"I am extremely disappointed in the NCAA ruling, and yes, we are going to appeal," University of Memphis Athletic Director R. C. Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
Meanwhile, the NCAA Final Four and 2008 runner-up banners will continue hanging in FedEx Forum. And if the appeal fails, the 38 wins will be erased and "the banners will come down but the memories will never leave."
Johnson and UM President Shirley Raines took issue with the NCAA's "stricit liability" stance in the determination of star basketball player Derrick Rose's ineligibility. The Educational Testing Service invalidated Rose's SAT entrance exam score after first declaring him eligible to compete in the 2007-2008 season. At an earlier press conference, NCAA officials gave no explanation for the specifics of the Rose test mystery, stating only that the ETS determination was, in effect, a death sentence for UM.
Raines declined to take any shots at former Coach John Calipari.
"No allegations were brought against Coach Calipari," she said, adding that he cooperated in the NCAA investigation.
The ruling and appeal leaves the Educational Testing Service and the NCAA Eligibility Center in the role of final judge or bad guy, depending on your point of view. Coincidentally, on Wednesday the NCAA posted a "correction" to what it called inaccurate media coverage of another case of eligibility involving an athlete at Mississippi State University.
"Being certified to compete in NCAA competition is a two-part process," the press release says. "Prospective athletes must be cleared from both an academics and amateurism perspective."
The "correction" emphasizes that the university determines admission but the NCAA Eligibility Center determines if an athlete is eligible to compete.
Rose was approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center in 2007 but ruled ineligible in 2008 after the NCAA tournament.
Rose was under suspicion in 2007 but told university officials he had taken his own SAT test and ACT test. But it appears that he was not as helpful and forthcoming as he could have been in 2008, when the testing service tried unsuccessfully to contact him on two occasions. When Rose failed to respond, the testing service invalidated his scores, triggering the NCAA Eligibility Center determination.
Tom Ewing, spokesman for the testing service, told the Flyer earlier this year that there are only about 1,000 investigations a year out of three million tests administered, and half of those are cleared. Suspected cheaters are notified by certified letter and have 14 days to respond. At least two notices are sent. The student can clear up the suspicions, retake the test, or allow the college or an arbitration panel to rule.
Rose did nothing. Whether that hurt UM is not known.
If in doubt, should the coach sit 'em out? Asked if coaches would now be advised to bench athletes if there is any suspicion that they might be ineligible regardless of a seal of approval from the NCAA because the risks are too high, Johnson said that would not be the case. If they are cleared they will participate.