senior Mark Davis, a star linebacker for Theodore Roosevelt High School, looked at his graduation program during commencement ceremonies last June, he was surprised and delighted to see the word "scholarship" next to his name as well as those of two teammates.

Two months later, plane tickets in hand, expecting to attend Rochester (Minn.) Community College on a two-year scholarship, the three were told it was all a mistake.

Today, a mystified Davis, out of school and without a job, and his stepfather are irate at the way the situation has been handled by Roosevelt officials.

Across town, Efrem Carter, a guard on Spingarn High School's basketball team last season, sits at home in a similar predicament. Told he had a scholarship to play at Wilberforce University, Carter flew to the Ohio school, where he learned otherwise. An alternative arrangement for Carter to attend a small school in Florida also fell through. His mother, Lynn, blames Spingarn for what she calls "a raw deal" from the school.

'What Scholarship?'

Dwayne Wilkerson, Davis's stepfather, wishes he had been more careful on the scholarship situation. "In retrospect we should have been suspicious," Wilkerson said. "It didn't cross my mind that this would happen. It's caused my wife and me a lot of grief."

Wilkerson says he opened the program and saw that $8,000 scholarships had been awarded to Davis, Shedrick Young and Dwayne Veney. The three had starred for the Rough Riders last season and were the only three Roosevelt representatives on the West squad in the Interhigh All-Star game.

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Davis was told the scholarship had been arranged by Jim Cox, a volunteer recruiter who worked with the admissions office and the football team at the Minnesota junior college. Roosevelt linebackers coach Ronald Carter gave the players' names to Cox after the recruiter told him there were positions to fill at Rochester.

"About 20 years ago our former athletic director, Joe Rochkenback, crossed paths with Cox and started an arrangement where he would recommend young men to come here to further their education and participate in athletics," said Steve Kereakos, the Rochester head football coach. "Cox calls us every year and asks us what positions we need assistance with."

Davis met with Cox several times throughout the summer, making final plans for his departure. At one such meeting, Aug. 18, Wilkerson accompanied his stepson.

"Mark had not brought home some details of things I wanted to hear about the school, so I wanted to go along," Wilkerson said. "After Mr. Cox gave Mark a class schedule, I asked him how the scholarship would be allocated. He asked me, 'What scholarship?' "

Wilkerson said he was told by Cox that what he meant was a financial aid package was arranged including a grant-in-aid, money for which Davis would have to qualify based on his family's income, rather than a scholarship, where the school would award the money regardless of need. Davis would not have to pay back the grant-in-aid; it was not a loan. Cox added that Rochester did not award athletic scholarships, because the Minnesota community college system does not allow them.

Wilkerson said he filled out the forms for the financial aid, but was not expecting to qualify, since he and his wife both worked and made too much money to meet the minimum salary requirement. When Wilkerson and Davis returned from the meeting, a letter from the American Testing Service was waiting in the mailbox, confirming that belief: Davis would not qualify for the financial aid the junior college was offering.

"I was told Mark didn't come because his finances were screwed up, and that a scholarship he was promised never came through," Kereakos said. "I couldn't believe that because we don't have scholarships."

Cox, who was unavailable for comment for this story after repeated telephone calls, had made plane reservations, paid for by Wilkerson, for Davis to travel to Minnesota. Though they were non-refundable tickets, Wilkerson said he convinced the airline to return the fare, after "prolonged begging."

Veney and Young, however, did qualify for the grant-in-aid program, and have enrolled at the junior college, where five ex-Roosevelt students play on the team.

Both Veney and 1989 Roosevelt graduate Garrick Beale, currently playing at Rochester, say they have had no trouble with their finances.

Wilkerson has no legal recourse against Rochester, according to Tim Battle, his attorney: "Legally, it's very simple -- he has no claim against Rochester. So, needless to say, they're very upset." Wilkerson says he has no bad feelings toward the junior college. Rather, he is angry at Roosevelt officials.

"I think they were haphazard in their organization," he said. "They led us to believe that Mark was given a scholarship. The explanation that it was just a mistake doesn't wash with me."

Roosevelt principal Leonard Upson told Wilkerson he would take full responsibility for the error, but refused to tell Wilkerson who was directly accountable for printing the program.

"The information we received {about the scholarships} was wrong," Upson said. "I'm not sure how we got this information though. We're still investigating to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again."

Apparently it's happened before.

Davis says a friend of his from the football team, 1989 graduate Ian Bryant, was told a year ago that he would receive a two-year scholarship from Rochester, only to be told later that it was a grant-in-aid. Bryant did qualify for the grant, and is now enrolled in the Minnesota school.

Upson said he was unaware of any incident involving Bryant.

After learning Davis would not qualify for the grant-in-aid, Roosevelt football coach James Tillerson arranged an alternative financial aid package with Rochester totaling $2,600 for the first semester and renewable upon completion. Davis would have to come up with the remaining $1,400 for room and board. Wilkerson declined.

"We just had a misunderstanding," Tillerson said. "I had the whole thing set up for him as a grant. I also told him about the student-loan and work-study programs. We were just trying to help the kid."

