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Texas Tech quarterback Zebbie Lethridge among Red Raiders tied to violations

HOUSTON (AP) -- Texas Tech quarterback Zebbie Lethridge is among the Red Raiders athletes tied to NCAA rules violations, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday.

Four court cases charging Lethridge with misdemeanor offenses are identical to those listed in the NCAA's Oct. 31 letter of inquiry to Tech, the newspaper reported.

In the NCAA letter, an unidentified current Tech athlete with four court cases is cited as one who supposedly received free or reduced-cost legal services from John Sims, who served as a Texas Tech regent from 1991 to January 1997.

The letter of inquiry refers to a current football player who was arrested on four misdemeanor charges between Jan. 15, 1994, and Aug. 7, 1995.

On each occasion, the NCAA alleges, the player received free legal services from Sims or an associate, Marta Rosas.

Dates and pleadings for the four cases detailed in the letter match those of four cases involving Lethridge in various Lubbock courts. Three were traffic offenses. The fourth was a shoplifting case that resulted in Lethridge's acquittal, the Chronicle reported.

The Chronicle reported in a Dec. 10, 1995, story that Lethridge was one of several current and former Tech athletes who had received legal representation from Sims or Rosas.

A Dec. 14, 1995, letter to the NCAA's Dirk Taitt from Robert Sweazy, Tech's faculty athletic representative, states that the university had investigated the circumstances surrounding Sims' legal representation of a student-athlete and had found no reason to declare the athlete ineligible. The name of the athlete was deleted from the copy of the letter Tech provided to the Chronicle.

Lethridge could not be reached for comment Saturday. There is no telephone listing for him in Lubbock and he was expected to be in Austin for the Red Raiders' game against the University of Texas.

Among the 18 allegations in the NCAA letter are seven instances in which Sims or Rosas provided Tech athletes with free or reduced-cost legal services from 1992 to 1996.

The version of the letter made public by Tech on Monday identified all parties involved in the alleged violations except current and former student-athletes.

The six other athletes alleged to have received improper legal services are identified as having formerly competed for Tech.

Circumstances described in the letter also indicate the involvement of current Tech receiver Malcolm McKenzie.

According to the NCAA, Tech officials failed to act after learning during the 1995 season that McKenzie had been readmitted to the university based on a junior-college grade he had not earned.

The fact Lethridge and McKenzie have continued to play throughout the NCAA investigation is an indication Tech plans to contest the allegations involving the players, the Chronicle reported.

Although Lethridge's legal representation and McKenzie's grade have been mentioned in published reports, documents provided to the Chronicle by Tech under the Texas Public Information Act do not indicate the university has declared either ineligible as a result of those matters.

Tech Chancellor John Montford has said he believes some of the allegations can be refuted but has not indicated to which he is referring.

Bob Burton, Tech's associate athletic director for compliance, said the university is comfortable with the way it has handled eligibility issues relating to current players.

"Let me stress this: We're not going to put somebody out there on the field unless we have something to stand on," he said.

Tech must respond to the charges by Feb. 2, 1998. The case then will be heard by the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions.

The university announced Thursday it was withdrawing its football team from bowl consideration as a self-imposed penalty. The Raiders could have reached the Big 12 Conference championship game by winning their final three games or qualified for a bowl by winning two of three.

 texnews.com

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