MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Memphis must vacate its record 38-win men's basketball season from 2007-08 after the NCAA rejected its appeal.
The NCAA announced Monday that its Infractions Appeal Committee ruled against Memphis, which was found to use an ineligible player, believed to be Derrick Rose. The Tigers lost in overtime to Kansas in the national title game that season.
The NCAA originally ordered Memphis to vacate the season and forfeit money on Aug. 20. Memphis had appealed, arguing the penalties were unprecedented and that the school was held to a strict liability when Rose was ruled retroactively ineligible for an SAT score that was invalidated by the Educational Testing Service in May 2008.
"The Infractions Appeals Committee found no basis to conclude that the penalty was excessive such that the Committee on Infractions had abused its discretion in imposing the penalty," the NCAA said in a release posted on its Web site.
The decision was based on a letter from the testing agency to the athlete that "not only made the student-athlete aware that his eligibility was in serious jeopardy, but that he would be declared ineligible if he did not respond to the letter," according to the committee's report to the NCAA.
The letters ETS sent Rose asking for more information were dated March 17, 2008 - while he was playing in the NCAA tournament - and April 10, 2008, days after the championship game loss. The only address the ETS had for Rose came when he took the test in high school while living in Illinois.
The decision will result in an asterisk beside Memphis' 38-2 season that had set the NCAA record for wins in a season and approximately $615,000 in lost tournament revenue. The infractions committee originally said it struck hard because the ineligible player was used the entire season. Rose played in all 40 games, starting 39.
The university issued a statement Monday, saying it was "extremely disappointed" and "strongly disagrees" with the decision. Memphis had kept a banner commemorating that season hanging in the rafters at FedExForum during its appeal, but that banner now will be taken down.
Memphis also asked the NCAA to take several steps to avoid this kind of problem in the future.
The university wants the NCAA to require the Educational Testing Service to notify universities of any investigations of student-athletes, something officials want the NCAA to start immediately to work out a plan to do just that. And Memphis wants the NCAA Eligibility Center to provide guidance and keep both schools and student-athletes informed on test score questions.
Memphis also endorsed the appeal committee's decision requiring the Committee on Infractions to explicitly state evidence supporting each penalty imposed on programs in the future.
"Without an open dialogue about ongoing issues, the University of Memphis and other NCAA members have less confidence in the abilities of the NCAA and ETS to work productively on behalf of student-athletes and the universities they represent," Memphis President Shirley Raines said in a statement.
"This issue requires immediate attention by both organizations."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
From the NCAA:
INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has upheld the vacation of records and forfeiture of championship revenue for the University of Memphis.
In August 2009, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions issued a report that included findings of major and secondary violations involving the men's basketball and women's golf programs.
The violations included a failure to monitor by the university, unethical conduct by the former head women's golf coach, impermissible benefits, ineligible competition and impermissible recruiting contact, among others. Penalties included three years probation, vacation of records, scholarship reductions and forfeiture of championship revenue, among others.
The university appealed the vacation of records and forfeiture of championship revenue penalties, asserting that they were excessive. Regarding the vacation of records, the university argued that the facts of the case were not sufficient to vacate the records. However, the Infractions Appeals Committee found no basis to conclude that the penalty was excessive such that the Committee on Infractions had abused its discretion in imposing the penalty.
During this case, the Committee on Infractions found that a men's basketball student-athlete competed while ineligible during the entire 2007-08 season, including the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, due to an invalidated SAT score.
In its appeal, the university made two arguments as grounds for reversal of the financial penalty: (1) there was insufficient evidence to find that the university or the student-athlete knew, or had reason to know, that he would become ineligible; and (2) even if the evidence was sufficient to make such a finding, the Committee on Infractions erred by not specifically concluding that the university or the student-athlete knew, or had reason to know, that he would become ineligible.
The Infractions Appeals Committee, however, disagreed and upheld the financial penalty. In its report, the Infractions Appeals Committee stated that a letter from the testing agency to the student-athlete "not only made the student-athlete aware that his eligibility was in serious jeopardy, but that he would be declared ineligible if he did not respond to the letter."
Based on these conclusions, the Infractions Appeals Committee found no basis to modify the penalties.
In considering the university's appeal, the Infractions Appeals Committee reviewed the notice of appeal, the transcript of the university's Committee on Infractions' hearing and the submissions by the university and the Committee on Infractions.
The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were: Christopher L. Griffin, Foley & Lardner LLP, chair; David Williams II, Vanderbilt University; and Jack Friedenthal, George Washington University.
The University of Memphis issued the following response:
The University of Memphis is extremely disappointed by the decision of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee. The University strongly disagrees with the result, but understands that the decision is final. However, we would like to make the following points:
- The Educational Testing Service should notify institutions of any ongoing investigations involving student-athletes, and the NCAA should immediately work with ETS to establish a plan for this communication.
- The NCAA Eligibility Center reviews records and questions the completion of coursework on a regular basis. The Center should also provide guidance and ensure communication between all of the relevant parties regarding test scores.
- We endorse the Appeals Committee's decision to require the Committee on Infractions in the future to explicitly state the evidence which supports each element of the penalties imposed on a program.
"Without an open dialogue about ongoing issues, the University of Memphis and other NCAA members have less confidence in the abilities of the NCAA and ETS to work productively on behalf of student-athletes and the universities they represent," said U of M President Shirley Raines. "This issue requires immediate attention by both organizations."
Memphis Athletic Director R. C. Johnson said, "I am extremely disappointed with the findings. However, the ruling has been handed down, and we must move forward. The future of Tiger athletics is, indeed, very bright."