Another player loss may be just the start of SMU’s troubles

Just at the time when it looked like SMU’s basketball team was getting things together, another roadblock has hit – one that could lead to even more problems.

Roughly a month after Markus Kennedy was academically cleared to return to the Mustangs. sophomore starting guard Keith Frazier, has been declared academically ineligible and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Frazier has reportedly appealed the decision, but chances of it being overturned are not likely.

Thus, Larry Brown’s program continues to feel the effects of SMU’s extremely tight academic standards the school has imposed on its athletic programs since the football team was handed the “death penalty” in 1987. But to possibly make matters worse, premature reports are suggesting that the NCAA might investigate the program – which would be the second time the school has been investigated since those football troubles nearly three decades ago. The first was when the same basketball team was investigated in 2006-07; no action was taken by the NCAA than, but the school did fire head coach Jimmy Tubbs.

It should be noted that, at the moment, SMU has not been accused of any wrongdoing on its part; there is only evidence of the school following its own rules of academic standards and suspending athletes accordingly – one of which previously had questionable grades not with SMU but with Kimball High School and the Dallas ISD.

“Instinct tells me there is no NCAA investigation,” tweeted Fox Sports’ Keith Whitmire, “rather NCAA is monitoring SMU’s handling of situation.”

Still, the issue of Frazier continues a trend of the athletes SMU has recruited since Brown took over the program struggling to meet the school’s tight standards – which could be a problem for the program long-term regardless of whether the NCAA comes calling.

In addition to Frazier and Kennedy’s earlier troubles, SMU assistant coach Ulric Maligi – the team’s top recruiter who was instrumental in getting Frazier to come to SMU – has taken a leave of absence from the program. This came at the same time that graduator transfer Justin Martin decided to turn pro before completing the season.

There was also the other big news last summer when SMU commit Emmanuel Mudiay chose to forgo college and play professionally overseas. Questions about Mudiay’s academic eligibility arose after that, especially since he spent two years at the much maligned Prime Prep Academy.

Still the focus may very well be Frazier, who was supposed to be the crown jewel in showing SMU could succeed in recruiting local top talent.

Frazier endured controversy in high school when he abruptly transferred from Irving to Kimball High and became part of a WFAA investigation accusing the high school basketball power of recruiting players, an illegal move by UIL rules (WFAA appears to have since deleted these investigation stories from its website)

Then, questions arose as to how he quickly had a failing grade in physics changed to a passing one that allowed him to graduate.

Following his freshman year in University Park, there were reports that Frazier was considering transferring over being disappointed about playing time. He chose to stay and started 16 of 17 games, averaging 10.5 points.

At the moment, all Brown can do is get his remaining players prepared to play East Carolina tomorrow afternoon. Whether or not the Mustangs can overcome the immediate loss to push toward the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen – as well as if they can ignore the storm clouds that might be forthcoming.

UPDATES – Larry Brown has released this statement: “Keith will miss Saturday’s game while attending the funeral of a family member. As far as his eligibility status, we have filed an appeal with the NCAA regarding his academic eligibility, and we’re optimistic that we will have him back on the court soon. It’s important for people to know that the resources and support are in place for student-athletes to be successful, both athletically and academically, at SMU.”

SMU has since confirmed receiving a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, which includes, according to CBS Sports, academic improprieties in men’s hoops. The school has not commented beyond, “We are working through our response to them.”

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