Laettner's diary is no poison pen, Duke says

April 17, 1992|By Charles Chandler | Charles Chandler,Knight-Ridder

CHARLOTTER, N.C. — CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Duke officials "categorically" denied allegations yesterday that basketball star Christian Laettner may have violated NCAA rules, but the NCAA was not yet commenting.

At issue are the terms of Laettner's arrangement to keep a diary for publication in GQ magazine.

The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal's editions yesterday quoted GQ's managing editor, David Granger, and former managing editor, Eliot Kaplan, as saying Laettner signed a contract with the magazine before his senior season, agreeing to payment if the story is published as scheduled this fall.

Laettner denied signing a contract, and Granger reversed himself yesterday afternoon after checking GQ's files, agreeing there was no contract. However, Granger said Laettner was to be paid for the diary, which he has been compiling and submitting on audiotape.

"It's a firm verbal agreement," Granger said. "If we do publish it, we'll pay him for it. There is an amount we've discussed. It's basically the same we would pay any first-time writer."

NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from providing professional services or promoting products. Doing so could render the athlete ineligible.

Duke's potential penalty, according to the Journal, could range from a simple reprimand to forfeiture of games, including the Blue Devils' recent national championship.

Duke officials seemed confident yesterday that the school would face no penalties.

Sports information director Mike Cragg said that Chris Kennedy, in charge of Duke's NCAA compliance, called Atlantic Coast Conference assistant commissioner David Thompson about the matter before the season and Thompson discussed it with the NCAA's legislative services office.

Duke issued a statement saying it "was given an interpretation which did not prohibit Laettner from preparing a diary for future post-eligibility publication."

"I don't know what else could have been done," Kennedy said. "I'm convinced there was not a violation."

GQ editor-in-chief Art Cooper said the magazine waited for a response from Laettner while Duke was checking the legality of the situation.

"It was my understanding all along that Duke was checking it out with the NCAA," Cooper said. "We didn't go ahead with it until we understood it was OK. As far as I can see, there's no story here."

However, the NCAA is apparently planning a review. Kennedy said the NCAA asked him to file a report and he would do so today.

NCAA officials did not return telephone calls yesterday, but legislative services director Rick Evrard told the Journal on Wednesday: "I think that we would look at the facts overall, but I don't think we would distinguish between an oral or written agreement."

Laettner didn't hide his deal with GQ. He told reporters in March that he had agreed to make weekly tape-recorded entries for GQ and would be paid after publication.

Duke athletic director Tom Butters said he wasn't aware that Laettner was working on the diary until Wednesday. He said he looked into the situation yesterday and was satisfied that Duke and Laettner did nothing wrong.

"The necessary chain was followed," Butters said. "I have a lot more confidence in Christian and the system than other people apparently do. I'm sorry it's put everybody in a position where we seemingly have to prove our innocence."

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