA ruled that Polytechnic 'normally' did not count P.E.
Kelly said he interpreted NCAA rules to mean a high school could use any of several methods -- whether including physical education grades or not -- in computing an athlete's GPA.
But Steve Morgan, an NCAA rules enforcement officer, testified that was true only if all students at a school used that method of computation. Morgan said allowing Jones to play would open a floodgate of universities trying to push prospective athletes past NCAA rules requiring a 2.00 grade point average, which he defended as neccessary to ensure athletes meet minimal academic standards.
During the entire six hours of hearings, the witnesses and attorneys devoted little comment to what Kelly said was the key legal question -- whether the NCAA had set a double standard in allowing different schools to use different methods to compute a GPA.
NCAA attorney John Kitchin said that the NCAA must maintain that policy because the high schools -- not the NCAA -- were best able to determine a student's academic achievement.