NCAA orders Memphis to vacate Calipari's Final Four

jtipton@herald-leader.comAugust 21, 2009 

  • Trouble in Memphis

    Stripped: Every victory in Memphis' 38-win 2007-08 season under now-UK coach John Calipari was taken away by the NCAA because of an ineligible player, thought to be Derrick Rose.

    Cleared: The NCAA did not punish Calipari because no allegation was brought against him, said Paul Dee, the chairman of the Committee on Infractions.

    He's our man: University of Kentucky officials had no comment Thursday, but in the past, they have voiced support for Calipari despite the scandal.

    Stand-in: The NCAA ruled that Rose had someone take the SAT for him.

    The penalties: Besides the vacated wins, Memphis was placed on three years probation and must pay back NCAA Tournament money from 2007-08. The infractions committee said it struck hard because the ineligible player was used the entire season.

    Not the first time: It is the second time both Memphis and Calipari had to vacate Final Four seasons. The Tigers were stripped of their 1985 appearance and Calipari's Massachusetts team lost its 1996 berth.

    Off the résumé: The 38 victories and Final Four appearance must be removed from Calipari's official coaching record and may not appear in any recruiting material, NCAA archives nor school media guide biographies, beginning with UK's 2009-10 publication. The penalty means that Calipari is no longer the winningest coach in Memphis history.

For the second time in his career, new University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has had a pinnacle of personal success stricken from the record book because of rules violations.

The NCAA officially ordered the University of Memphis on Thursday to vacate all of its record-breaking 38 victories in the 2007-08 season and return money earned from a Final Four run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Calipari, who coached that Memphis team, also had the 1996 Final Four appearance by his Massachusetts team vacated when star center Marcus Camby later admitted taking money from an agent during that season.

In both cases, the NCAA did not cite Calipari for direct involvement in the major violations.

Memphis must vacate its 38 victories in 2007-08 and return about $533,000 in NCAA Tournament money in part because the organization's judicial body, its Committee on Infractions, decided that star freshman Derrick Rose had a stand-in take the SAT for him, thus making him retroactively ineligible the entire season.

The NCAA also punished Memphis for failing to monitor travel expenses. Investigators found more than $1,700 in unpaid travel expenses by Rose's brother, Reggie Rose. Those included air fare on two trips and five nights of lodging.

Memphis said it would appeal.

When the Memphis case became public knowledge after Kentucky hired Calipari this spring, UK officials said that the coach told them of the allegations. UK officials also noted that the NCAA did not hold the coach personally responsible.

During an appearance at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday morning, Calipari told The Associated Press he would be "disappointed" if the Memphis team he coached to the 2008 NCAA Final Four were stripped of its appearance.

In the late afternoon, Calipari posted a comment on his Web site: "I'm very disappointed and disheartened by the NCAA's findings," he said.

"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.

"I am anxious to coach the team at the University of Kentucky beginning this fall."

After the NCAA made its findings known in the early afternoon, UK athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said that there were no "current" plans for Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart to comment.

UK President Lee Todd, who has emphatically voiced his desire for athletics programs to follow the rules, also declined to comment.

"The president is not going to talk about the Memphis case," Todd's spokesman, Tom Harris, said Thursday morning. "He thinks it's not a University of Kentucky issue."

Paul Dee, the Committee on Infractions chairman and a former athletics director at Miami, described Calipari as cooperative during the hearing. "He was absolutely responsive to every question," he said, "and contributed to our understanding."

The committee did not punish Calipari because no allegation was brought against the coach, Dee said. When asked if the penalties might give Calipari an unflattering stigma, Dee said, "That's for others to decide ...."

"Whenever records are vacated, that is a strong indication that there was a problem. Because there were no allegations against the coach, we did not consider any, but whenever you have a situation that affects a team's record or an individual's personal record, it will have an impact on that individual."

The 38 victories and Final Four appearance must be removed from Calipari's official coaching record and should not appear in any recruiting material, NCAA archives or school media guide biographies, beginning with UK's 2009-10 publication, Dee said.

If Memphis loses the appeal, officials said, the university would ask Calipari to return bonuses earned for the Final Four run. Those bonuses might total about $300,000, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

The penalty means that Calipari is no longer the winningest coach in Memphis history, and the record returns to Larry Finch.

Although the NCAA Clearing House had approved Rose's eligibility and the entrance exam score was not invalidated until after his freshman season, Memphis suffered the penalty for using an ineligible player.

Dee cited the principle of "strict liability." He likened the Rose case to a school learning later that a player had accepted money or, in essence, turned pro while playing on the college level. In either case, the school must vacate games in which the player participated.

University of Memphis President Shirley Raines announced the intention to appeal. Memphis did "due diligence" on Rose's entrance exam, and the player had been cleared twice to play, Raines said at a late afternoon news conference. "We think the penalty is unfair," she said.

Memphis first learned of a possible problem with Rose's SAT score in October 2007 when the Chicago Public Schools Internal Audit division made contact.

Rose, who is from Chicago, took the test in Detroit, the NCAA report said. That testing came after Rose three times failed to achieve the minimum score needed for freshman eligibility, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

Because Rose was eventually declared ineligible, Dee said, the Committee on Infractions did not investigate why the player took the entrance exam in Detroit or any other circumstances surrounding the test.

Memphis was unable to substantiate the allegations of academic improprieties and cleared the student-athlete to compete during the 2007-08 season.

However, the SAT's security testing agency conducted a separate investigation. It notified Rose, Memphis and the NCAA Eligibility Center on May 5, 2008, that it had canceled the test score. The Committee on Infractions concluded that Rose was academically ineligible to compete during the entire season due to this canceled test score.

"We feel the NCAA findings are extreme given we did our due diligence on the eligibility side," Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson said. "I assure you there were no deliberate violations."

As for the expenses not paid by Rose's brother, Memphis cited "administrative error in the institution's athletic business office." The school offered no elaboration, the NCAA report said.

This led the Committee on Infractions to decide that the university failed to properly monitor its athletics program, the NCAA report said.

As with Calipari, a vacated Final Four appearance is not new for Memphis. The Dana Kirk-coached team in 1985 advanced to the Final Four in Rupp Arena, then suffered the same penalty.

That leaves Memphis with one Final Four appearance that will remain in the NCAA record book. That came in 1973 when the Gene Bartow-coached Tigers lost to UCLA in the championship game.

Johnson struck a defiant note as he left the late afternoon news conference.

"The banner will come down," the Memphis athletics director said. "But the memories will never leave."

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