Kennard says he changed grade in 1999

Updated: May 19, 2005, 7:58 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A former Ohio State instructor said he changed a failing grade for a Buckeyes basketball player because the student was having personal problems.

Doug Kennard, now an assistant professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University northeast of Columbus, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he received a phone call from a woman who said she was part of a host family for Boban Savovic, who is from Serbia.

"It wasn't a matter of him sleeping late and not coming to class or not trying or anything," Kennard said.

Kennard said he changed the F for Savovic in spring 1999 when he was a temporary instructor at Ohio State. The Columbus Dispatch first reported the grade change in its Thursday editions.

Kathleen Salyers, an OSU booster who says she housed Savovic, has said she persuaded professors to change Savovic's failing grades so he would remain eligible to play. Salyers said she asked for the grade changes at the request of then-assistant basketball coach Paul Biancardi.

Now head coach at Wright State, Biancardi has denied the allegation in court filings.

The school looked into Salyers' story about the grade changes, Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp said. He wouldn't confirm what the university found, but said boosters are not allowed to ask that student-athletes get special benefits.

Salyers has said part of her motivation for calling professors was that she didn't want Savovic to be sent back to his war-torn homeland.

"It was in response to her discussion that I considered changing the grade," Kennard said. "It wasn't from talking with any coach or anybody in the university or anything like that."

Kennard said he couldn't remember whether he changed Savovic's F in Rural Sociology to a D or to an Incomplete. Any change would have had to be approved through the sociology department chair, he said.

Snapp said he did not know whether that was standard procedure for the school's academic departments. A message was left with a university spokeswoman seeking further explanation.

Savovic played at Ohio State from 1998 to 2002.

Salyers said in a lawsuit against her former employers that they agreed to pay her to let Savovic stay with her. The case was one reason the NCAA investigated the school's athletic department, which resulted earlier this week in the NCAA notifying Ohio State of nine allegations of rules violations. Seven of those accusations concern the men's basketball program, though none allege grade-fixing.

Ohio State has until July 26 to respond to the NCAA.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press