Arlington Country Day has been called a basketball factory.
With a major national sponsor in adidas and multiple state championships across two organizations, it’s difficult to dispute the school’s credentials on the court.
One of the two most successful basketball programs in Jacksonville-area history also has a problem.
It can’t guarantee players or their parents that they’ll be allowed to play in college because of an ongoing rift with the NCAA about curriculum at the school.
It happened twice this year, when two of ACD’s major college basketball signees, Dante Buford and Brandone Francis, failed to be cleared by the NCAA’s Eligibility Center.
Francis’ father has claimed the school used his son for athletic gain and threatened legal action.
This has happened before at ACD in other sports such as football, where at least one player lost a scholarship to a Football Bowl Subdivision program in 2013 because of questions about courses he took at ACD years earlier.
Over the past two months, the Times-Union spoke with nearly two dozen parents, educators and coaches at ACD. Parents of players in several sports say the K-through-12 school has failed their children and then refused to help them sort out the mess with the NCAA.
ACD contends that it has done nothing wrong and has been unfairly targeted by the NCAA since late 2010, when it withdrew from the Florida High School Athletic Association.
To fight back, the school has hired a high-profile attorney, Don Jackson, who specializes in handling eligibility issues for athletes and colleges against the governing body of college athletics.
What the NCAA hasn’t been able to tell ACD, according to Jackson and head of school Deborah Condit, is why the school is stuck in a chasm called an extended evaluation period, and what it can do to get out of it.
Under current rules, the NCAA’s Eligibility Center can pore over an athlete’s records and ask him or her to produce certain assignments or coursework from years earlier. If that athlete can’t come up with the requested material, the athlete is barred from full clearance at the next level.
Some athletes go to prep school, such as current High Point University basketball star John Brown did after graduating from ACD in 2010. Others, such as freshmen Buford (Oklahoma) and Francis (Florida), are accepted into college but then can’t play.
TWO SIGNEES NOT CLEARED
ACD’s problems with sending student-athletes to college peaked in October, when two of its four basketball signees, Francis and Buford, were declared academically ineligible by the NCAA’s Eligibility Center.