Memphis works to resolve dispute

Updated: May 29, 2009, 2:01 AM ET
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Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said the Tigers have no reason to believe a former player -- identified by sources as Derrick Rose -- took a fraudulent standardized test prior to enrolling at the university.

"If we thought that we wouldn't have played him," Johnson told ESPN.com Thursday.

Johnson wouldn't confirm that Chicago Bulls rookie Rose is at the center of the investigation. But he denied any knowledge of someone else taking a standardized test for a Memphis player.

In a letter to the school the NCAA says an unknown person took the SAT for a player, with his knowledge, and then the player used that test to get into Memphis. The NCAA said the athlete in question played for the Tigers in the 2007-08 season and the 2008 NCAA tournament. The only person who played just that season was Rose.

Memphis, which was notified of an NCAA investigation in a letter on Jan. 16, has sent its response in advance of a hearing before the committee on infractions in Indianapolis on June 6, Johnson and Memphis lawyer Sheri Lipman said Thursday. The NCAA requires the response be sent 90 days after the notice of allegations is received. Lipman said Memphis received a minor extension and filed the response April 24, nine days after it was due. Lipman said the response was 63 pages but with attachments as requested by the NCAA the file grew to 497 pages.

"We feel like we've done a thorough investigation," Johnson said. "Time will tell if we were correct. We feel good about [the upcoming hearing] but you never know how this will all work."

Johnson declined to provide any details on what Memphis has found in its investigation prior to the hearing.

"We've been working on this for some time and continue to get our final presentation finalized and make sure we dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's," Johnson said.

A source with knowledge of the process said it is common for the current and former coach to be present at the hearing. That was the case a year ago when coach Tom Crean and former coach Kelvin Sampson went to Seattle for Indiana's infraction hearing.

But Johnson said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who wasn't on the staff during the time the alleged infractions took place, wouldn't be at the hearing. Johnson said he didn't know if former Memphis coach John Calipari would be present. Kentucky spokesperson DeWayne Peevy said Wednesday Calipari was expected to speak on a conference call on June 6 because he is leaving for China on Tuesday.

Another violation alleged by the NCAA was that a person, according to sources Rose's brother, Reggie, was permitted to travel on the team plane at no cost on two different occasions. The value of the trips was $1,125. The same person was allowed to stay in the team hotel at no cost on five different occasions for a value of $1,135.

"We sell seats all of the time," Johnson said of the team plane. "Anybody is eligible to go. We don't say, 'You can't go because of this or that.' If they pay, they'll go. We'll continue to do that. The way finances are, that's one of the big things on a charter, you have to do things that will help your team. Tiger fans get to go on the charters [if they pay]."

Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Rose's academic record at Simeon High School was altered to improve his transcript, then changed back a month later. Citing sources and a report by a Chicago Public Schools investigator, the paper identified Rose as one of four students who had grades changed. In Rose's case, a D became a C, according to the report.

"None of the grade changes were supported by any documentation," Chicago Public Schools inspector general James Sullivan wrote in the 2008 annual report, according to the Sun-Times.

Johnson would not identify the player involved at Memphis for privacy reasons. But he said the player is cooperating with Memphis' investigation into the allegations.

"Nobody has thrown up any road blocks," Johnson said. "We're trying to get it resolved and do it the right way."

The NCAA has asked Memphis to provide copies of the SAT and a Sept. 2, 2008, report by a forensic document examiner who studied the handwriting in the SAT.

Simeon coach Robert Smith told ESPN.com on Thursday no one from the NCAA or Memphis had contacted the high school requesting Rose's transcript. But, Lipman said the high school doesn't have anything to do with the standardized test.

"We're not one of the test sites," Smith said. "The test was between him and his family. I never knew when he was going to take the test. They had total control of Derrick. The only thing I did was coach him. I don't even know if I was doing that. They might have been doing that from the stands."

A number of coaches who were recruiting Rose told ESPN.com Thursday that they never received a transcript from Simeon. Smith said he doesn't release transcripts unless the family authorizes him to do so.

Smith said he had no involvement in Rose's recruitment and spoke with Calipari only once, when he came to practice. Smith said that investigators from the Chicago Public School system did ask questions about Rose and other students after Rose had graduated, "but nothing came of it and if something would have then none of us would still be working here."

Smith said NCAA enforcement staffer Louanne Humphrey did come to Simeon last fall to discuss new rules and regulations on an outreach tour of high schools but never discussed Rose or any NCAA allegations.

Smith, who said he has no ties to Rose now, does not believe he would cheat on his test. Luther Tubbs, who coached Rose's summer league team, concurred.

"I don't know nothing about the kid not taking the test," Tubbs told ESPN.com Thursday. "I love Derrick. That kid is smart enough to take his own test. Nobody at that school took that test for him. The kid isn't dumb. If anyone knows Coach Tubbs, they know I don't believe in cheating."

Rose was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft by Chicago and this season's rookie of the year. His agent, B.J. Armstrong, did not immediately return calls from the AP.

The alleged violations occurred under Calipari, who left March 31 to take over at Kentucky. Calipari, who's cooperating with the investigation, was told by the NCAA in a letter that he was not at risk of being charged with any violations in the case.

Kentucky president Lee Todd reiterated in a statement Thursday that his university was aware of the inquiry while interviewing Calipari.

"We are confident that Coach Calipari was not involved in any way," Todd said. "He was very open with us about what he was aware of at that particular time, and since this is an issue between the University of Memphis and the NCAA and not a UK issue, we will not be commenting further on anything related to this situation."

An NCAA spokesman released a statement Thursday disputing Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart's assertion that the school had "checked records and facts" concerning Calipari before he was hired.

"Contrary to what may be portrayed in statements in the media from others, NCAA vice president of enforcement David Price followed standard procedures when Kentucky officials requested information regarding any potential violations regarding John Calipari," the statement said. "Price did not discuss any investigations, but instead urged the university to follow up with Coach Calipari directly."

Barnhart defended his hiring of Calipari on Thursday.

"We talked with several people and thoroughly exercised due diligence during the process of hiring Coach Calipari," Barnhart said in statement. "We asked the right questions. Coach Calipari was forthcoming and honest about the NCAA inquiry at the University of Memphis during the interview process. John Calipari is the basketball coach at the University of Kentucky and we are extremely excited about our future at Kentucky. We support him fully as he participates in the NCAA hearing and we have encouraged him not to comment and I also will not comment any further."

Memphis faces the loss of its 38 wins in the 2007-08 season. It may also have to vacate its records in the NCAA tournament and take down its Final Four banner.

New Memphis coach Pastner said he wasn't aware of the allegations when offered the job in April.

"It's nothing that will affect the current team, which I believe," said Pastner, who joined the Memphis staff as an assistant in June 2008. "I can't comment any more than that."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press is included in this report

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