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Cotton Plans to Appeal for Eligibility

College basketball: UCLA recruit wants to attend classes while challenging the NCAA.


Would-be UCLA freshman basketball player Schea Cotton will go to campus today to file an appeal in an attempt to reverse the NCAA's decision to declare him academically ineligible, his mother said Monday night.

While the appeals process is under way, Cotton can attend classes when the school year starts Thursday. But he cannot receive financial aid to pay for housing or books and he will not be technically enrolled in the school, according to a UCLA spokesman.

Because Cotton's acceptance into UCLA was with a provision that he meet eligibility requirements, if his appeal is rejected, his acceptance will be revoked, the spokesman said.

"We're going to sign the appeal--as far as what happens from there, I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see," Gaynell Cotton said after a two-hour meeting with family attorney Stuart Rice, who apparently will accompany Gaynell and Schea Cotton to campus.

"We have to go [to UCLA] to find out what our options are. But we're going to do whatever is in the best interests of our child."

Once a letter is filed with the NCAA, the appeal is taken up by the NCAA Eligibility Committee. Though the committee holds regular conference calls to discuss developing eligibility questions, the NCAA Manual spells out no concrete timetable for when the committee must hear and rule on such matters.

During the conference calls, it is regular procedure for a representative of the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse to present its case and for the athlete or a representative to give his side and answer questions from the committee.

"I don't know how long this will take," Gaynell Cotton said. "It could be a day, a month or a year."

On Friday, the Clearinghouse invalidated his qualifying score on the SAT he took June 11--his third taking of the SAT.

According to Cotton's parents, the Clearinghouse ruled that he improperly received "special circumstances" from the test's administrator, the Education Testing Service (ETS), such as extra time to finish and bigger print on the question forms.

By NCAA rules, only students with recognized learning disabilities can receive such accommodations.

Beverly Hills lawyer Anthony Willoughby, who represented USC football player Kenneth Haslip Jr. and UCLA football recruit Chris McAlister, currently playing at Arizona, in cases against ETS, called the Cotton case "highly unusual."

"It appears to me that the NCAA [Clearinghouse] questioned it when the SAT didn't question it," Willoughby said. "I've never heard of that happening."

ETS challenges about 1,800 scores of the 1.8 million students who take the SAT each year, according to 1996 figures. Less than a third of the challenged scores are canceled.

Cotton, a 6-foot-5 swingman from Bellflower St. John Bosco, originally committed to Long Beach State last year to join his older brother, James. But Schea Cotton was given a release after James left the school a year early to jump to the NBA.

Cotton, who has been considered one of the top players in the nation since his sophomore season at Santa Ana Mater Dei but has sat out most of the past two seasons because of injury, committed to UCLA in late April.


Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this story.

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