NCAA forces Memphis to forfeit 2007-2008 victories

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The NCAA handed down a harsh set of penalties against the University of Memphis on Thursday because of NCAA rules violations.

In a 26 page infraction report, Memphis is forced to vacate all 38 victories from the 2007-2008 season. Additionally, all references to the vacated contests from that season, including the Final Four appearance, is to be removed from athletic department letterheads, media guides, public banners and anywhere else they appear.

The university will also be forced to return the trophy it won for appearing in the 2008 NCAA Championship game.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, University of Memphis President Dr. Shirley Raines, along with Athletic Director R.C. Johnson, said the school would appeal the penalties.

"Yes, I'm extremely disappointed in the NCAA ruling," Johnson said. "And yes, we are going to appeal."

In perhaps the most costly punishment, the university must return $615,000 earned during the 2009 NCAA tournament.

"We have 15 days to file a notice of appeal," said the school's chief legal counsel, Sherry Lipman. "We will do that. We will then have 30 days to file our written appeal, which will lay out the reasons we believe the penalty is excessive.

And Raines was quick to point out the NCAA's ruling does not directly impact the school's future.

"We will be on television, and we will play in post season tournaments," Raines said.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions met with Memphis officials on June 6 in Indianapolis to discuss the violations, the most serious of which being whether an unknown person took the SAT test for a player.

The NCAA said the athlete in question played for the Tigers under John Calipari during the 2007-08 season and in the 2008 NCAA tournament. The only person who fits the description in documents is Derrick Rose, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft after that season.

The University of Memphis was first contacted October 2007 by the Chicago Public Schools Internal Audit division.  During that initial investigation, the Illinois Office of the Inspector General received an allegation that irregularities may have occurred with the SAT exam Derrick Rose took during May 2007.

The university began an independent investigation, but was unable to substantiate the allegations of academic improprieties and cleared Rose to compete during the 2007-08 season.

On May 5, 2008, one year after Rose initially took the SAT, the University, Rose and NCAA Eligibility Center were notified the test score had been nullified, making Rose academically ineligible to compete during the entire season due to that cancelled test score.

The university countered, saying it didn't have enough information to conclude before the start of the season that the test score would be cancelled.  The NCAA Committee on Infractions, however, found this argument to be irrelevant, as the university was able to compete with an ineligible student-athlete for an entire season.

Calipari released a statement late Thursday afternoon saying, "I'm very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA's findings. I fully support the University of Memphis' appeal and until that process is carried through to its completion, I will have no further comments on the matter."

The report also hands down penalties to the woman's golf program because of NCAA violations.

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