by Ryne Nelson

The word sizzling around the ‘Net is ‘vacated.’ It’s used in almost every reference to the ’07-08 Memphis Tigers Final Four season, which apparently is now magically erased. It didn’t exist. Take out a flashy thingy and it’s gone. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

The most explosive revelation in the report involves Derrick Rose, the former Tigers point guard who allegedly was admitted to Memphis on a fraudulent SAT exam and retroactively ruled ineligible by the NCAA. According to the report, Rose took the SAT on May 5, 2007 – just more than a month before enrolling in classes at Memphis – in Detroit, not in his hometown of Chicago. Rose had previously failed the ACT test three times, all of which were taken in Chicago.

The report states that the infractions committee “did not need to make a determination as to whether (Rose) engaged in unethical conduct” because the subsequent cancellation of his test score by the Educational Testing Service was a “strict liability” situation.

To paraphrase, Derrick Rose didn’t take his SAT — making him ineligible — but the NCAA Clearinghouse allowed Rose to play. Despite Memphis not having any knowledge of this, the NCAA held Memphis accountable, ‘vacating’ all 38 wins that season. No penalties going forward other than a three-year “heightened review” period, which means that next time, when a Memphis player doesn’t take the SAT, he might not play. Sheesh. This is how NCAA Committee on Infractions leader Paul Dee explained the penalties:

“The penalties in this case were determined by looking at where the blame lied in this situation. Having penalties going forward … is really the dilemma you have. Where should you focus the penalty? We decided to focus the penalty on the time the penalties occurred.”

To paraphrase, the NCAA would never drag John Calipari through the mud, and Derrick Rose… well, he’s Derrick Rose. Memphis finishes with a slap on the wrist. Teleconference done.

It gets funnier, though. This wasn’t the first time a Calipari-led team went to Final Four, only to be later nullified. The NCAA stripped the UMass Minutemen of their 1996 NCAA Tournament victories because Marcus Camby accepted money from agents while still a student-athlete. UMass was dominant with Calipari at the helm. The team played some spectacular basketball that fans will never forget.

The NCAA is essentially extending the same non-punishment again by nullifying Memphis’ achievements. It hasn’t learned that removing honors does nothing.

Nearly the entire Tiger team ‘vacated’ Memphis after finishing as the national runners-up and owners of the most wins in college history. Let’s see where the key perpetrators are now:

Star (Derrick Rose) — Free, rich, famous, superstar
Coach (John Calipari) — Big fat raise at storied program
Athletic Director (RC Johnson) — Gainfully employed

The winners continue their success and the NCAA follows them, brushing away the tracks with an invisible brush. Sorry, ‘vacating’ doesn’t work. As if we’ll really forget who won those games. That’s just funny.