NCAA's Eligibility Center won't play blame game

June, 3, 2009
Memphis' defense to the NCAA's Committee on Infractions is that it didn't find evidence of any fraudulent standardized test for its student-athlete (sources say the player in question was former Tiger Derrick Rose).

The Tigers played Rose after he was cleared by the NCAA's Eligibility Center, and thus, according to Memphis, it didn't knowingly play an ineligible player, so it shouldn't have any wins vacated.

Memphis has confirmed that it first officially learned through an e-mail that the student-athlete (Rose) had his test score invalidated in May 2008, a month after the Tigers played in the national title game and lost in overtime to Kansas.

That argument might stand up, but the Eligibility Center isn't about to take the blame for clearing a potentially ineligible player.

It can happen. It does happen. And the Eligibility Center reserves the right to go back and change the eligibility status of a player, even after he has played, if new and correct information comes to light.

Those are the opinions of Todd Leyden, the head of the NCAA's Eligibility Center, and Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president for academic and membership affairs.

"We rely on the integrity of information that is provided to the Eligibility Center," Lennon said. "It's up to the institution if it questions any of the integrity of the information to turn that information in. The vast majority of this process works extremely well. But the member institution or high school [or testing center] can flag down after the fact, and then it's our responsibility to get the certification right."

Lennon said if the certification was based on information that lacked integrity, they can go back and get the correct answer.

"When those sources of information change the information, it's a whole new process to certify the eligibility, and you can come to a different conclusion," Lennon said.

If the school knew there was inaccurate information, then Lennon said it's an issue for the enforcement staff, and ultimately, the Committee on Infractions (which is what Memphis is going to deal with at Saturday's hearing in Indianapolis). In other words, did the Tigers know of the fraudulent test?

"If the facts change, then it can cause a different decision," Lennon said. "You may end up with a different eligibility decision. The critical point here is that you can't simply say there was bad information in the certification process. You can't close the books and never rectify, even if it occurs after the young person has participated."

Pointing fingers at the NCAA after it has cleared a player was done earlier this year by Connecticut. The school argued that Nate Miles was cleared to play, and that is why there shouldn't be an investigation into his eligibility.

However, Miles' case wasn't about academics. Instead, it was about his amateur status through his relationship with a former agent/booster. In addition, in his case, the facts did change -- or rather came to light -- after he had been cleared to participate for Connecticut in the fall.

"We have an obligation to respond when information comes from different sources," Leyden said.

• Connecticut freshman center Ater Majok, whose ties to the same former agent/booster as Miles (Josh Nochimson) are also being investigated, worked out at the 21-team Golden State Warriors-sponsored event Tuesday in Oakland.

The reviews weren't good, according to a number of NBA personnel on hand.

According to one of the NBA folks, Majok had "no feel for the game. He's all-airport. His skill level is higher, but knowledge much lower."

A number of personnel directors said Majok has to go to school, and needs at least two to three years to develop his game, like former Huskies star Hasheem Thabeet. "He won't get drafted if he stays in the draft," said one assistant general manager. "If he thinks staying in the draft will get him money for his family, he's wrong."

Majok has until June 15 to withdraw.

• The reviews for Gonzaga sophomore forward Austin Daye weren't positive, either.

Daye's skill set has always been his hook to be a first-round pick, and it still might get him guaranteed money if he stays in the draft.

However, multiple personnel people said Daye got pushed around by Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal and Louisville's Terrence Williams, whom many said was the most NBA-ready player at the workout.

"[Daye] looked soft and played like a prima donna," said one assistant GM. "He's not ready to play in the NBA. He could be in the D-League next season."

Yet at least one team said Daye told them in an interview in Chicago during the NBA draft combine that he was going to stay in the draft. The consensus on Daye is he needs to build his core strength. He's not going to put on 20 pounds of muscle, but he needs to be stronger.

• There might be good news for Wake Forest, too. Sophomore guard Jeff Teague hasn't wowed scouts so far. The consensus is that he needs to go back to school, get in better shape and become more consistent.

If Texas' Damion James is listening to NBA personnel, then he should head back to school, too.

According to those in the gym, Pitt's Sam Young dominated James on Monday, and James' reliance on the 3-point shot was a huge negative to those who were scouting him.

• For the second straight draft, UCLA might have a guard go in the top five who played behind Darren Collison. Last season, it was Russell Westbrook (No. 4 to Seattle/Oklahoma City). This season, Jrue Holiday could land as high as No. 3 or 4.

• Memphis guard Tyreke Evans clearly made the right choice in leaving. There is a buzz that he could go as high as No. 2 to the Grizzlies.

• Don't be shocked if Spain's Ricky Rubio lands at No. 4 to Sacramento and Thabeet slides, if that's even fair to say, to No. 6 Minnesota.

• One of the biggest complaints from NBA teams so far is that players aren't working out for teams higher up in the lottery. This is a new one. Usually agents won't let a player work out for a team lower in the first round because they don't think their client will drop that far.

This time, they don't want a player to work out for teams (like Washington at No. 5) because they don't think the team will take their player that high.

But what they fail to realize is that this is a draft in which teams are looking to trade down, and want to see the player (like Stephen Curry) in case they move a few spots.

• Kemba Walker's decision to withdraw from the USA Men's U19 World Championship team trials in two weeks opens up an opportunity at the point for West Virginia's Darryl Bryant, Ole Miss' Terrico White and Duke's Seth Curry.

Walker was expected to make the team and to probably start for Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. Instead, the rising UConn sophomore, as reported by The Hartford Courant, will go to summer school and attend the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, in early July.

Tryouts for the 12-member U19 team will be June 16-18 in Colorado Springs. Walker was the MVP of the 2008 FIBA Americas Championship that qualified for the world event to be held in New Zealand the first week in July.

• The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Simon Fraser University is vying to become the first Canadian school in NCAA Division II. Simon Fraser was used at times as a school that could be counted on for a foreign exhibition or for a regular-season game for Division I colleges because it was in Canada.

According to the Sun, Division II is the only division allowing Canadian schools to apply for membership. Simon Fraser is seeking to join the Great Northern Athletic Conference.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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