Friday, August 21, 2009

Memphis Tigers Found Guilty By NCAA; Must Vacate 2007-08 Basketball Season, Will Appeal

Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal

By Dan Wolken
The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The most successful season in University of Memphis history was smacked into the annals of college basketball ignominy Thursday when the school was stripped of its NCAA-record 38 wins and forced to vacate its trip to the 2008 championship game for violations that occurred under former coach John Calipari.

The Memphis athletic department was also placed on a three-year probationary period applying to all sports, meaning the school must enhance its compliance program and provide an annual report to the NCAA.

The Tigers’ basketball program was spared further sanctions, meaning new coach Josh Pastner won’t be saddled with postseason bans or scholarship losses that could hinder the program moving forward.

The women’s golf program, which was also part of the inquiry, will lose two scholarships for providing extra benefits to players under former coach Jenny Bruun, who has subsequently been fired.

University president Shirley Raines said Thursday that Memphis would appeal the basketball penalties.

“While we respect the NCAA process, we disagree with the decision to invalidate the ’07-08 men’s basketball season,” she said.

The violations, which were laid out in an NCAA notice of allegations that the school received in January, stemmed from former point guard Derrick Rose’s only season at Memphis. The NCAA alleged — and ultimately ruled — that Rose was retroactively ineligible to play for Memphis because of a fraudulent SAT that was invalidated by the Educational Testing Service in May 2008.

Memphis also was charged with failing to monitor its charter airplane service when Rose’s brother, Reggie Rose, was not charged for more than $2,000 worth of travel expenses.

In the report released Thursday by the NCAA, it was revealed that the SAT in question was taken May 5, 2007 — just over a month before Rose enrolled in classes at Memphis. Additionally, the test was taken in Detroit, not in Rose’s hometown of Chicago, where he previously did not attain a qualifying score on the ACT three times.

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, however, did not ultimately consider the circumstances surrounding Rose’s SAT. Rather, the NCAA simply said that because the ETS invalidated Rose’s test score, it was a “strict liability” situation that required forfeiture of the 2007-08 season.

“As the committee looked into the matter, it was clear that from the time that the testing service canceled the test score that that meant the student-athlete had been ineligible from the very beginning and didn’t require further inquiry or finding as to whether or not there were improprieties in the administration of the exam,” Paul Dee, the former athletic director at the University of Miami who led the Committee on Infractions, said in a teleconference.

Memphis’ case, both when it appeared in front of the committee on June 6 and presumably in its appeal, will center on the fact that Rose’s academic transcript was certified by the NCAA clearinghouse and came into question only after the 2007-08 season had been completed.

“I am not familiar with the term ‘strict liability’ ever used in another NCAA opinion,” university legal counsel Sheri Lipman said. “That’s a new standard to use in this situation, and we believe it should not be used in this situation.”

Memphis also claims it took all reasonable steps to ensure Rose’s eligibility after questions about his high school transcript arose in October 2007. Athletic director R.C. Johnson said Rose was questioned by four school officials about the SAT and that the school was comfortable with its investigation, which found no evidence that he cheated.

“We have 400 student-athletes, and they’re not all as high-profile as others,” Johnson said. “But those that are really high-profile, we watch it closely and if we find anything at all, we’ll follow up on it.”

Should Memphis’ appeal fail, the school will be forced to forfeit $615,000 in revenue associated with the 2008 NCAA Tournament run. It will also have to return its Final Four trophy and take down the banners from that season.

Also at stake is Calipari’s status as Memphis’ winningest all-time coach, just 32 ahead of Larry Finch’s previous school record of 220 victories.

Calipari, who left for Kentucky on March 31, would become the only coach in NCAA history to have Final Four appearances vacated at two different schools. Marcus Camby, a star player on his 1996 UMass team, was ruled ineligible after it was revealed that he had accepted money from an agent.

