Prized freshman recruit Keith Triplett had the highest grade-point average on the University of Toledo men's basketball team for the fall semester - 3.4 - but still that's not good enough to make the grade with the NCAA.
The NCAA has rejected UT's third and final appeal to lift Triplett's status as a partial qualifier academically, thus denying him a chance to suit up for the Rockets the rest of the season.
“We've exhausted our appeals - we're done,” UT athletic director Pete Liske said yesterday. “I still think (the NCAA's) decision is unfair. That's why we appealed the thing as long as we did.”
As a partial qualifier, Triplett has been able to practice with the Rockets since mid-October, while receiving a full scholarship.
But the 6-3 guard from Bowsher High School is not allowed to travel with the team to road games.
“It's really too bad that Keith can't play right now,” Liske said. “But if he keeps doing the things he's been doing academically, he will still have four years of eligibility left.
“As long as he continues to take care of business, this would just end up being like a redshirt year for him.”
Triplett, 20, flashed a big smile when asked about his first-semester GPA, which earned him a spot on the honor roll and 12 credits.
“I'm happy,” he said, “but I don't want to say anything else.”
Coach Stan Joplin also was pleased with Triplett's grades, but Joplin is confused about what message the NCAA is sending by ruling against his first-year player.
“I'm happy because Keith proved the NCAA wrong - he can do his classwork,” Joplin said. “The NCAA is supposed to look at each case individually and they keep saying they do what is in the best interest of the student-athlete. Obviously, in this case, they didn't.
“It's unfortunate for Keith. If this were a higher-profile program or he was a bigger-name recruit, I think Keith Triplett would have been eligible right away.”
Jane Jankowski, assistant director of public relations for the NCAA, declined comment on the specifics of Triplett's case.
But she said athletes can't use their first-semester grades in college to make up for what they did in high school once they are enrolled full-time at a university, which Triplett is.
Jankowski also said that students diagnosed with learning disabilities, such as Triplett, must complete 75 percent of their requirements toward a degree by the time they start their fifth year of school, in order to get another year of eligibility.
Triplett, undecided on his major, was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA in mid-September because his core-course GPA from Bowsher did not meet the NCAA's qualifying standards.
“It's a real shame Keith can't play for us until next year,” said freshman guard Terry Reynolds, who is Triplett's roommate.
“He's been working really hard and I think his B average tells the NCAA he can do college work.
“I really admire what Keith's done academically so far.”
So does Sue Irmen, director for academics for UT's athletes.
“Keith Triplett is a great kid,” she said. “He worked hard this past semester. He's been at the study table religiously and he's really been working hard to do the things he needs to do.”
Triplett averaged 25.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.3 steals per game as a senior for Bowsher. He was named Division I, first-team All-Ohio and was rated the No. 1 player in the state by Prep Star Magazine.
As a junior, Triplett averaged 29.8 points, 13.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.2 steals while shooting 56 percent from the floor.
Triplett's grandfather, Mel, was a star fullback for the UT football team from 1951-54, and is one of only four players to have his jersey retired.
“Keith's been super,” Liske said. “He's had a great attitude about his situation. He's doing all the right things. He's doing a great job.
“I think what he's done the first semester is a credit to Stan. He spent a lot of time getting to understand the kid, getting to know him personally, and getting to know his environment.
“Stan said Keith was a good kid from the start and that's 100 percent correct.”