The NCAA informed Clemson on Wednesday that it is conducting a preliminary inquiry into possible rule violations within the university's basketball program. No specific allegations were contained in the letter from the NCAA, but Clemson officials said they believed it concerns the 1988 recruitment and academic certification of Wayne Buckingham.
Buckingham, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, has been dogged by eligibility questions since arriving at Clemson in a controversy not of his making. He sat out this past season as a result.
Hal Skelton, principal of Cascade School in Bell Buckle, Tenn., certified a class on Buckingham's transcript as a core course when the player transferred to Atlanta's Southside High School.
But in a letter late last year to the NCAA and Clemson officials, Skelton said that until Nov. 5 _ five years later _ he didn't realize it was not a core course. Skelton has maintained he did nothing wrong.
Buckingham, who had a grade point average of 2.5 as a freshman, remains enrolled at the school and is meeting all academic requirements, Clemson officials said.
The NCAA letter to Clemson comes less than a week after the NCAA told the school it was lifting its one-year probation on the football program for two major and six secondary violations under former coach Danny Ford.
Clemson compliance director Paul Aaron said if any rules were broken in 1988 the school would not be in line to face the so-called death penalty, which calls for the temporary disbanding of a sport for a certain time if two major violations occur at a school within five years.
"I discussed today's letter with (NCAA official) David Berst, and he made it clear that the death penalty was not a factor in this case," Aaron said in a statement.
In his letter to Clemson, Berst, assistant executive director for enforcement for the NCAA, said:
"Information has been received indicating that possible violations of NCAA regulations have occurred on the part of the institution and its representatives. As of this date (Wednesday) the information has not been sufficiently investigated to determine whether an official investigation is warranted."
Clemson officials said they expect that an official investigation will follow and that more detailed information will soon be sent to the school in the form of a letter of official inquiry.
"This preliminary letter officially informs us of an investigation that we have been working with the NCAA staff to resolve," university President Max Lennon said. "Our interest in this situation is the same as the NCAA staff _ to find out if any mistakes or rule violations occurred and, if they did, take whatever action is necessary to assure that they do not happen again."
Berst said in his letter the NCAA will use a field investigator to look into the allegations. He said the preliminary inquiry is to determine whether there is "adequate evidence to warrant an official inquiry."
NCAA's Schultz confirms
meeting with Tarkanian
LAS VEGAS _ NCAA executive director Richard Schultz confirmed Wednesday he met with Jerry Tarkanian last month in Dallas to hear the UNLV coach's concerns over an investigation into the school's basketball program.
Schultz said the meeting _ which Tarkanian has denied took place _ was at the coach's request. He said he encouraged Tarkanian to meet with a special NCAA committee this summer to review the enforcement and infractions process.
Schultz, however, said he gave Tarkanian no promises about the current case and said no special consideration was asked for. He issued a statement saying the NCAA's Committee on Infractions had the sole responsibility for enforcement issues.
Meanwhile, Tarkanian met Wednesday with university president Robert Maxson to discuss his future at the school he put on the college basketball map.
"We just talked about the future of the program," Maxson said after the 90-minute meeting. "It was an extremely cordial meeting. There were no deals made, no agreements reached. We both wanted to do what was best for Coach, his family and the university."
Maxson said the two agreed not to discuss the substance of the meeting, and to talk further, possibly on Thursday.