Memphis finds no proof of cheating
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis says it should keep the victories from the 2007-08 season which ended in the national title game after an internal investigation turned up no proof that a former men's basketball player cheated on his SAT exam.
"Certainly, the University of Memphis should not suffer a financial penalty or vacation of records for the 2008 NCAA tournament as a result of this allegation," according to a report detailing the school's investigation into NCAA allegations.
The report, released Tuesday under a public records request, details Memphis' internal probe into accusations that a former player allowed a stand-in to take his SAT. The report also looked into charges of grade tampering on behalf of the player.
Most names in the report were redacted by the school because of privacy concerns, but an attorney for former Memphis star Derrick Rose has acknowledged that Rose cooperated with an investigation of similar allegations while still a student.
Rose, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft and the rookie of the year, was the point guard for the Memphis team that lost to Kansas in the title game.
School officials argue that even if the NCAA's Committee on Infractions believes a former player cheated, the program should not be penalized because the school was unaware of any wrongdoing.
"At this point, there is not sufficient evidence on which to conclude that (the player) knew or should have known that he was ineligible at the time of his participation in the NCAA championship," the report says.
Memphis will present its findings to the Committee on Infractions on Saturday in Indianapolis. Former coach John Calipari, now with Kentucky, is expected to participate by phone.
The report released Tuesday says school officials have encouraged the player -- whose name was blacked out -- to cooperate with the NCAA investigation, but his "consistent response" is that he took the test and he already answered the same questions in 2007.
Rose's attorney, Daniel E. Reidy, did not immediately return a message left Tuesday at his office.
The report also says the school had no proof the SAT was fraudulent until notified by the Educational Testing Service that the player's score had been canceled. That letter came May 5, 2008, after Rose's only season at Memphis.
When asked directly about the tests he was reported to have taken, the report says the player responded that he took each of them himself. The player "did not pursue any of the opportunities made available to him by ETS to attempt to validate his scores. The first notice of these opportunities was sent very late in the basketball season. ... At this point, there is not sufficient evidence on which to conclude that he knew or should have known that he was ineligible at the time of his participation in the NCAA championship.
"The university ... took all reasonable steps to confirm that (name redacted) had met eligibility requirements," the report states.
Memphis officials first began to look into the player's test score in October 2007 when a public school employee in the player's home city contacted the university about possible grade tampering.
The school says the only proof of a fraudulent test score comes from a forensic document examiner hired by the NCAA to look at the player's handwriting samples. She was only able to say that the player's handwriting "probably" did not match the handwriting on the test. The university says the expert's conclusion is not strong enough to prove the player knowingly cheated on the exam.
Athletic director R.C. Johnson declined to speak with The Associated Press through a spokeswoman. He has said the school checks out potentials athletes, but has refused to detail such efforts.
Kentucky officials were aware of the allegations when they hired Calipari and believe the coach was open and honest about the situation. Johnson interviewed several high-profile coaches when Calipari left, but couldn't lure them to Memphis. So he turned to 31-year-old Calipari assistant Josh Pastner.
Pastner, who has said he knew nothing about the investigation before being hired, was excused from participation because of a previous commitment.
NCAA officials notified Memphis on Jan. 16 of the "knowing fraudulence or misconduct" that occurred in 2007-08. The Tigers won 38 games that season and were the national runnerup.
Calipari, who left Memphis and signed an 8-year, $31.65 million contract with Kentucky on March 31, has been assured by the NCAA that he is not under investigation.