NCAA, per the usual, drops the ball with Memphis ruling

  • 08/21/2009 9:58 am in

The story of the day Thursday in college basketball was the NCAA’s announcement that the run to the national championship for the 2007-2008 Memphis Tigers is now wiped from the record books.

That Memphis club, which won 38 games before falling to Kansas 75-68 in the title game, was spearheaded by freshman point guard Derrick Rose. And after a lengthy investigation, the NCAA ruled that something just didn’t smell right when Rose took the SAT on May 5, 2007.

After failing to achieve a qualifying score on the ACT each of the three times he took the test in Chicago, someone, presumably not Rose, achieved the SAT scores needed on that early day in May.

Only this time the test was taken in Detroit, which also happens to be the home of William Wesley. You might know Wesley better as World Wide Wes, a confidant of Calipari. You do the math.

Calipari will do his usual song and dance when pressed to disclose whether or not he knew of possible indiscretions with Rose’s test score: Deny, deny and deny some more. It’s all in the past, right? It’s the same tune currently being belted in Lexington by fans who are desperate for a winner after Billy Gillispie flamed out last spring in the NIT.

The fact is that Calipari made history on Thursday when he became the first coach to have Final Four appearances at two different schools vacated. That’s certainly not a distinction one aspires to place on their resume. Nonetheless, congrats on the achievement, Cal.

Thursday’s ruling only reinforced the sad reality that more often than not, the NCAA fails to get it right. To call the penalty of vacating the season a slap on the wrist would be giving it too much credit. Rose is now a millionaire in Chicago, Calipari bolted for a record-setting pay day at Kentucky and Memphis will move forward relatively unscathed if the school can keep its nose clean for three years. Not exactly what I would call dropping the hammer.

The penalties given to Memphis are far less substantial than the NCAA sanctions slapped on Kelvin Sampson for excessive phone calls, which led to the dismantling of the Indiana program. Call me crazy, but using a player who committed academic fraud to achieve eligibility is more reckless than a three-way call with a recruit and Rob Senderoff. But this ruling proves that the NCAA doesn’t see it that way.

This story will be top of mind in the college basketball world for a few more days and then it will sink from the surface as an afterthought. Rose will be an NBA all-star soon enough and Memphis should continue to be a powerhouse in Conference USA under Josh Pastner. As for Kentucky, Calipari will probably hang some sort of banner in Rupp Arena. The only question is: How long before that banner comes down too?

Filed to:

  • because it's Indiana

    …The NCAA further added:

    “We are okay with paying players, false SAT's, and restaurant rendezvous…as long as coaches don't make too many phone calls in the process.”

  • kmwinter

    What, exactly, do you expect from the NCAA? The problem is not that they made the wrong decision. The problem is that they're powerless to do the right thing. They don't have any hard evidence linking Calipari to any of this. Nor do they have any legal power to seek out evidence that isn't willfully given to them. To even name him in their report would be legally reckless on their part.

    Sampson got the book thrown at him because they had phone records that proved he cheated (then he made matters worse when he tried to lie).

    Calipari is smart enough to know what he can and cannot do to avoid NCAA jurisdiction. And I doubt there will ever be a shortage of schools desperate enough to hire him despite his slimy reputation.

  • aerialM

    You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Hope it's worth it, big blue: he'll charm the boosters, he'll sell out Rupp & win a few SEC games, and along the way, he'll rake in top-tier recruits, (none of whom can be considered “student athletes”) & he might take you to a Final Four, too…but when the smoke clears, and they take down the banners and re-do the record books, he'll be off at another school, or an NBA (or overseas) gig…

  • Kelin Blab

    If anyone should be alarmed by this it should be KY fans and the university. Would they have hired Cal if they knew this upfront? Did Cal disclose this? Why did Cal get out of Memphis so quickly?

    This guy is as dirty as it gets, or as dirty as denim shirt but he keeps getting away with it.

    PS…Mr. M. Teague
    Do you see the news coming out of the Kentucky schools? It's Indiana kid, you have to know that

  • because it's Indiana

    I agree with you KM….it's just frustrating. Punishment fitting the crime and all that.

  • BGleas

    I believe when this first broke the KY Administration said Cal told them about this. Now, that could be backtracking to save face, but I believe they said the knew about it.

    I think the big take away here, is that the Worldwide Wide Wes connection absolutely needs to be investigated.

