Memphis says it should keep '07-08 wins

Updated: June 3, 2009, 9:50 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis says it should keep the victories from the 2007-08 season, which ended in the national title game, after an internal investigation turned up no proof that a former men's basketball player cheated on his SAT exam.

"Certainly, the University of Memphis should not suffer a financial penalty or vacation of records for the 2008 NCAA tournament as a result of this allegation," according to a report detailing the school's investigation into NCAA allegations.

The report, released to The Associated Press and other news outlets Tuesday under a public records request, details Memphis' internal probe into accusations that a former player -- widely reported to be Derrick Rose -- allowed a stand-in to take his SAT. The report also looked into charges of grade tampering on behalf of the player.

Most names in the report released Tuesday were redacted by Memphis because of privacy concerns, but multiple sources have told ESPN.com that representatives of Rose did tell Memphis he took the SAT in question.

Rose, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft and the league's rookie of the year, was the point guard for the Memphis team that won an NCAA-record 38 games before losing to Kansas in the national championship game.

School officials argue that even if the NCAA Committee on Infractions believes a former player cheated, the program should not be penalized because the school was unaware of any wrongdoing.

"At this point, there is not sufficient evidence on which to conclude that [the player] knew or should have known that he was ineligible at the time of his participation in the NCAA championship," the report says.

Memphis will present its findings to the Committee on Infractions on Saturday in Indianapolis. Former coach John Calipari, now with Kentucky, is expected to participate by phone.

The report released Tuesday says that school officials have encouraged the player -- whose name was blacked out -- to cooperate with the NCAA investigation but that his "consistent response" is that he took the test and already answered the same questions in 2007.

Rose's attorney, Daniel E. Reidy, did not immediately respond to a message left Tuesday at his office.

The report also says the school had no proof the SAT was fraudulent until notified by the Educational Testing Service that the player's score had been canceled. That letter came May 5, 2008, after Rose's only season at Memphis.

When asked directly about the tests he was reported to have taken, the report says, the player responded that he took each of them himself. The player "did not pursue any of the opportunities made available to him by ETS to attempt to validate his scores. The first notice of these opportunities was sent very late in the basketball season. … At this point, there is not sufficient evidence on which to conclude that he knew or should have known that he was ineligible at the time of his participation in the NCAA championship.

"The university … took all reasonable steps to confirm that [name redacted] had met eligibility requirements," the report states.

Memphis officials first began to look into the player's test score in October 2007, when a public school employee in the player's home city contacted the university about possible grade tampering.

The school says the only proof of a fraudulent test score comes from a forensic document examiner hired by the NCAA to look at the player's handwriting samples. She was only able to say that the player's handwriting "probably" did not match the handwriting on the test. The university says the expert's conclusion is not strong enough to prove the player knowingly cheated on the exam.

Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson declined to speak with The Associated Press through a spokeswoman. He has said the school checks out potential athletes but has refused to detail such efforts.

Kentucky officials were aware of the allegations when they hired Calipari and believe the coach was open and honest about the situation. Johnson interviewed several high-profile coaches when Calipari left, but couldn't lure them to Memphis. So he turned to 31-year-old Calipari assistant Josh Pastner.

Pastner, who has said he knew nothing about the investigation before being hired, was excused from participation because of a previous commitment.

NCAA officials notified Memphis on Jan. 16 of the "knowing fraudulence or misconduct" that occurred in that same 2007-08 season, including alleging that Memphis provided $2,260 in free travel to road games for an associate of a player. The NCAA is charging Memphis with a failure to monitor.

Calipari, who left Memphis and signed an eight-year, $31.65 million contract with Kentucky on March 31, has been assured by the NCAA that he is not under investigation.

Rose has issued a statement through Reidy, his attorney, and won't comment any further on the investigation.

On Monday, Bulls executive vice president for business operations Steve Schanwald said the team stood by Rose.

"Where the truth lies, who knows?" Schanwald told Comcast SportsNet Chicago. "But Derrick says it didn't happen, and I take him at his word."

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

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