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Cal’s Fowlkes Ordered to Sit Out the Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In one of the most severe penalties levied by the NCAA, University of California sophomore basketball star Tremaine Fowlkes was ordered Friday to sit out this season for accepting money from a former sports agent.

Fowlkes, the Pacific 10 Conference freshman of the year last season and the team’s leading rebounder, could reduce the penalty by appealing to the NCAA eligibility committee, which school officials said they will do on his behalf.

But the eligibility committee, made up of five Division I school representatives, is operating under a self-imposed edict to clamp down on agent-related cases. Fowlkes’ appeal would be one of the first to be heard by the committee since the edict.

“The eligibility staff viewed this case as a serious agent case, in that the amount of money is significant,” said Carrie Doyle, director of NCAA eligibility.

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“What we based our decision on was that [Fowlkes] accepted $1,800 from [former agent] James Casey. We looked at case precedent and evaluated all the information and believed that the young man demonstrated a high degree of culpability, and we did not find any mitigating factors that permitted the staff to provide relief.”

It is against NCAA rules for a student athlete to accept benefits from a sports agent.

Fowlkes, a 6-foot-7 forward from Crenshaw High, was not available for comment. John Kasser, Cal’s athletic director, issued a statement calling the penalty shocking and inappropriately severe.

“There have been many recent cases involving this type of impropriety, including a number in our own conference, and we see no precedent for this type of penalty,” he said.

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“Whatever the nature of the statement some members of the NCAA staff chose to make in this case, we believe that this decision is unfair to the student involved and we, as an institution, intend to make a strong appeal and will support any effort Tremaine personally makes as well.”

After a lengthy and complicated investigation by Cal and the Pac-10 involving Fowlkes’ acquisition of two cars, the player admitted he received $1,800 from Casey in March toward the purchase of a Chevy Blazer. Fowlkes, however, maintained that Casey was a longtime family friend, which Fowlkes’ father, Ron Fowlkes, denied. Additionally, Casey, who was registered with the NBA Players Assn. from 1990-93, says he is no longer an agent and should not be considered as such.

But the NCAA did not deem Casey to fall under the existing family friend rule, which would have allowed him to give money to Fowlkes. Nor did the fact that Casey is no longer a registered agent prove a mitigating factor, Doyle said.

Fowlkes, who will be charged with a season of competition, will have two seasons of eligibility remaining if he sits out this season. He could transfer to a junior college to play basketball this season, then return to Cal if certain academic requirements are met. But he would be eligible to play only one more season at Cal.

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The loss of Fowlkes is a blow to the team, which counted on him and freshman forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim as twin threats. Fowlkes averaged 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds last season.

“I feel he wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing and that is not fair what the NCAA has done,” Casey said. “That’s what this world is supposed to be about, helping one another. If you can’t help your own, who can you help?”


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