UO probes players’ eligibility;Basketball Oregon Men;Michael Dunigan and several other former

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

The eligibility of “former members” of the Oregon men’s

basketballteam during the past two seasons is under investigation,

the school acknowledged Tuesday night.

The UO statement came in response to a query from The

Register-Guard, which has been told by sources that Michael Dunigan

signed with aprofessional team in Israel, ending his college career

after two seasons, because his eligibility was in question.

The short statement, credited to UO director of athletics Rob

Mullens, indicated that the school had obtained information related

to the eligibility of the unnamed players this summer and

“immediately contacted the (Pac-10) office … which in turn

forwarded the information onto the

NCAA for clarification.”

There was no indication how either the conference or NCAA had

responded.

A source indicated that the UO believes there is no issue with

theeligibility of the nine current scholarship players.

According to sources, the investigation by UO officials came

aboutbecause of allegations that Dunigan’s eligibility had been

compromised by extra benefits provided to him, in violation of NCAA

rules. Multiple sources with contacts in the UO basketball program

were uncertain about the nature of the alleged benefits or who

provided them.

However, all agreed that Oregon was asking questions about the

allegations before Dunigan took the unexpected route of signing

with theHapoel Migdal team in Jerusalem.

Dunigan attended summer session classes at the university, and

worked out with the Ducks in August in preparation for a foreign

tour toItaly. One source indicated that Oregon’s decision to

postpone the trip for exhibition games last month, publicly

attributed to injuries and a short roster, was at least partially

prompted by concerns aboutDunigan’s eligibility, with Dunigan being

told he might not be allowed to make the trip unless there was a

resolution of the eligibility issues.

According to its news release, Oregon contacted the Pac-10 about

the eligibility issues on Aug. 2 “upon obtaining information

relating to the student-athletes.” The Ducks started practice for

the Italy trip on Aug. 12, but announced Aug. 20 that they wouldn’t

make the trip.

Asked if Dunigan’s eligibility was in question this summer, UO

men’s basketball coach Dana Altman said Tuesday, “I won’t comment

on that at this time.”

Dunigan and his mother have not responded to messages left for

them since the initial reports that he was turning pro. A phone

call to Pearl Dunigan, outlining the nature of this story, was not

returned Tuesday.

The UO’s statement did not name players or indicate how many

mightbe involved but made it clear there is a more wide-spread

issue thansimply Dunigan.

There are nine players who could be described as “former”

members of the past two teams, including three who used up their

eligibility and six others who transferred to other schools,

including four sincethe past season ended.

In declining to provide more information, the UO cited the

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits schools

that receive federal funding from releasing information contained

in student records without the consent of the student.

Although the school says the probe involves former players,

there could still be liability for the Ducks if it was found that

NCAA violations occurred while they were on the team.

The future eligibility of Ducks who transferred could also be in

question.

Tai Streets, who ran the AAU program in Chicago that Dunigan

played for before college, said he hadn’t recently spoken with

Dunigan andwas unaware of any eligibility issues.

“Somebody just told me a couple of weeks ago that Michael was

talking about going overseas,” Streets said. “I don’t know what’s

going on with Michael Dunigan. I don’t know anything about that

situation.”

As one of the top-rated big men in the nation as a senior at

Farragut Academy in Chicago, Dunigan’s decision to commit to the

Ducks, along with friend and teammate Matt Humphrey, was considered

a major recruiting victory. The 6-foot-10 Dunigan was a McDonald’s

all-American, sought by some of the major programs in the country,

and was selected by Gatorade as the player of the year in Illinois

after averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks per game as

a senior.

Oregon has had a fairly heavy exodus of players in the past two

years. On the 2008-09 team, Ben Voogd left during the season and

Kamyron Brown after the season. Following this past season, when

the UO fired Ernie Kent and settled on Altman after an extended

search, four more players were lost when Humphrey, Drew Wiley, Josh

Crittle and Jamil Wilson left for other college programs. Also

during the past two years, Churchill Odia, Frantz Dorsainvil and

Tajuan Porter exhausted their eligibility.

Oregon has only nine players on scholarship, four under the NCAA

limit for a men’s basketball team.

Only two players on the roster will be taller than 6-6 for

Altman’s first season as coach.

Salary figures for Dunigan in Israel were not available, but an

American high school player of similar size to Dunigan signed a

deal that paid an annual compensation of $140,000.

Oregon has thus far not acknowledged Dunigan’s departure. He was

still listed on the team’s official roster Tuesday evening, though

theIsraeli team announced his signing on its website and Hapoel

Migdal lists Dunigan on its roster.

The initial report by a newspaper in Tel Aviv two weeks ago that

Dunigan was about to sign with an Israeli team was the first

indication that Dunigan might leave Oregon before his junior

season.

Register-Guard columnist George Schroeder contributed to this

report.