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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Memphis denying records request

Associated Press

The University of Memphis refused on Wednesday to release the NCAA's response to its appeal of a ruling that vacated the 2007-08 men's basketball season.

Memphis's legal counsel Sheryl Lipman said they can't produce the document because they didn't receive a copy, and instead read a version of it through the NCAA's Web site. The university says NCAA rules prohibit the university from printing the document for the media off the association's Web site.

The Associated Press had requested the document under Tennessee's Open Records Act.

The NCAA did not immediately return a telephone message left late Wednesday afternoon at the association's office in Indianapolis.

In a similar public records case, a Florida court ruled last month the NCAA must release documents on Florida State University's appeal of an academic cheating penalty. The NCAA tried to keep them secret on a read-only, secure Web site.

Memphis filed a brief supporting its appeal Oct. 8, and the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee had 30 days to respond. Now both Memphis and the NCAA's enforcement staff have a chance to comment. Memphis will get the last chance to respond before the appeal hearing before the committee.

Memphis is arguing that the NCAA Committee on Infractions imposed unprecedented penalties and used improper reasoning to wipe out the Tigers' 38 wins in a season that ended with an overtime loss to Kansas in the national championship.

The school's 45-page brief targets the so-called "strict liability" standard imposed after the NCAA ruled a player believed to be Derrick Rose was retroactively ineligible because of an SAT score that was invalidated by the Educational Testing Service in May 2008.

"The Committee's statement concerning the finding that this is a 'strict liability situation' is not supported by evidence, precedent or logic," Memphis argued in the brief.

By upholding the penalties given to Memphis under the "strict-liability" standard, the school argues it sets a precedent that "will apply to [future] situations that do not warrant such treatment and could result in outcomes unacceptable to the Division 1 membership."

A copy of that appeal was obtained under Tennessee's open records law. The university has complied with all previous records request involving this case.