NCAA: Calipari is not 'at risk'

Must still be part of June 6 hearing

ralessi@herald-leader.comMay 30, 2009 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari

University of Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari received a letter from the NCAA that said he isn't the target of a probe into possible infractions at the University of Memphis but still needs to attend a June 6 hearing on the matter.

"The committee wishes to make it clear that you are not considered to be 'at risk' in these proceedings," said the April 27 letter from Shepard C. Cooper, director of the NCAA committees on infractions. "However, because you were the head men's basketball coach at Memphis during the time alleged NCAA violations occurred, the committee believes that you can provide helpful information and useful context that would assist the committee in better understanding the case."

The letter was copied to Mitch Barnett, an apparent reference to UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, as well as Sandy Bell, UK associate athletics director for compliance.

Calipari responded to the NCAA on May 15, saying he would be unavailable to attend the all-day hearing in Indianapolis because he would be in China on June 3-10. Calipari will be leading basketball clinics, part of a joint effort with the University of Memphis.

In a May 27 letter, he asked to participate in the hearing via telephone, after another NCAA official wrote him to stress that Calipari's participation was necessary.

"After reviewing the information in this case, the committee now, more strongly than ever, believes that you should make yourself available to participate in the hearing in some manner," said the letter from Paul T. Dee, chairman of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

The NCAA is investigating allegations of academic fraud and improper payments for travel of a relative of a former Memphis player, reportedly current Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose. The allegations date back to 2007 and 2008 while Calipari coached at Memphis.

Dee's letter reiterates to Calipari that he is "not alleged to have committed NCAA violations and thus is not considered to be 'at risk' in these proceedings."

Still, it remains unclear from the letters what specifically the committee wants to know from Calipari.

Calipari responded in his May 27 letter that he is "very willing to cooperate with the committee and provide my views on the issues involved in this case."

The Herald-Leader obtained the correspondence between the NCAA and Calipari through an Open Records request to UK.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. has said Calipari disclosed to him during the coach's job interview in late March that the NCAA was investigating the University of Memphis. Todd said he and Barnhart believed then and "still are" confident that Calipari did not do anything wrong.

The NCAA first informed Memphis on Jan. 16 that its infractions committee was investigating allegations of "major" rules violations in the women's golf and men's basketball programs.

But the investigation didn't become public until the Memphis Commercial Appeal first reported it Wednesday evening — nearly two months after UK had hired Calipari away from Memphis.

Aftershocks from the revelation have rippled through Lexington and Chicago, where the player at the center of the probe, Rose, just won the NBA Rookie of the Year award.

The 13-page NCAA letter to the University of Memphis says the infractions committee is looking into whether someone took the SAT test for a student who played only on Memphis' 2007-2008 team, which lost in the NCAA Championship game. It has been widely reported that Rose is the player in question.

Memphis had apparently previously conducted its own investigation of Rose's SAT test.

The Jan. 16 NCAA letter asks the school for copies of a non-profit testing research firm's investigative records about the SAT test in question, as well as a Sept. 2, 2008, report from a forensic document examiner pertaining to the handwriting on the exam.

Also, the Commercial Appeal reported Friday that Rose's attorney said the player had cooperated fully with Memphis' investigation into the test and it "uncovered no wrongdoing on his part."

The Chicago Sun-Times has quoted Rose's former club basketball team coach as saying the NCAA thinks one of Rose's high school teammates, Kevin Johnson, took the SAT test for him.

Johnson, who briefly attended the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, was arrested for armed robbery and is in an Illinois jail, the newspaper reported Friday.

That same Sun-Times article reports that Rose, Johnson and a third player, Tim Flowers, from the 2006 and 2007 Simeon High School state championship teams allegedly had grades inflated at the time their transcripts were sent to colleges in June 2007.

That issue wasn't cited in the NCAA's letter.

The other main allegation being reviewed by the NCAA is that Memphis improperly paid for $2,260 in "extra benefits" for someone close to Rose, which Yahoo! Sports reported was his brother Reggie.

The NCAA letter said the person "sometimes received free transportation on the men's basketball team's charter plane to and from away-from-home contests, as well as free lodging at the men's basketball team's hotel during away-from-home contests."

It specifically says the person didn't reimburse the school for flying with the team on Feb. 19 and March 4, 2008, before games at Tulane and SMU. And the letter cites five dates in which that person received lodging with the team at a cost of $1,135.

Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson told the Commercial Appeal Thursday that school officials hadn't planned to make the investigation public until "after the June 6" hearing with NCAA officials in Indianapolis.

Memphis is at risk of being forced to forfeit its 38 wins and Final Four berth if the NCAA panel rules the allegations are true. But the newspaper reported that it's unlikely the program, now under Coach Josh Pastner, will get slammed with further penalties because none of the allegations fall in the serious category of "lack of institutional control."

Although Calipari now works for UK, the NCAA copied its correspondence with him to Memphis officials, as well as Michael S. Glazier, a prominent sports law attorney with the firm Bond, Schoeneck and King of Overland Park, Kan.

Glazier is representing Memphis and has worked with other colleges, such as the University of Toledo and University of Minnesota, during past self-reviews or NCAA investigations into their athletics programs.

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