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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Geoff Calkins: University of Memphis' appeal of NCAA sanctions was doomed from start

Geoff Calkins: University of Memphis' appeal of NCAA sanctions was doomed from start

University of Memphis' appeal of NCAA sanctions was misguided, doomed from start
Posted March 23, 2010 at midnight

The NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee rejected the University of Memphis's effort to overturn the ruling of the Committee on Infractions.

Well, duh.

Who but Shirley Raines didn't know this was coming?

Who but John Calipari still held out hope?

Derrick Rose's time at the University of Memphis will ultimately be remembered for the forfeiture of 38 victories and a lot of revenue.

University of Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson is seen here in a 2009 file photo, discussing the school's decision to terminate head football coach Tommy West.
Who but R.C. Johnson believed Memphis really deserved to get off?

"I am extremely disappointed with the findings," Johnson said.

I am extremely disappointed that anyone would be surprised.

This was a charade, it was always a charade.

It was more about protecting reputations — Raines', Johnson's and Calipari's — than anything else.

The university got off easy, honestly. The future of the basketball program isn't affected at all.

So why spend the money and hire an outside counsel to make the appeal?

Because how could the university justify keeping Johnson in his position otherwise? How could Raines rationalize the way she handed the reputation of the university over to Calipari to trash?

That's why they had to sound so indignant, why they had to launch their long-shot appeal. Because otherwise, it would look like Calipari ran a fast-and-loose program while Johnson and Raines sat idly by.

Which is exactly what happened, of course.

Shouldn't someone be disappointed by that?

The Infractions Appeals Committee — unlike the Committee on Infractions — found that Memphis knew or should have known that Derrick Rose was ineligible during the 2007-08 season for two reasons:

1. On Oct. 25, 2007, the Illinois Inspector General notified Memphis administrators of an allegation that one of Rose's teammates had taken a standardized test for Rose.

2. On March 17, 2008, the Educational Testing Service sent a letter to Rose notifying him that there was "substantial evidence" that his SAT score was invalid.

Now, you can quibble with these conclusions if you like. The Illinois allegation concerned an ACT test, not the SAT that was subsequently invalidated. The March 17 letter was sent to Rose's Chicago address and there's no specific evidence that Rose or Memphis administrators ever saw the thing.

But that's where every other test-related letter had been sent, and Rose always got those. Beyond that, the Infractions Appeals Committee seemed to imply, there was so much smoke around Rose that it's not credible to suggest that Memphis was somehow taken by surprise.

That's a hard one to dispute, isn't it? If you're being honest with yourself? Heck, does anyone outside the state of Kentucky doubt that Calipari knew exactly what was going on?

Rose had taken the ACT test in Chicago three times before May 2007. He had failed to get a qualifying score each time. So one month before Rose was scheduled to arrive on the Memphis campus, he traveled to Detroit, home of the infamous William Wesley, and took the SAT using — this was the really tricky part — someone else's handwriting.

Think Rose kept his soon-to-be coach in the dark about all this? Or told him he was taking the test in Detroit for good luck? If not, what exactly is there to be outraged about today?

Memphis hired a coach with a reputation, a coach whose previous trip to the Final Four was stripped by the NCAA. Memphis knew the risks that came with that. Now that the risks have become reality, it's long past time to move on.

And, yes, I understand if some of you are frustrated that Memphis has had to suffer all the consequences while Calipari escaped unscathed. Except, ask yourself: Did he really escaped unscathed?

He is Jerry Tarkanian now, a permanent outlaw. Just last week, Charlie Pierce wrote a piece on Calipari in Slate titled, "The Sleaziest Coach in a Sleazy Game."

That's how he is considered now. That will be on his coaching tombstone. Calipari may shortly become one of just two coaches to lead three different programs to the Final Four. He'll forever be the only coach to have two of them vacated by the NCAA.

To reach Geoff Calkins, call 529-2364 or e-mail

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