Monday, June 1, 2009
Memphis readies response to NCAA
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
One month after Memphis lost to Kansas in overtime on April 7, 2008, in one of the most thrilling national championship games in recent memory, the Tigers were rocked by an e-mail from the NCAA.
It was then that Memphis was first notified that star freshman point guard Derrick Rose, who helped the Tigers to an NCAA-record 38 wins and was soon going to become the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft by his hometown Bulls, had an invalidated standardized test score the previous year at Chicago's Simeon High School, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the e-mail.
The University of Memphis' legal counsel, Sheri Lipman, would not identify the student-athlete as Rose, but said Monday, "for the student-athlete, whoever that was, the first indication that we got was in early May  that his score was being invalidated."
Memphis' administration knew that if this were indeed true, then coach John Calipari's team rode the superstar exploits of an ineligible player to an extraordinary season that was stopped just short of the program's first national title.
"It certainly came as a surprise," Lipman said of the e-mail.
Was it odd to be notified of a test score after the "student-athlete" played his freshman season? "Absolutely," Lipman said. "That's when we started with the NCAA, looking into the case."
Details of Memphis' investigation into the alleged fraudulent SAT are in the school's response to the NCAA's notice of allegations received Jan. 16, Lipman said. Memphis' response, which was requested by various Tennessee media outlets through a Freedom of Information Act request, could be forthcoming as early as Monday night or Tuesday morning, according to Lipman. The NCAA committee on infractions has a hearing in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Lipman said the response would add more depth to the Rose report and "put more paint on this canvas."
Rose's attorney, Daniel E. Reidy, issued a statement last week that said, "Mr. Rose is aware of the allegations recently reported in the press. Mr. Rose cooperated fully with the University of Memphis athletic and legal departments' investigation of this issue when he was a student and that investigation uncovered no wrongdoing on his part. At this time, Mr. Rose sees no reason to engage in further discussion regarding this matter and will instead focus on his career as a professional basketball player."
According to multiple sources, Rose's camp did tell Memphis that he took the SAT in question. The NCAA's notice of allegations states that "it is alleged that [redacted] prospective men's basketball student-athlete failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for his knowing fraudulence or misconduct and administration of intercollegiate examination. Specifically, on [redacted] an unknown individual completed [redacted] SAT, with [redacted] knowledge, which was used to obtain his admission into the institution and to certify his NCAA eligibility. [Redacted] subsequently competed for the men's basketball team through the 2007-08 season, which included his participation in the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship."
On Monday, Bulls executive vice president for business operations Steve Schanwald said the team stood by Rose.
"Where the truth lies, who knows?" Schanwald told Comcast SportsNet Chicago. "But Derrick says it didn't happen, and I take him at his word."
According to a source, Calipari was floored that Rose could have been ineligible as a freshman. So, too, was the university's legal counsel, which is fighting the NCAA over finding out about the "student-athlete's" invalid test score, after the season concluded and after he had been cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse to compete the previous fall.
Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson has said throughout the past week he doesn't anticipate the case will affect new coach Josh Pastner's program, either in scholarship reduction or any kind of postseason ban. There is a possibility that Memphis' 38 wins and its national championship appearance could be vacated by the committee on infractions if Memphis is not able to provide enough evidence to refute the charge that Rose was ineligible during the 2007-08 season.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.