  • GFDave

    The self-policing aspect of the NCAA rule enforcement is what drives me crazy. If you report your own violations and cooperate with the subsequent investigation you get hit much harder than if you would if you lawyer up and force the NCAA to do all the work. Its a little bit of a sucker's game and I think a place like IU is better off maintaining its own standards (which it has) and firing the people who violate those standards.

  • Bryan

    Oh, double standards abound here, and not just that Indiana came out worse from a penalty standpoint because they chose to try to police themselves. Although, if memory serves, our case was not helped by the fact that Sampson was already on probation for the same transgressions committed while at Oklahoma. I liken that case to someone who finally had their license revoked after numerous tickets going 10 mph over the speed limit, only the IU administration was dumb enough to jump in the damn car right before the penultimate ticket.

    The other peculiarity of Memphis's case is that Duke ran into a similar issue about 5 – 6 years ago with Corey Maggette. He was ruled ineligible due to having taken money from a booster, and yet Duke's run to the Final Four was not vacated. Perhaps their generally pristine reputation allowed for some leniency, but who really knows.

    That being said, anyone trying to argue that the Derrick Rose case was more the NCAA's fault for clearing him initially is misguided. According to the case records, the NCAA cleared him with a caveat – they thought he was OK, but there were some peculiarities with his sudden ability to become eligible. The NCAA maintains that although an athlete is cleared, it is by no means the same as having your day in court. The NCAA can both giveth and taketh away at their discretion.

    This is where John Calipari's M.O. gets him and his employers in trouble. Instead of erring on the side of caution, he seizes sketchy opportunities like Rick Pitino in a vacated restaurant. Every chance is worth taking, given the immediate rewards. It was worth it to him to play Rose, because it got him back to the Final Four, and in consideration for employment at Kentucky, who didn't even bother to call him back when they hired Billy Gillispie. The only problem now is Cal's only escape hatch is the NBA, and he's already bombed there once.

  • windycityhoosiers

    Silver lining in this; Kentucky may claim a few SEC titles, Final Four appearances or even an NCAA title, but what could be better than to see all the success revoked after they realize that a dirty coach will always be a dirty coach. He was dirty at UMass, he was dirty at Memphis. I love how Kentucky has such an ego that they didn't learn from what has happened at Indiana.

  • windycityhoosiers

    On another note. I know Crean and Cal are friends. I think that is a positive for us. I know it doesn't look great to read how close Crean and Cal are but I think when it comes to recruiting battles and mutual respect Crean knows the saying 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer.'

  • CutterInChicago

    First, a shoutout to Bryan for the line “seizes sketchy opportunities like Rick Pitino in a vacated restaurant.” That's a keeper.

    Second, most of the posts thus far have hit the major points except this one: the dumb, indefensible age requirement rule that kids cannot go to the NBA right out of high school. It has the perverse effect of making the NCAA a farm system for kids who can play basketball but cannot read (e.g. Derrick Rose, who might be a nice guy, but c'mon…. eligible for college? capable of doing the most basic college work? really? really?). The age requirement that David Stern and the NBA have promulgated is a huge part of this problem, there's no way Rose would have bothered with a year at Memphis – and really, why should he have to do so? Because other kids at 18 decide they would rather declare for the draft than go to college but fail? Um, that's life. People do dumb things all the time, including overestimating their abilities and qualifications for a job, like being a pro hoop player. But instead of acknowledging that reality, the NBA has made this a college problem.
    So now you have a system where a kid who should never be in college, suddenly is and combine that with a quality individual like John Calipari – a guy who is actively and shamelessly gaming that system – and you have this situation.
    You also magnify this problem when you have an “institution” who decides that, after 2 “lackluster” seasons, a coach they looked at 2 years ago and for unknown reasons “shyed away” from, they then decide he's their man (while putting on blinders, holding their nose and putting in ear plugs). He's perfect for that “school” and their fan base. Enjoy him UK

  • CraiginOR

    pathetic that the best defense of Sampson is Calipari….somehow with Pitino thrown in all this crap makes Tom Crean look golden. it really is Indiana, it's Indiana.

  • nflpicks

    I like how the ones who conspired this, Rose and Calipari, easily slipped out of all blame here and Memphis pays the price. Very convenient for calipari to leave when he did.

