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August 13, 2013The Texas game at BYU on Sept. 7 just got a whole lot more interesting.
Before the schools meet on the field, however, they may meet in a courtroom over BYU's (online) Independent Study classes policy.
That policy is at the heart of the "academic issue" currently sidelining the Longhorns' highly touted junior college transfer offensive tackle Desmond Harrison.
BYU on Tuesday confirmed to Orangebloods.com, which broke the story, that Harrison has appealed "an action" taken by BYU with regard to a single, independent study (online) class Harrison took through BYU to help become eligible at Texas.
"Desmond Harrison disagrees with the action that we've taken, and he's petitioning that action," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said Tuesday.
When asked when BYU would complete its review of Harrison's appeal, Jenkins said, "I don't think it's going to be a lengthy process - probably this week or next week."
Jenkins said BYU has prohibited student-athletes "from schools other than BYU" from taking their independent study (online) classes since 2006 after an "internal review."
BYU student-athletes can take the online classes and receive college credits that help them remain eligible, and sources tell Orangebloods.com Texas is ready to file a legal challenge to that policy if Harrison's appeal is not successful.
Sources say Texas will be able to show extensive evidence that student-athletes from schools other than BYU have been able to obtain course credit from BYU's (online) Independent Study to help them gain eligibility or to remain eligible since the policy went into effect in 2006.
Sources say Texas also questions BYU's ability to determine what course credits another school (Texas) is able to accept - and how BYU has used its online classes for its own student-athletes.
Orangebloods.com reported on Sunday that Harrison's "academic issue," as described by Texas coach Mack Brown, involved an online class at BYU.
After practicing the first day of fall camp, Harrison has been allowed to attend classes at Texas, but he can't practice or work out with the team, Brown said.
Without the BYU online course credit, Harrison's eligibility at Texas is in doubt.
Harrison is considered a top JUCO prospect and a likely starter for Texas this season.
Here is BYU's policy, which is addressed under "Courses" in a tab titled "NCAA Courses" on the BYU Independent Study web site.
* Students seeking NCAA initial eligibility certification cannot enroll in BYU Independent Study courses for core credit.
College athletes from schools other than BYU are not allowed to enroll in BYU Independent Study university-level courses.
This restriction applies to students who are currently eligible as well as those seeking eligibility to participate in any collegiate athletic program (e.g., NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, etc.)
If you have questions regarding this policy please call us toll free at 1(800)-914-8931.
In 2010, the NCAA passed a proposal, No. 2009-64, which addresses non-traditional courses and initial eligibility for high school athletes seeking eligibility at higher education institutions.
Our high school courses that have been approved by the NCAA for many years no longer meet the new criteria for core credit.
Students seeking NCAA eligibility can enroll in any BYU Independent Study high school-level course for graduation purposes.
The NCAA's 2010 policy only pertains to high school athletes seeking to use the BYU online classes to satisfy the 16 core courses required to gain initial eligibility.
The NCAA's action came after BYU's online education program gained attention in the book The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis, about Michael Oher.
In the book, Lewis documents how Oher loaded up on credits from BYU online classes to improve his grades in high school core courses required to gain eligibility at Ole Miss.
Sources told Orangebloods.com BYU certified the credits earned by Harrison that helped him become eligible at Texas, and UT accepted those credits.
But sources said BYU later notified Harrison they were rescinding the course credit, because Harrison had violated the program guidelines prohibiting student-athletes from "schools other than BYU" from taking such classes.
"I want to emphasize that this is something we do address with the independent study courses, right up front, at the very beginning," Jenkins said.
Jenkins wouldn't discuss the specifics of Harrison's case. But in general, she said, when BYU learns of a student-athlete "from a school other than BYU" taking an independent study (online) course, officials conduct "a thorough review" and then take "appropriate action."
"That action can include rescinding the course," Jenkins said.
When asked how often that occurs, she said, "From time to time it has.
"We are not talking a large number, and if we are made aware of these situations, we certainly take appropriate action after a thorough review.
"This is why we put so much right up front to inform students that if they are a student-athlete, they will not be allowed to take these independent study courses."
A student-athlete "from a school other than BYU."
It's unclear if Harrison was advised by Texas defensive tackles coach Bo Davis, who led Harrison's recruitment, or by Texas' football academic staff whether or not to take the class, considering BYU's stipulations.
All of that is irrelevant now. Harrison's "academic issue" could cause Texas and BYU to kickoff well ahead of Sept. 7.