Memphis files 28-page rebuttal

The University of Memphis isn't backing down in its appeal of the NCAA order to vacate the 2007-08 men's basketball season, even though the Committee on Infraction's response has fans worried about even worse punishment.

Memphis argues in its 28-page rebuttal to the NCAA's response to the university's appeal that the Committee on Infractions puts the Tigers at risk of double jeopardy.

If the appeals committee decides to restore the vacated wins or cut the fine, the Committee on Infractions has asked that the case be remanded back to it to consider other punishment not handed out originally. That includes a possible ban from postseason play as well as possible scholarship cuts.

"Clearly, an appeal that resulted in harsher sanctions would effectively chill the willingness of NCAA member institutions to exercise their right to appeal decisions in infractions cases," according to Memphis' rebuttal. "The Appeals Committee has a duty to protect the integrity of the process by protecting appellants from dire consequences for initiating an appeal."

Memphis filed the rebuttal Monday, and a hearing is expected to be scheduled in either late January or February. The Commercial Appeal first reported the university's response on its Web site Wednesday afternoon. The newspaper also has a poll on its Web site with 15 percent of fans saying Memphis should drop the appeal.

The NCAA ordered Memphis to vacate the record 38-win season that ended with an overtime loss to Kansas in the national championship game on Aug. 20 after ruling a player believed to be NBA star Derrick Rose was ineligible. Memphis also was fined approximately $530,000 in tournament revenue.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions noted in its response that Memphis was a "repeat violator." Memphis also had its 1985 Final Four berth vacated for violations under then-coach Dana Kirk.

Memphis responded that the university did not take its appeal lightly and carefully evaluated the circumstances before deciding to fight unprecedented penalties based on improper reasoning.

"If an institution that has been the subject of a major infractions case cannot pursue an appeal in good faith without putting the institution, staff and its student-athletes at greater risk, why would any institution initiate an appeal no matter how legitimate the basis?" Memphis argues in its rebuttal.

Memphis noted that the Committee on Infractions argued the university admittedly "took a risk" in letting the student play when knowing of questions over his test scores.

But the university admitted Rose based on his SAT score, and he was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse twice and by a university probe in which the athlete insisted he took his own test. The university was not notified by the Educational Testing Service until May 5, 2008, that the score was canceled because Rose did not respond to requests for information about the test.

Memphis takes issue with being held to such a strict liability.

"The Committee passed on a chance to review the evidence and decide whether a finding of academic fraud was justified," according to the rebuttal.

Next the NCAA enforcement staff can answer any of the questions raised. Memphis will get one last chance to respond before the hearing.