Vickers tells his side of the story

When B.J. Vickers was suddenly left off the plane before the Utah game the rumor mill began. Reports varied from academic woes to legal woes. Since then most of the story has come to light, but now for the first time Vickers is speaking to the media and Cat Tracks was there to hear it from the former Wildcats' mouth.

B.J. Vickers was supposed to add 100 yards a game to the Arizona offense. Instead he becomes another in a long line of "what ifs". Hours before Vickers was to board a plane for Salt Lake City and begin his Wildcat career, he was informed that there was a problem with his associates degree from Santa Monica City College.

He accompanied Wildcat athletic officials into McKale to find out what was going on. The news was not good.

"My Junior college took back my AA degree because of two classes at (Los Angeles) Trade Tech," Vickers admitted.

Essentially the problem stemmed from a math and an English class Vickers took at the Trade school in Los Angeles. Because the classes were not offered at Santa Monica when he needed it Vickers looked at other schools to supplement the coursework so he could acquire the AA degree he needed to transfer and play D-I football.

Essentially Vickers learned that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. He was indeed enrolled in the classes and received a passing grade. The problem was he was allowed to attend the first few classes and then take the final. According to the instructor, Vickers did not need to do any other coursework.

"The deal was you go to the class a couple days and that was pretty much it," Vickers said. "You get the grade at the end of the summer, after the final."

Vickers says he took the finals for the classes, but does not know what he got on the tests, only that he was awarded a "C" in each of the classes.

Everything appeared to be fine. He finished up his coursework at Santa Monica, was awarded the associates degree and then enrolled at Arizona for the spring semester. He took classes that semester and over the summer and had a 2.6 GPA heading into the fall.

"I took three classes in the summer and got my GPA up as high as it has always been."

He was poised to be a key contributor for the Wildcat offense when he learned of the bad news.

To be eligible at a D-I school as a JC transfer a player must have an associate's degree, a 2.0 GPA at the junior college, complete 48 units and be enrolled at the junior college for a minimum of three semesters. As soon as the associate's degree was pulled, he became instantly ineligible.

Vickers can retake the classes and regain his eligibility, sort of. He can play at a D-I school next year, but he can't play for Arizona or any other Pac-10 school. Pac-10 rules state that any player who enrolls at a school and is later found to be ineligible is automatically banned from competing for a Pac-10 school for the length of his or her collegiate career.

"I can't come back to the Pac-10," Vickers noted. "I qualified as a non-qualifier and you can't do that. My only option is to go back to junior college and transfer in January."

Now Vickers is sort of a free agent. He thought about appealing the ruling, but that would be a long shot at best and he could not afford the legal fees that would be involved. He would not even be granted a hearing by the Pac-10 because he admits he took the easy way out when it came to the classes.

"I was pretty sure a lot of people had done it," Vickers said. "Once I took the class I thought I was good to go and it caught up with me eight months later."

Right now Vickers is sort of a free agent. He is at Pima getting ready to take the two classes he needs and he has been researching and contacting schools to see what might be a good fit. Mississippi State and UNLV have been in contact and he is also looking at some big time programs once he gets the academics in order.

It has been tough on Vickers. He knew he was doing something wrong, he just did not realize the magnitude of what he was doing. He knew he was taking the easy way out, but so had others with no repercussions.

"You grow up going to class every day and getting grades and all of the sudden you only have to go a couple of days," Vickers admitted. "You know it is kind of wrong. I knew it was wrong, I just have to learn from my mistakes."

If he could do it all over again, he admits he'd do things differently.

"I would actually be there every day, instead of just not being there and getting a grade and I didn't work hard for. It was an easy grade. They were real classes. I went to a few classes, I just wasn't there every day."

Vickers was not alone. Almost 200 students were affected, including 13 student athletes, most, but not all affiliated with Santa Monica Community College.

This is actually the second incident for Vickers regarding his academics. He originally enrolled at Louisville coming out of high school but his SAT score was called into question and he was forced to re-take the test. After he failed to post a high enough test score on the re-try he was forced to the JC ranks.

Right now Vickers is working at a Tucson area lumber yard and waiting for the classes to begin at Pima. He is still on good terms with the players and the Wildcat coaching staff, but admits it is tough to watch his former teammates and football in general.

"It is pretty tough, it is challenging," Vickers explained. "You can either break down and feel sorry for yourself or you can suck it up and look for the next move.

"I look at this experience as a time to get more mature, faster, stronger, smarter and to be more hungry," he continued. "I can use it as motivation to be better and you can always get better."

In a perfect world Vickers would love to stay with the Wildcats. He was happy with his role on the team and how things were shaping up. Now he will have to move on.

"If I could stay here I would," Vickers said. "I was motivated here, this is a good coaching staff."

Now Vickers is looking for his fourth school of his brief collegiate career. He made a mistake and is owning up to it. While he has paid the price, it could have been a lot worse.

"I take it as a learning experience in my life to not take shortcuts, to do everything 100% and you'll know the results at the end," Vickers said.

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