Penn offered to forfeit the games Mitch Marrow played in, but did not discipline anyone involved. An eligibility scandal involving a Penn football player has caused the 1997 season to go down in history as the "year of the asterisk." Due to what all-Ivy League defensive tackle Mitch Marrow described last month as "an innocent mistake," the five Quakers wins in which he played will be marked by an asterisk in the record books. The accompanying footnote will explain that Penn voluntarily forfeited the game due to an academically ineligible player. As a result of the forfeits, Penn's 6-4 record drops to 1-9. According to a January 2 report by a four-member University committee investigating the controversy, Penn violated several NCAA bylaws when Marrow, a top NFL prospect, competed as a part-time student. The University sent the report to the Ivy League, which supported the University's decision to forfeit the five games. The Ivy League sent the report to the NCAA for a final review. If, as expected, the NCAA accepts the University's report, Penn will not be penalized any further. The report stopped short of laying the blame fully at Marrow's doorstep, stating that the Athletic Department was responsible for monitoring his status. At the same time, however, the report found that the Department's attempts to restore Marrow's full-time status were "inadvertent," and does not recommend disciplinary action against anyone involved in the case. The controversy began September 9, when Marrow dropped two of his four classes due to mononucleosis. Under NCAA regulations, Marrow was then considered a part-time student and should have been rendered ineligible to compete. But Athletic Department officials only realized that Marrow was ineligible November 19, when Marrow's mother, Sandra, called Athletics Academic Coordinator Robert Koonce to inquire if their tuition bill would be reduced to reflect Mitch's part-time status. Associate Athletic Director Denis Elton Cochran-Fikes initially contacted College Director of Advising Diane Frey to inquire if Marrow could be re-enrolled in one of the courses he had dropped. When Frey turned down that request, Marrow asked History Professor Beth Wenger if he could enroll in an independent study with her. Although Marrow was a student in Wenger's Jewish history class, Wenger consulted with History Department Chairperson Lynn Lees and Undergraduate Chairperson Bruce Kuklick, who urged Wenger to reject Marrow's request because of its late-semester timing. Marrow then asked for and received approval for an independent study with Legal Studies Professor Kenneth Shropshire, a sports and entertainment law expert who is also the University's faculty representative to the NCAA. But since Shropshire is a Wharton professor, the course required Frey's approval. Frey initially gave her consent on November 21. Marrow, now a full-time student, was allowed to compete in the November 22 game against Cornell. The Quakers defeated the Big Red, 33-20. The following Monday, The Philadelphia Inquirer contacted Frey and her supervisor, then-College Dean Robert Rescorla, about the Marrow case, prompting Frey to ask Rescorla to review her decision. Rescorla rejected the independent study on November 25, two days before the Inquirer broke the story on its front page. The incident made national newspaper and television headlines after the Associated Press picked up the story. The violations will forever mar the Quakers' season and Marrow's legacy as a Penn star. The committee recommended that the Ivy League strip him of the All-Ivy First Team honors he received during the 1997 season, tarnishing Marrow's illustrious career at Penn. Marrow is currently in Mobile, Ala., preparing for this Saturday's Senior Bowl, and was unavailable for comment this weekend. A woman at his parents' home in Harrison, N.Y., hung up on a Daily Pennsylvanian reporter. For Penn, the asterisk will represent, for years to come, the controversy that rocked Penn's Athletic Department in 1997. But University administrators and Athletics officials maintained that, while they are sorry for the team, the decision to forfeit the games was the correct one. "We are all unhappy that the members of the football team and the coaches, who worked hard all season, had this happen to them," said former Provost Stanley Chodorow, who appointed the committee that investigated the issue. "Penn has had an unblemished record of playing by the rules, and we have taken actions that preserve that tradition," he added. Chodorow stressed that the University did not sacrifice any academic ideals by initially allowing Marrow to sign up for an independent study late in the semester, since Marrow was treated "as any other student might have been treated" in this situation. Athletic Director Steve Bilsky noted that "this is the first incident of this kind" in Penn's 100 years of intercollegiate athletic competition. Previously, the football team has never forfeited a game, making Penn's forfeiture of five 1997 contests extraordinary. "I am disappointed for the players on the football team and the coaches, but I'm convinced they have this incident in perspective and that it doesn't take away from their efforts this season or the successes they've had in their careers at Penn," Bilsky said. And Interim Provost Michael Wachter said: "We are committed to 'playing by the rules' at Penn, and this is the consequence. There was truly no alternative to forfeiting the games." Although neither Marrow nor Penn intentionally violated bylaws, Marrow, as a student-athlete, "bears responsibility for understanding the eligibility rules that apply to him," according to the report. But Cochran-Fikes was responsible for monitoring eligibility and compliance with NCAA regulations, the report states. Last month, Marrow said Cochran-Fikes "kind of screwed up" by failing to provide him and two other fifth-year football players with eligibility information. Cochran-Fikes did not return a phone call Friday. Although the report blames the Athletic Department for "its failure to identify Mr. Marrow's part-time status and ineligibility," the committee members label the department's attempts to restore Marrow's eligibility as "inadvertent" and "not intentional." Under NCAA rules, only the NCAA could restore Marrow's eligibility. When the story broke, Kuklick and Lees alleged that athletics officials engaged in a "sleazy" cover-up of Marrow's ineligibility. But University spokesperson Ken Wildes stressed that "this did not happen as a result of someone trying to gain a competitive advantage." The committee investigating the controversy, which consisted of Anatomy Professor Peter Hand, Engineering Professor Wayne Worrell, Director of Institutional Research and Analysis Bernard Lentz,and Associate General Counsel Debra Fickler suggested several plans of action to ensure that such a violation never happens again. The Athletic Department has a responsibility "to scrupulously monitor full-time eligibility" and in particular, review weekly reports sent to the Athletic Department that list students' status as part-time or full-time. Also, the Athletic Department must "immediately report all NCAA infractions to the Provost, the President, and the Ivy League Office."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.