LAWRENCE — The family of prospective Kansas football player Nick Harwell has hired a prominent sports attorney in an attempt to ensure that Harwell can become eligible for the upcoming season.
Donald Jackson, an attorney for The Sports Group, an Alabama-based law firm, said he is representing Harwell in discussions with Miami University in Ohio.
Harwell, who played three seasons at Miami, announced May 22 that he would transfer to Kansas with the intent of graduating from Miami this summer and becoming eligible in the fall under the graduate-transfer rule. Harwell, the nation’s second-leading receiver with 97 catches for 1,425 yards in 2011, would immediately become the top wideout in a Kansas program that has struggled to find reliable pass-catchers.
But Harwell, who was suspended from Miami this spring, has been unable to enroll in summer classes and complete his degree, Jackson says. And if Harwell is not allowed to enroll in the next few days, Jackson says, it’s unlikely that he’ll finish his degree by the end of the summer.
Harwell’s suspension came after an incident with his former girlfriend on March 30, when Harwell was charged with criminal damaging, theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle/vehicle trespass, according to Oxford (Ohio) police. The charges were later reduced to a single count of attempted theft, a second-degree misdemeanor, but Harwell was later suspended from school after going through an appeals process with the university’s Office of Ethics & Student Conflict Resolution.
Susan Vaughn, the director of the school’s Office of Ethics & Student Conflict Resolution, said she couldn’t address specific cases involving current or former students. But she did say that, in most cases, the school allows for discretion while handing out discipline.
“It would be based on the nature of the offense and prior disciplinary history,” Vaughn said. “So if a student has a prior disciplinary history, an accumulation of violations, it would escalate the sanction.”
Before his arrest earlier this spring, Harwell had four prior arrests in Oxford, according to court records. On Feb. 13, 2010, during his first year on campus, Harwell was arrested for disorderly conduct. Later that year, on Aug. 10, he was arrested for disorderly conduct, criminal damaging and an underage liquor violation. The first charge was waived after Harwell paid a fine, and the other charges were dismissed by Oxford police under a diversion agreement. Harwell was arrested again on Aug. 20, 2011, for another underage liquor violation — he missed Miami’s first game for a violation of team rules and was arrested for disorderly conduct again on Feb. 9.
Jackson characterized Harwell’s past legal troubles as “minor, college-related issues,” and added that Harwell’s suspension from school was not consistent with the severity of a second-degree misdemeanor. The theft charge, according to the incident report, came after an argument that resulted in Harwell taking a bag that had two graduation cap and gowns — one that belonged to him and one that belonged to his girlfriend.
“There was just no justification at all for that kind of punishment,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, Harwell is just “six or eight” hours away from graduating, and he could complete those hours this summer through online classes — if Miami would cooperate. Harwell, a native of Missouri City, Texas, is spending the summer with his family in Texas, Jackson says, and he could complete the necessary coursework without returning to campus.
“This is not a very difficult case in a number of respects,” Jackson said. “He simply needs to take these courses online and graduate so he can move on with the rest of his life.”
Jackson says he’s been involved with ongoing discussions with officials at Miami, but Harwell could be running out of time. According to the school’s website, a six-week summer school session began Monday. The school also offers a four-week session July 15, but the course offering could be too limited to allow Harwell to graduate. If Harwell can’t graduate, he would need to sit out a year before playing, in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
Harwell finished his career at Miami last spring with 68 receptions for 870 yards while missing three games because of a knee injury.
KU officials, who declined comment on Monday, released a statement after Harwell’s transfer, stating that his eligibility “is to be determined as the Compliance and Academic staff work through the process.”
The bird is back — Kansas football coach Charlie Weis unveiled five new helmets Monday, four of them featuring the Jayhawk logo. The fifth helmet is a throwback baby blue version with white numbers on the side.
The blue, white and black helmets all feature the modern Jayhawk logo, while a red version has the famous “1941” World War II-era “Warhawk.”
Since the mid-1980s, KU helmets have mostly featured different versions of “KU” lettering. The Jayhawk hasn’t been consistently been on the KU helmet since the early 1980s.
KU currently has five jersey options in the same colors as the new helmets, so the Jayhawks now have 25 jersey-helmet combinations.