"Why should I spend the money for Mark to go to a two-year community college in Minnesota?" Wilkerson said. "I'm more angry about this than anything else. It's a slap in the face. It's like they're saying, 'Hey, we screwed up, so how about this?' "

Parent Blames Official Runaround

Efrem Carter's mother accuses Spingarn officials of "passing the buck" from one administrator to another, but never resolving the problem.

Carter was a star guard at Washington's Dunbar High School, before then-Spingarn coach Kenneth Howell persuaded him in 1989 to switch schools to shore up the team's backcourt. Carter averaged 19.5 points for the Green Wave his senior season, with 10 rebounds and five assists a game.

"I would have preferred for him to stay at Dunbar," Lynn Carter said. "I liked the coach there very much. He took care of the players."

In July, a month after Carter's graduation, Lynn Carter said Howell told the player he had set up an athletic scholarship for him at Wilberforce. But when he arrived at the school a month later to begin his freshman year, he was told there was no scholarship, only a financial aid package that would have to be repaid.

Howell says he made it clear the package involved a grant-in-aid, and not a scholarship.

"Yes, I was instrumental in getting him that," said Howell, who retired this spring after five years as head coach at Spingarn. "I think the bottom line is that Efrem didn't do what he was supposed to do with the financial aid."

"We made his mother aware that the only thing we could offer him was full financial aid," Wilberforce basketball coach Don Nelson said. "This is our first year as a program, and we don't have athletic scholarships."

Efrem Carter chose not to attend Wilberforce, telling Nelson he was "homesick." His mother confronted college officials, who she said gave her "the runaround."

The story does not end there. John Wood, Spingarn athletic director and former basketball coach, said he would set up an athletic scholarship for Carter to play at Pensacola Community College in Florida. Carter's mother paid for another plane ticket for her son to meet the coach. When he arrived there, he was told a similar story -- there was no scholarship.

"The coach there told me he was expecting a player 6-foot-8," Lynn Carter said; her son is 6-4.

"I really don't know what happened involving the school at Florida," Howell said.

"Efrem was a good kid, never gave me a problem when I spoke to him," Nelson said. "I'd take him back in a heartbeat."

Athletic directors and school officials in other jurisdictions say it is not unusual for confusion to result when parents and students prepare for college.

Northern Virginia Athletic Director Bruce Patrick says the more stringent academic regulations passed by the NCAA in recent years -- Propositions 48 and 42 -- have resulted in more athletes opting to attend junior colleges for two years until they raise their grades.

"It creates a situation now where kids who can't afford even some of the local junior colleges use their athletic abilities to go out to the Midwest to attend school," Patrick said.

"As far as this individual situation, I think there are some very honest people out there and in some cases some misleading untruths given to get kids out there," added Patrick, who served as football coach at Mount Vernon High School. "I would make sure that I personally went over all of the details with the parents, just what was being offered. I'm not implying that these coaches did not, but obviously there was confusion."

William Kyle, athletic director for Montgomery County public schools, said he "was not aware of {a similar incident} personally happening here, but I'm sure there is confusion from time to time. It would be reprehensible if the confusion were deliberate."

Kyle said he believes such confusion could be avoided if school counselors were more involved in explaining college admissions procedures, NCAA rules and scholarship offerings to parents.

Frank Parks, executive director of the D.C. Coaches Association and a former football and basketball coach at Spingarn, said he has "sent kids as far as California to play at a junior college." He says parents have a responsibility to follow up on their children's financial affairs at school, and to discern the difference between a scholarship, a grant and a loan.

"It doesn't surprise me when kids come back, saying they're homesick," Parks said. "That's basically par for the course of many D.C. kids. I think that's what happened with Efrem."

"A lot of kids who feel they're going to be homesick I wish would stay home," he added. "There are good programs at schools like Howard and UDC, where the kids could be learning and doing something wholesome for the community."

Howell said he has been helping students attend college out of Washington for years. He is a chemistry teacher at Spingarn, and he says he "believes in academics first."

He said he "figured Efrem should go someplace where he could play. If you're good {pro scouts} will find you. It's not where you go all the time, it's what you do when you get there."

Tillerson said the work he does with Cox helps high school players without the ability or size to play in major college programs attend college. He adds Roosevelt officials had never experienced the problems with finances that plagued Davis.

"It's a hard job trying to get these kids into school," Tillerson said. "But I don't mind helping those who played for me."

Contemplating What Next

Meanwhile, both Davis and Carter are looking for jobs. Davis was working at the Library of Congress after receiving a certificate of competency from the Berbick Technical School in Washington, enabling him to receive employment from government agencies. He left the library position in order to attend Rochester. Now that position has been filled.

"Right now, I don't know what I'm going to do," Davis said. "I'm thinking about going to UDC next semester and then maybe transfer."

His stepfather is not so calm.

"I'm furious and I'm frustrated," he said. "Mark would never have considered a junior college had it not been for the scholarship."

Carter, also searching for work, wants to attend college, hopefully starting in January. His mother remains frustrated with the treatment she has received from Spingarn officials.

"All the information Coach Howell gave me was faulty," Lynn Carter said. "No one there returns my calls {Howell claims he has}. I haven't spoken to them since July. They are messing up my kid's education. This coach should have been more obligated to the kids."