Johnson said Memphis, if it’s forced to vacate the season, would have recourse to recoup the victory-related bonuses Calipari earned. Calipari’s contract at that time called for a $160,000 bonus for winning 81 percent of his games and achieving certain academic benchmarks. He also received a $200,000 bonus for leading Memphis to the Final Four.

“I’m very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA’s findings,” Calipari said in a statement on his Web site. “I fully support the University of Memphis’ appeal, and until that process is carried through to its completion, I will have no further comments on the matter.”

Rose, in a statement released by his attorney Thursday, said “it is satisfying to see that the NCAA could find no wrongdoing on my part in their ruling.”

“I think it is important for people to understand that I complied with everything that was asked of me while at the university, including my full participation in the university’s investigation of this issue, and was ultimately cleared to play in the entire 2007-08 season by the NCAA clearinghouse and the university,” he said.

Pastner spent much of the day Thursday relaying to recruits that Memphis’ program under the new regime would not suffer penalties.

“Conversations with players, recruits, everything was very positive because nothing has affected our chance to compete at the very highest elite level, which is what we want,” Pastner said. “We know we’re one of the elite programs in America and nothing has changed on that.

“Everyone is excited about the Tigers and now we just have to keep moving forward.”


— Placed on three years probation in all sports for major violations in men’s basketball and women’s golf.

— University president Shirley Raines said school will appeal.


— Must return to the NCAA the $615,000 in revenue from the 2008 NCAA Tournament, including $85,000 already received by the school.

— Must vacate 38 victories from the 2007-08 basketball season.

— Must return 2008 Final Four trophy to the NCAA, and school and coaches records must reflect the games forfeited.

— School must conduct educational program on NCAA legislation and submit yearly compliance reports.

— Reduction in scholarships for women’s golf.


— NCAA said Tigers used an ineligible player (Derrick Rose), who was accused of having another person take his SAT exam in Detroit so he would be eligible after taking the ACT three times in Chicago.

— Cited for failure to monitor basketball team’s charter airplane service, allowing Rose’s brother, Reggie Rose, not to be charged for more than $2,000 in travel expenses.

— Determined former women’s golf coach provided extra benefits to players.

— Dan Wolken: 901-529-2365
Scripps Lighthouse

© 2009 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online


Penalties Dismay Calipari
Rose: NCAA Found No Wrongdoing On My Part

By From Our Press Services
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, August 21, 2009

Hours before the NCAA stripped Memphis of its 2008 Final Four appearance, former coach John Calipari stepped to a microphone Thursday at the Kentucky State Fair and received a standing ovation.

Hired by Kentucky to revive college basketball's all-time winningest program, both fans and administrators are hoping what happened in Memphis will stay in Memphis.

The NCAA ruled the Tigers used an ineligible player during their record-setting run in the 2007-08 season, when Memphis went 38-2 and lost to Kansas in the national championship game. The NCAA didn't identify the player, but it's point guard Derrick Rose, who left Memphis after his freshman season and was drafted No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA Draft.

The player was accused of having another person take his SAT exam so he would be eligible as a freshman. Memphis says it will appeal.

In a statement released by his attorney Thursday, Rose said "it is satisfying to see that the NCAA could find no wrongdoing on my part in their ruling.

"I think it is important for people to understand that I complied with everything that was asked of me while at the university, including my full participation in the university's investigation of this issue, and was ultimately cleared to play in the entire 2007-08 season by the NCAA clearinghouse and the university."

Calipari, who signed an eight-year $31.65-million deal to replace Billy Gillispie at Kentucky this spring, expressed dismay over the NCAA's decision.

"I'm very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA's findings," Calipari said in a statement. "I fully support the University of Memphis' appeal and until that process is carried through to its completion, I will have no further comments on the matter. I am anxious to coach the team at the University of Kentucky beginning this fall."

The penalty marked the second time a Calipari-led squad has been forced to vacate a Final Four berth. The NCAA took away Massachusetts' Final Four appearance in 1996 after star center Marcus Camby accepted gifts from a sports agent.

Calipari was not implicated in either matter.

