UM Is Standing Up to the Wrong Bully

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If I'm the University of Memphis and about to go to war with the NCAA on their home court under their rules, I want Derrick Rose on my side, in the flesh and unredacted. Otherwise, no dice. I take a punch and fight another day.

Refusing to be bullied is admirable. But if UM had stood up to former basketball coach John Calipari and former star player (and reluctant witness) Rose, it might not be in a fix with the bullies at the NCAA Infractions Committee.

The accusations ("you cheated"), counter-accusations ("you're picking on us"), threats ("we can hurt you worse than this if you don't shut up"), contortions ("we had no reason to suspect") and procedural courtesies (redacting Rose's name) are getting tiresome and ridiculous.

Before the next Kansas heartbreaker in NCAA Land, Rose needs to spill it or defend himself. It's only a matter of time before some enterprising reporter gets the straight story or Rose himself, like Andre Agassi and hundreds of other pro athletes, confesses to his youthful sins in an autobiography. If UM fans think the NCAA has been tough so far, wonder what they'll be like with their backs against the wall.

Let's try this one more time, in the multiple-choice format of a college entrance exam.

1. Rose took the ACT (a) once (b) twice (c) three times. (Correct answer is "c")

2. The reason he took it three times was (a) to get into Princeton (b) he enjoyed test taking (c) to make a score that would make him eligible for the 2007-2008 season at University of Memphis. (Correct answer is "c")

3. Rose said his mother would not even tell him what score he made each time. This protective maternal instinct and lack of curiousity on Rose's part ("Aw Mom, I'm 18, so stop reading my mail.") suggests (a) he is a man-child manipulated by his elders (b) she knew what score he needed to "pass" and he did not make it. (Correct answer is "both")

4. How many high school graduates take the ACT three times but never see their score because their mom won't show it to them? (a) it happens all the time (b) only elite athletes on the bubble (Correct answer is 'b")

5. Rose or someone impersonating him took the SAT in Detroit, not in his hometown of Chicago because (a) more comfortable chairs (b) he was conveniently there for a tournament and his advisers conveniently arranged it. (Correct answer is "b)

6. The University of Memphis, which knows Rose's failing and passing scores, (a) also "knows the score" when it comes to marginally qualified one-and-doners (b) "took a risk" only in the same sense that it takes a risk by admitting any student athlete. (Correct answer is "a")

7. Calipari knew Rose's (a) shoe size (b) vertical jump (c) 8th-grade highlight reel (d) every detail of Rose's life that might influence his status as a basketball player for UM (Correct answer is "all").

8. Rose has declined how many opportunities to explain his test record to the ETS and NCAA? (a) none (b) one (c) at least seven (Correct answer is "c")

9. A student who takes four entrance tests in six months is (a) really motivated (b) lucky the fourth time (c) probably not college material. Correct answer is (c).

And on and on we could go.

In its rebuttal to the "took a risk" comment the NCAA takes as admission of foreknowledge if not guilt, the university claims that Rose was just another student athlete. The NCAA attorneys will salivate over that one. Ordinary student athletes don't get to bring their big brothers on the team plane and put them up at the team hotel on the university's dime due to "administrative error."

Cheating on a college entrance exam is not a crime. It happens in a tiny fraction of one percent of cases. Half the challenged tests are cleared. The test police do not have the power of subpoena, compelled testimony, contempt citation, or criminal sanction. A suspected cheater gets an opportunity to retake the test, get a refund, or explain himself.

Try thinking of this outside the athletic department box and inside, say, the history or chemistry department instead. Imagine Joe Q. Student suspected of plagiarizing a term paper or getting the answers in advance on a chemistry test. How much slack would such a student get if his or her only response was "I did not cheat"? Would the head of the department say the bogus paper or test initially got a passing grade and was therefore "certified"? What would the academic deans at UM have to say about this?

The recurring theme in this story is redaction. Rose's name is redacted. His brother's name is redacted. The 2007-2008 season is redacted. Rose's mother redacted his scores when they came in the mail. Rose and/or his mother redacted the U.S. Postal Service in 2008 when the Educational Testing Service twice tried to notify him by mail at his home in Chicago. The university redacted the exhibits that might shed more light on this story.

And now, apparently, it's on to Armageddon. Yes, the University of Memphis, Derrick Rose, and John Calipari have deniability. No, they do not have plausible deniability. UM took a risk by playing Rose and now it is taking another risk by letting him play games and refuse to explain himself. Absent his explicit cooperation, it's time to move on. Like Cal did. Like Rose did.

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