Commentary

Complicit NCAA too harsh on Memphis

Updated: August 25, 2009, 11:13 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I've had a chance to reflect on the penalties doled out to the University of Memphis basketball program.

A big part of the punishment came over Derrick Rose allegedly having someone take the SAT in his place.

I have a big problem with this whole situation.

Here is a simple question: Which Division I coach would keep Rose out of the lineup after the NCAA declared him eligible to play? There is an NCAA clearinghouse that determines player eligibility and they told Memphis that Rose could play. Someone please tell me what is the purpose and the role of the NCAA clearinghouse? They determined that Rose was eligible not once, but twice.

I don't believe there is a coach in America who wouldn't play him after the clearinghouse declared him eligible.

Why shouldn't they play the No. 1 point guard when the governing body, on two occasions, declared him eligible.

The University of Memphis and then-coach John Calipari followed the rules and regulations. Compliance people did the best they could in finding out what the player's status was. The determination was simple: play him. Compliance officers followed all the regulations in scrutinizing the eligibility requirements regarding Rose.

Then the NCAA determined at a later date that information was provided that apparently indicated that someone else took the test for Rose in Detroit. If that is true, the NCAA has the right to alter its initial finding. However, my feeling is, that in issuing penalties they should take into consideration that they themselves cleared him to play. Based on those facts, I firmly believe that the penalty was too severe in forcing Memphis to vacate its Final Four appearance and wiping out 38 victories. The most logical decision would have been to ask Memphis to return all dollars earned from the 2008 NCAA tournament.

Hitting the school in the wallet is a pretty stiff penalty.

I have said it once and I will say it again: Whenever you are recruiting a kid with an academic risk, a superstar who surrounds himself with an entourage, trouble can follow. I have no problem with giving a youngster with academic problems an opportunity to grow as a student-athlete. The problem occurs when six or seven people in the entourage surrounding him fill his head up with visions on grandeur. Many of these so-called "key" people are leeches who simply want to take a piece of the action if the kid ultimately becomes a professional star.

Many people blame the AAU and the shoe companies for all the problems that occur. But my friends, let's face reality. There are many good people involved in AAU competition. It's not fair to generalize and say that all of them are operating under the table. Competition, in many cases, helps the athletes to develop his skills. And if handled effectively, can teach them to be responsible for their actions.

Also it is open season by many anti-Calipari factions. He certainly now has provided them ammunition to fire away. Let me simply say: I thought we live in America where one is innocent until proven guilty. The NCAA -- on two occasions -- has emphatically stated that Calipari was not involved in the benefits that Marcus Camby received at UMass and was in no shape or form involved with someone allegedly taking the test for Rose.

Calipari has coached over 100 athletes during his tenure at Massachusetts and Memphis. And not once have I read or heard of a scenario where his athletes were receiving cars, clothing, cash or any other illegal benefits. He is simply scrutinized and evaluated because of his winning ways and aggressive personality.

As the respected Hall of Famer C.M. Newton has stated, Calipari is a master at bending but not breaking the rule. I guess all I can say is that unless someone proves to me that Calipari has been involved in any illegal shenanigans I firmly believe that he has been unfairly taken to task by many.

In closing, my friends, if you thought he could recruit at UMass and Memphis, watch out baby! The cats will pile on W after W. And after speaking to him recently, I have never heard him so fired up, excited and motivated to bring all kinds of success to the Kentucky basketball program. Calipari is energized beyond belief.

I can already hear Calipari crying to his team, "bring on the competition and let the Big Blue party begin!"

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.