Bing says it's not a 'big issue'

DETROIT -- Mayoral candidate and former NBA great Dave Bing said Wednesday it was "not correct" when he earlier claimed to have earned a master's degree in business administration.

But the claim on a videotape touting education and staying in school on the National Basketball Retired Players Association Web site was meant to be interpreted in a different manner, Bing told The Associated Press.

The founder and chairman of the Bing Group, a steel manufacturing operation and auto supplier, was responding to a Detroit Free Press story revealing he didn't earn an MBA from General Motors Institute, now called Kettering University in Flint, as he said on the tape.

"I felt I had an MBA for the work I had done in the industry I was in," Bing said. "When I made references to an MBA it wasn't that I went there and got it, but through what I had done.

"I made reference to how important education was for players, active and retired, and young people, that they should stay in school as long as they can and get their degrees."

The newspaper also reported that Bing didn't receive his bachelor's degree in 1966 from Syracuse University in central New York, as the former college star also claimed. Syracuse spokesman Kevin Morrow said Bing got his degree in economics in 1995, after he completed additional coursework.

In the videotape, Bing said, "I got an MBA from the General Motors Institute" after earning a BA from Syracuse. "I was one of those guys who graduated in four years."

Bing, 65, explained the difference over the Syracuse degree as a simple discrepancy that wasn't discovered until 29 years after he left Syracuse for a Hall of Fame career in professional basketball. He doesn't remember which class it involved, but Bing said the incomplete left him three credits short of graduating.

"I did turn it in in 1966," he said of the paper. "The assumption was it was a dead issue. I surely had no reason to believe it was a problem."

But he learned in 1995 from an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse that the school did not list him as a graduate. Bing said he rewrote the paper.

"It was all about the auto industry and the challenges with being a supplier," he said. "I mailed it in. They mailed the degree out in 1995. It's at home."

The questions about Bing's education comes at a critical time, with a May 5 mayoral runoff to fill the remainder of disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's term less than two months way.

Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff were charged with lying on the stand during a whistle-blowers' trial about having an intimate relationship and their roles in the firing of a police official.

During the primary campaign, Bing released his financial records and challenged the other candidates to do the same. The major candidates, including Democratic Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr., refused. The same challenge was issued to Cockrel after they finished as the top two vote-getters in the Feb. 24 nonpartisan primary.

The winner of the runoff will serve as mayor until the regularly scheduled 2009 primary is held in August, followed by the general election in November.

Cockrel told The Detroit News on Wednesday that he didn't see "how somebody can forget that they never actually got a diploma."

"I think for most people, they'll tell you that's something that they got on their wall someplace, either in their office or in their house," he said. "The only thing that I will say is we'll see how the facts play out."