"I'm not worried about it because they have never said Coach Cal did anything wrong at all," said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who chatted with Calipari for several minutes early Thursday. "I think he's a very upstanding guy. I think that's his reputation and I think that reputation will be with him here. I really don't foresee any problems."

University president Lee Todd and athletic director Mitch Barnhart -- who put their public support behind Calipari after the Memphis allegations came to light only weeks after his hiring -- declined comment hursday.

University spokesman Jimmy Stanton called the violations "a University of Memphis issue, not a UK issue."

Barnhart stressed the school's compliance office and Calipari's mission to run an open and clean program will help keep the Wildcats out of NCAA trouble.

"There's one thing John says, 'I want my banners to count for something and I want to put the rings on the fingers and let them stay there,'" Barnhart said.
Scripps Lighthouse

© 2009 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online


By By Scott Cacciola,
The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reaction among University of Memphis alumni and fans ranged from disbelief to anger after the NCAA on Thursday ruled that the Tigers must vacate the entire 2007-08 season for using Derrick Rose, who was ruled ineligible.

"This is clearly an instance where the punishment doesn't fit the crime," said Doug Edwards, former president and CEO of Morgan Keegan and a member of the school's Board of Visitors. "We did everything the NCAA asked us to do, and they not only cleared Derrick Rose once, but twice. So I don't know what else the school could have done."

The NCAA determined that Rose, now a point guard with the Chicago Bulls, had played the entire season while academically ineligible because of a fraudulent entrance exam. As a result, the Tigers' record-setting 38 victories and trip to the Final Four will be erased from the record books.

Memphis plans to appeal the ruling.

In the court of public opinion, much of the blame seems to be falling on former coach John Calipari and not on the university. Pundits have been harsh.

Mike Lopresti, a national columnist for Gannett, wrote that Calipari has been "vacated nearly as often as a room at the Holiday Inn." Jeff Schultz, a sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote that Calipari caused "humiliation at yet another of his past schools." And Luke Winn, a reporter for, wrote that the NCAA's ruling is an "indictment against the way (Calipari) runs programs."

"It seems early on that a lot of sportswriters felt that if anybody should take a hit, it's our former coach and not the institution," Edwards said. "And I think that collective sentiment is part of what warrants the appeal. The punishment was harsh and unjustified."

One of the major arguments among those upset with the ruling is that the NCAA Clearinghouse approved Rose's SAT score. The Educational Testing Service invalidated the test only after the season was completed and the NCAA took retroactive -- and, as it turns out, punitive -- measures.

"The severity of the penalties is inexplicable in light of the fact that the university's actions were based on NCAA approval," said Harold Byrd, president of the Memphis Rebounders, the athletic department's fundraising group. "It doesn't make sense. And the two people who are closest to this, Calipari and Rose, are still saying they haven't done anything wrong.

"For us to lose $615,000, to be on probation for three years and to lose the distinction as the national runner-up is just truly outrageous in my opinion."

Byrd said he wants to see proof that Rose cheated. Everything he has heard to this point has been circumstantial, and the NCAA has not disclosed details, citing student privacy laws.

Paul Dee, chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, was not particularly forthcoming Thursday during his teleconference with reporters. Asked why Rose's test had been invalidated, Dee said there had been a "failure to cooperate."

"What bothers me is that the university followed all of the proper procedures in enrolling the student-athlete that the NCAA had laid out," said Cato Johnson, an executive with Methodist Healthcare and past president of the University of Memphis Alumni Association. "At the same time, I think it's extremely important that we look forward, even if the appeal is successful. The past is the past, and we need to be positive about the team and the new coaching staff, and do everything we can to help them be successful."

Athletic director R.C. Johnson said he would comply with the NCAA's directive to remove the Final Four banner that hangs at FedExForum if the appeal is denied. The NCAA wants the season to evaporate, even if those close to the program cannot forget.

"The 38 wins did, in fact, happen," Edwards said. "I saw most of them."

-- Scott Cacciola: 901-529-2773
Scripps Lighthouse

© 2009 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

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