The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees decided Saturday to delay a briefing on the school's response to NCAA's charges against the basketball program until all legal obstacles have passed.
The trustees debated the course of action about eight hours after a state Supreme Court justice had ruled that they could meet in closed session to hear the university's reply to the NCAA.The decision was made because of a restraining order that barred the trustees from discussing an allegation that basketball player Eric Manuel cheated on a college-entrance exam.
The restraining order came in a suit filed Friday by Manuel in federal court in Pikeville to keep his academic records private. The next hearing will be Friday in federal court in Lexington.
"Confidentiality is underscored by the Eric Manuel case," said university attorney John Darsie. "I can't be too serious about the consequences" of discussing confidential matters.
The university had been expected to respond to the allegations on Monday, but the Manuel situation extended the deadline to an undisclosed date.
The NCAA told university officials it would prefer a full report rather than piecemeal, according to James Park, the school's independent investigator.
"Basically the response comes close to administrative record," said Park of the contents. "It discusses information we may or may not agree with. You've got to include everything in the response, including the kitchen sink...There's a tremendous amount of information that impacts a lot of people."
Darsie also told the trustees in the two-hour meeting that there was pending litigation by several in the media to seek to make the finished report a public document before it reaches the NCAA.
The Courier-Journal of Louisville had filed suit in Fayette Circuit Court in Lexington, winning the first court order of the day to open Saturday's meeting. The Lexington Herald-Leader and The Kentucky Post joined the suit.
Later Friday in Frankfort, Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Wilhoit refused to overturn circuit Judge George Barker's temporary injunction.
Wilhoit and Barker ultimately were reversed by Justice Joseph Lambert, whose order was released at 1:45 a.m. EST Saturday.
"The reputation of a number of individuals is directly at stake in this litigation," said the order by Lambert, who alone heard the appeal in an extraordinary night court session.
In Friday's first hearing, Barker ruled that the NCAA's allegations had been made public and that the university's response should be, too.
In the appellate hearings, Darsie said the meeting could be closed under the Open Meetings Law's exception for discussion of personnel actions.
"We're talking here about the careers of coaches, . . . the academic careers of students," Darsie said in the Supreme Court.
But Jon Fleischaker, a Louisville attorney representing The Courier-Journal, said the personnel exception applied only to hiring, firing or disciplining of individuals.