Memphis says Calipari had no proof of player's alleged academic fraud

ralessi@herald-leader.com and jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 3, 2009 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari

MEMPHIS — University of Memphis officials say the school's athletic staff, including former basketball coach John Calipari, found no proof of academic fraud reportedly involving former star freshman Derrick Rose.

The school also described more than $2,000 in travel expenses improperly provided to an associate of Rose as "inadvertent" and an "administrative error."

Memphis drew those conclusions in a 63-page response to NCAA allegations of major rules violations in Calipari's program during the 2007-08 season. In addition to the official response, Memphis made public 497 pages of supporting exhibits.

The school, which made the response public Tuesday, will formally answer allegations of rule-breaking by its men's basketball and women's golf teams during a Committee on Infractions hearing Saturday in Indianapolis.

Calipari, who was named the University of Kentucky's basketball coach April 1 and is mentioned sparsely in the Memphis report, will participate in the hearing via telephone from China.

UK officials have said Calipari told them during his job interview of the NCAA investigation, which began in January.

The NCAA first notified Memphis of the allegations in a letter dated Jan. 16.

Memphis acknowledged culpability in an alleged secondary violation involving an improper call made to the mother of a prospective player, Abdul Gaddy. Memphis said that booster Dave Bronczek called Gaddy's mother, Oseye. But the school noted that the player's mother worked for Bronczek, and Memphis officials described the call as employer and employee.

"Unfortunately, the topic of the University of Memphis men's basketball program came up in the course of the conversation," the response says.

The most explosive allegation involves whether someone took a college entrance exam for Rose and whether he should have been declared ineligible. If so, the Tigers risk having to forfeit victories and having to vacate an appearance in the 2008 Final Four.

Memphis first learned in October 2007 of a rumor regarding the validity of Rose's score on the American College Test.

The response notes that the source of the rumor later denied making the allegation and that Memphis based its admission of Rose on his score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, not the ACT.

As for whether someone took the SAT test for Rose, "the university does not have sufficient information to conclude that (the player) engaged in unethical conduct," the Memphis response says. "Specifically, the university has no knowledge that (the player) did not complete the SAT."

Only after the 2007-08 season did Memphis learn that Rose's test score on the SAT had been invalidated by the Educational Testing Service, the response says.

Memphis acknowledges that Rose "did not pursue any of the opportunities made available to him by ETS to attempt to validate his scores." He declined to retake the test.

In the response, Memphis says it was "in no position to know of a problem" at the time Rose played because he had been certified by the NCAA. The school said it exercised "due diligence" in fall 2007 and took all "reasonable steps" to confirm Rose's eligibility.

In a letter dated Nov. 19, 2007, Sheri Lipman, an attorney for the university, explained why Rose played that season despite the questions.

"Because he had been declared eligible to compete, ... he has competed this season," wrote Lipman, who also noted that the NCAA voiced no objection to Rose playing. "We did speak to Kevin Lennon, vice president for membership services, about the situation prior to (the player) competing and he supported the institution's conclusion to allow (the player) to compete."

Memphis said the only evidence suggesting that Rose did not take the SAT entrance exam came from Lee Ann Harmless, a forensic document examiner hired by the NCAA. The conclusion by Harmless that Rose "probably" did not write the questioned hand printing or cursive writing on the exam form is not sufficient evidence to conclude fraud, Memphis says.

In fall 2007, Memphis officials learned that the Chicago Public School system had begun investigating Rose's academic record.

When the inspector general of Chicago Public Schools told Memphis officials that one of Rose's grades might have been changed, Memphis officials interviewed Rose. He told them he had no knowledge of a grade change.

"Based on the interviews and the review of the documents, the university concluded that neither (the player) nor the coaching staff had any knowledge of the grade change," the response says.

Memphis told the NCAA that the suspected grade change "had no effect on his admission to the university and would not have changed his eligibility status as a qualifier."

The NCAA also asked Memphis to respond to allegations of more than $2,000 in travel expenses paid for a player associate, which Yahoo! Sports has reported to be Rose's brother Reggie.

Memphis' response says the charges that weren't reimbursed stemmed from an "administrative error."

The response notes that on three occasions hotel bills were "inadvertently" not paid. Memphis also says that expenses were handled properly in five other trips.

"The university acknowledges that a portion of (that person's) travel expenses 'fell through the cracks' and was not charged in the manner it should have been," the Memphis response says. "The university believes that its failure to recognize this issue, while needing of correction, should be viewed in light of the large amount of travel reviewed here, with few mistakes found."

In its response, Memphis lists the corrective measures it plans. "Closer monitoring of guests and family members on trips" and an "increased awareness of rules" were two such measures.

Memphis also states its commitment to "strengthen its compliance program."

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service