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McAlister ineligible during UA victory over Washington

By Dan Rosen
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 5, 1998
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Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris McAlister UA senior cornerback

SEATTLE - The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled UA senior cornerback Chris McAlister ineligible for Saturday night's game at Washington, saying he abused his status as an NFL prospect to procure a personal loan.

But UA athletic department officials called the decision unfair, adding that the loan had nothing to do with McAlister's football career and that he did nothing wrong.

University of Arizona media relations officials said McAlister was suspended because the NCAA interpreted McAlister's loan as a violation of guidelines for financial benefits available to amateur athletes.

McAlister secured a loan last summer from a bank in Austin, Texas, in order to purchase NCAA-approved disability insurance.

In addition to the $11,800 loan, he received $14,000 in loans to cover personal expenses.

The NCAA concluded that the bank relied on McAlister's potential success as an athlete and thus violated the rules.

"It is not unfair, it is grossly un-fair. There is no way that Chris Mc-Alister should not play in this game be-cause he has done nothing wrong," University of Arizona ath-letic director Jim Livengood said before the game.

The loan was given to McAlister at a 14.5 percent interest rate which Livengood said "is no special benefit."

The UA athletic department found out about the loan Tuesday while doing a random check of the players' insurance policies. Arizona did appeal the ruling to the NCAA but was turned down.

"Chris was very open about all the loan papers. Nobody was trying to hide anything," Livengood said. "Chris knows if there is no booster or agent involved it must be OK."

UA head coach Dick Tomey said McAlister could have filed an injunction, but he and his father James decided against it.

"It is an unfair abuse of power. He did nothing wrong. He was solicited," Tomey said. "He would have litigated, but Chris and James both want to get it over with, and it would have gone on for weeks or months if they did."

Tomey noted that the letter McAlister received from the bank addressed him only as, "Dear Customer."

"Everyone gets so much mail like that all the time," he said.

McAlister is one of five players throughout the nation in different sports who have received a similar loan. He has been the only one suspended from play.

"We are losing track of what we do on Saturday nights and that is depressing," Livengood said. "This young man not having a chance to play tonight is wrong because he has done nothing wrong."

McAlister's teammates team found out about the one-game suspension in a meeting Friday afternoon before leaving for Seattle.

"I told the team that Chris is going to watch and be proud of what he sees," Tomey said. "I wanted him there when I told them because I wanted him to feel the love the team has for him."

McAlister will return to action against UCLA this Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

Dan Rosen can be reached via e-mail at Dan.Rosen@wildcat.arizona.edu.