Clearing the Air

The UA athletic department takes time Wednesday to address several issues surrounding the school's basketball program.

FAYETTEVILLE — A day after its new basketball coach bolted for home, Arkansas released a statement Wednesday detailing several academic and drug issues within the basketball program.

The statement by the university was issued for a simple reason.

"Due to the unexpected resignation of Dana Altman, there have been numerous rumors, innuendoes and questions circulating throughout the state," the statement began.

Clearly, the curiosity of why Dana Altman stayed in Arkansas only one day nudged the university toward this decision. On Tuesday, Altman cited family as his main reason for returning to Omaha. But Wednesday, allegations of academic ineligibility, drug use and under-the-table gifts hit column space, radio airwaves and Internet message boards.

Whether these issues truly swayed Altman was no longer the university's main concern. The extent of truth to each issue was.

The statement went on to outline Chancellor John White's main worry about rumors. "In our conversations (Tuesday), Coach Altman assured me that his decision to remain at Creighton University was based on a personal and a private desire by himself and his family to stay at the university where he has coached for 13 years," White said.

Since Altman's departure leaves Arkansas without permanent leadership, the university said Glynn Cyprien, assistant men's basketball coach, would assume direction of the program.

Many believe that person would be Altman right now, though, if several of the issues raised in the statement didn't exist.

To be sure, Altman did have some interesting knowledge at his disposal when he came to a final decision. Some time Tuesday, Altman learned that two current Razorback players had tested positive for substance abuse, specifically marijuana usage, on March 27.

Because of federal laws, the names of the players and additional information is protected.

According to the athletic department's Policy on Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Education and Testing, the two players would had to have entered the Safe Harbor Program prior to the test. If they didn't enroll in the program offered by the university, they would face a one-game suspension and other penalties.

Cyprien wanted to clarify one point when he spoke with a Stephens Media reporter.

"I just want to say in the last five years — to my knowledge — there have only been two guys that have tested positive for marijuana," Cyprien said.

Former Arkansas and current South Florida Coach Stan reached on his cell phone, declined further interviews late Wednesday night. He spoke at length in a phone interview on an Arkansas television station Wednesday night. He did give one statement for print.

"I've got to move on and coach (South Florida)," Heath said. "But I don't appreciate the university making me out as a scapegoat for the ongoing problem."

The timeline regarding notification of the positive results revealed a lag of five days, a span that kept Altman from finding out immediately.

The results came back on March 29. Altman accepted the job Monday. He didn't learn of the results until Tuesday. Then, he was apprised of the academic situation of each Razorback player.

The statement said, "One basketball student-athlete is under suspension from team activities due to academic reasons."

Sources close to the basketball program wouldn't name the player. But they did say he had dropped down to six hours of school credits this semester, below the level of a full-time student. The sources also stated that a handful of other players were struggling in their classes and needed to raise their grades to remain eligible.

But then again, there is summer school to gain eligibility.

Plus, as Altman sternly stated, every basketball program academic situations such as these.

"Like any college basketball program, they have a couple of things to address," Altman said Wednesday in Omaha.

It's unknown whether allegations of illegal gifts of money or other benefits carry any weight. The sources said Arkansas has at times suspected this type of behavior and has repeatedly looked into incidents throughout the years. But they said nothing has ever been uncovered, no dots have ever been connected.

Cyprien met with Broyles and the Razorback players Wednesday afternoon to discuss the details of what would soon become public.

Afterward, he said he planned to represent the university with pride in the meantime. "I just came from a meeting where the guys mentioned to me that in some polls — I guess Fox Sports — our team for next season has been rated as high as eighth," Cyprien said. "So every negative article or every negative statement that has been made about Arkansas, there have been tons and tons and tons of positive ones made about the future of the program."


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