Bubu Palo awaits final decision, ready to turn corner


ISU redshirt junior Bubu Palo brings the ball up the court against Ohio State in the third round game of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, March 24, 2013, at the University of Dayton Arena.  The Cyclones came close to a two-seeded upset but fell in a last second shot by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft 75-78.

Alex Halsted

Bubu Palo thought he was finally turning a corner.

After criminal charges of sexual abuse were dismissed last January, Palo was reinstated to the ISU men’s basketball team and played in 17 games as the Cyclones advanced to their second-consecutive NCAA tournament.

Shortly after Iowa State returned from the tournament, charges against Palo of violating the Iowa State Student Code of Conduct were also dropped in April. He was ready to move on and play out his final year of eligibility in 2013-14.

In June 2013, though, the Iowa State decision was appealed to ISU President Steven Leath. On Aug. 30 Palo was removed from the basketball team after Leath decided he had violated the code of conduct.

Last Thursday, a judge granted Palo a temporary stay to return the basketball team while he awaits a district court’s decision on Leath’s ruling and the Iowa Board of Regents’ affirmation of it on Dec. 5.

“Obviously I want to play, but this is much more than basketball,” Palo said in an interview Sunday. “This is also about clearing my name.”

Since Palo was charged in September 2012 stemming from an incident in May of that year, it has been a tumultuous ride. He slowly watched as charges — first criminal ones and then university ones — were dropped.

Had Iowa State parted ways with him then, Palo said, he would have moved on.

“Although they reinstated me and I’m very thankful, they could have at that time when the charges got dropped said, ‘Hey, we’re happy for you, but we don’t want you to represent the university,’” Palo said. “I would have started the transfer process then.

“That would have been OK, but then that didn’t happen.”

Instead, Palo had his scholarship renewed over the summer for a final season and worked out with the team until he was suddenly notified in August that Leath had reversed the original decision on university charges.

Leath’s ruling came one week after classes at Iowa State had started, leaving Palo no ability to transfer and remain eligible. That was one of 14 things the court found “most troubling” while granting a stay last week.

“I was looking forward to this year, having a full year, and the timing of the decision to not only say, ‘Hey, you can’t play here, but we’ve also waited too long. Now you can’t play anywhere,’” Palo said. “That was what was disheartening.”

Leath’s decision, Palo said, was based on the same facts that got his criminal charges dismissed and the same ones that an Administrative Law Judge had declared “not founded” in the initial ruling, according to court records.

“Somehow they looked at those facts and they came up with their own conclusion that I had violated the rules,” Palo said. “That was just their decision based on facts that had been provided to everyone and the same facts that got the case dropped.”

When the Iowa Board of Regents affirmed Leath’s decision, Palo’s only option was to appeal to district court.

As teammates welcomed Palo back, ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard released a statement disagreeing with the court’s decision. That put Palo in a bind as he returns to the team while the appeal plays out in the coming weeks.

“It was bittersweet,” Palo said about decision. “It’ll be nice to be around the guys, but it was obviously a little unsettling knowing the dynamics of the situation with the statement that had been put out by the university.”

Palo didn’t travel with the team to Texas on Saturday. ISU coach Fred Hoiberg remained mum on the situation Monday, except to confirm a short conversation with Palo prior to the team’s departure for Austin, Texas.

Palo was set to return to the team Monday at practice and said he will begin as a member of the scout team. What Palo’s role might become is uncertain, though he feels he can bring leadership as a senior as well as depth off the bench.

“We want him to be back on our team,” said senior DeAndre Kane. “He was a part of the team earlier in the season but that happened, so he had to do what he had to do. We’re happy for him. We know he’s excited to be back on the team. He can help us in many ways.”

A final decision on Palo’s appeal is expected in the coming weeks. Whatever happens, Palo is ready to finally turn the corner.

“It’ll be relieving either way to be able to move on,” Palo said. “After the case got dropped I was doing all the summer workouts and I was thinking I was going to be able to turn the corner finally on this saga. With the ruling coming after school had started it just threw another curveball into this.

“It will just be a weight lifted off my shoulder to have the process over with.”