MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis has lost every one of the 38 victories it piled up in a basketball season that ended with John Calipari’s Tigers just missing out on a national title.
The NCAA stripped Memphis of all its wins from 2007-08 Thursday, saying the Tigers used an ineligible player who is believed to be NBA star Derrick Rose.
The university isn’t accepting the punishment, not yet.
Memphis president Shirley Raines said shortly after the NCAA’s announcement that the school is appealing what she called an unfair penalty.
“We know the rules,” Raines said. “We did our due diligence. We did everything we could to determine the student-athlete was eligible and that the rules were being followed.”
The NCAA announcement came 16 months after the Tigers lost the national championship to Kansas in overtime at the end of the 2007-08 season. It marks the second time both Memphis and coach John Calipari had to vacate Final Four seasons. The Tigers were stripped of their 1985 appearance and Calipari’s Massachusetts team lost its 1996 berth.
“I’m not worried about it because they have never said Coach Cal did anything wrong at all,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who appeared with Calipari at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday before the NCAA announcement. “I think he’s a very upstanding guy. I think that’s his reputation and I think that reputation will be with him here. I really don’t foresee any problems.”
Memphis finished 38-2 in 2007-08, setting the NCAA record for wins in a season.
The NCAA report did not identify the ineligible player by name, though descriptions of the athlete involved lead to the conclusion it could only be Rose. He was the only player who played just that season at Memphis — a fact noted by the governing body of college sports. Rose went on to be selected by the Chicago Bulls as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft and later won the NBA rookie of the year award.
The player was accused of having another person take his SAT exam in Detroit so he would be eligible as a freshman after failing the ACT three times in Chicago.
Memphis argued that the university did not have enough information to substantiate the allegations in November 2007 and cleared him to play. Memphis officials defended their investigation Thursday and said four people interviewed the player, with neither Calipari nor athletic director R.C. Johnson involved.
“That person responded that he took the test, and we believed him,” university legal counsel Sheri Lipman said.
However, the SAT officials later conducted their own investigation and notified the player, the university and the NCAA’s eligibility center that they were canceling his test in May 2008.
The agency said it sent letters to the player in March and April 2008; the second letter was sent three days after Rose and the Tigers lost to the Jayhawks. The player did not respond to either letter.
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