  • Well Christmas is cancelled at my house. I dont need it! even thought I would love to see Cal taken down like he should I am overjoyed at knowing that after their appeal fails Memphis will have to take down their banners. I asked around to see if I could watch them bring them down and was met with unpleasent responses. Living in this city while I saw Memphis cheat and get away with it was sickening. They got away with many many things but at least their Final Four is gone. You cant prove everything. You cant connect all the dots with enough proof to punish but ya gotta enjoy when ya win one.

    During Cals time in this city his players drove cars better than my father owns, missed more classes than they attended, and started fights and riots in bars and night clubs all while beating their girlfriends. Nothing was ever done about any of this shennanigans and it was so hard to watch but Karma is alive and well.

    Kentucky has chosen to swin with the sharks and when they get bitten it'll be all the sweeter. They may have the bnest recruiting class money can buy but how sweet will it be when Crean takes control of this rivalry and does it the right way

  • Hardwood83

    I'm with you, I can NOT wait until Calipari takes uk to where they belong- the first death penalty in NCAA basketball! These guys never learn so he WILL get caught.

  • Will

    Indiana fires cheaters, Kentucky hires them. Seems like the world is in its usual order.

  • gibbonjockey

    What's more interesting, beyond blatant hypocrisy, is the the daily exposure of the disgusting nature of college basketball. I'm not naive enough to think this is some new development, it's always been happening. Only now the shenanigans are front and center.

    It's a filthy game, and regrettably, IU doesn't have a pristine reputation to fall back upon anymore.

    If the fans want championships, forget the past and jump in the muck. That's the only way it'll happen.

  • tater

    Cal certainly knew when to leave. Anyone have an over/under on when UK goes on probation?

  • armyhoosier

    I think its worth noting that I read something a few months back when this first broke about the NCAA also looking into allegations that Robery Dozier, who played 4 years for Cal at Memphis- including on at least the two elite 8 teams- clearly cheated on his SAT and that they did not initially say that Calipari would not be investigated in that case like he was not investigated in this one. I don't know how much merit is behind that rumor, but I hope its true, because you cannot honestly tell me that Cal didn't know that Marcus Camby was getting hookers and cash or that Derrick Rose and his brother didn't have deep pockets or a 4th grade reading level. This is going to end up wrecking UK far worse than that a**hole Sampson ever could have wrecked IU- he screws up a thrid time and even Myles Brand would be hard pressed not to slap a show cause restriction on him and ban UK from the postseason for a while. Honestly, Baylor loses non-conference games for a year and recruiting, IU loses scholarships, but Calipari gets nothing. Brand must really hate IU, or love Cal. I'm now thrilled that Rose didn't follow his AAU buddy Gordon down to Bloomington, or we might have had to abolish our basketball program forever.

  • armyhoosier

    Here is the article I mentioned above.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=423

  • marcusgresham

    Further reason to dislike Kentucky. Indiana had rules infractions, gave a guy a second chance, and after that it was fairly unanimous that he needed to get as far away from here as a plane would take him. UK fans, for the most part, simply do not care about indescretions, so long as they aren't uncovered. If you check back through history, either the basketball or football program at Kentucky (the two most prominent NCAA sports,) if not both, has been on probation every decade since the 1940s. The first words out of Lexington from the fans were that “no one has connected Coach Cal to this,” and when the stink got a little closer to him, the next statements were more like, “well, everyone cheats.” Lets only hope the greasy film on th coaches of the UK and U of L programs helps to funnel some players north.

  • marcusgresham

    Further reason to dislike Kentucky. Indiana had rules infractions, gave a guy a second chance, and after that it was fairly unanimous that he needed to get as far away from here as a plane would take him. UK fans, for the most part, simply do not care about indescretions, so long as they aren't uncovered. If you check back through history, either the basketball or football program at Kentucky (the two most prominent NCAA sports,) if not both, has been on probation every decade since the 1940s. The first words out of Lexington from the fans were that “no one has connected Coach Cal to this,” and when the stink got a little closer to him, the next statements were more like, “well, everyone cheats.” Lets only hope the greasy film on th coaches of the UK and U of L programs helps to funnel some players north.

  • Therealnvhooper

    to me, this is the NCAA's pathological lying at its best. And for those saying it's convienient for rose to leave when he did, it is also convienient for the NCAA to make the accussations when they did…ironic much ???