MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis learned the fate of Tigers' basketball Tuesday.
The NCAA's Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) announced the UofM will not face a postseason ban and Coach Penny Hardaway will not be suspended.
The IARP said the UofM failed to monitor an “athletics booster, provided impermissible extra benefits, and conducted impermissible recruiting activities with prospective student athletes.” The panel also said the university failed to cooperate with the investigation by delaying requested documents.
The IARP gave the Tigers a $5,000 fine, three years probation, and a vacation of two wins while James Wiseman played for the team.
According to the decision, that booster mentioned is Hardaway, who became an athletics booster in 2008 before becoming head coach in 2018.
This announcement comes almost three years after James Wiseman played three games for the UofM, and despite the NCAA dissolving the IARP going forward.
The case stems from Penny Hardaway’s $11,500 payment to Wiseman’s mother to help the family move to Memphis from Nashville to play for East High School.
The panel found that benefits Hardaway provided to three prospective student-athletes were not recruiting inducements, but part of his long-standing philanthropy in the Memphis community since his days in the NBA. The IARP said the benefits provided by Hardaway were “generally available to all prospective students of Memphis, not only student-athletes, and, therefore, were permissible.”
But the panel said the UofM failed to educate Hardaway about permissible activities for boosters and did not ask him about financial contributions he made to prospective players and their families, or other relationships he had with players he had previously coached.
Memphis Tigers response
In response to the panel's decision, the Memphis Tigers released the following:
University of Memphis Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Laird Veatch: "We sincerely appreciate the patience and support of Tiger Nation throughout this long and arduous process. Since 2019, there has been a weight of uncertainty on the shoulders of our men's basketball program relating to this case, which we recognize was extremely challenging for everyone to bear. Now that the IARP has arrived at its final decision, we are ready to turn the page and continue supporting our coaches and student-athletes on the court and in the classroom. I would like to make it clear that Coach Hardaway, his staff and our student-athletes represented our University with class and dignity throughout this entire process. As we noted in our response to the Notice of Allegations, we have proactively made efforts to enhance our athletic compliance infrastructure and will continue to do so. To that end, we are thankful to the IARP for recognizing and reflecting that in its decision. As we prepare for a new season, we are all excited and ready to move forward, together."
University of Memphis Head Men's Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway: "We have finally arrived at the end of an extremely challenging period, and I could not be more grateful. I would like to thank our players and their families, as well as our coaches and our support staff, for continuing to focus on what we could control as this process lingered. Believe me, none of this was easy, but this group always had faith. Tiger Nation, you have my eternal gratitude for continuing to believe in us and supporting us. We never take that belief and support for granted. As I tell our team, we do what we do for our great City. Our University and athletic department leadership worked tirelessly to help present the facts of our case. I am thankful to the IARP for allowing us to present those facts and making its decision based on the facts. It's now time to put all of this behind us. Brighter days are ahead, and we cannot wait to share in future successes as one Memphis."
University of Memphis President Bill Hardgrave: "This investigation has been a cloud over the men's basketball program for three years, and we are happy to have the process concluded. I would like to express sincere gratitude to members of our University staff, athletic department staff and legal team who devoted significant time to preparing the facts of our case, as well as the IARP for attentively listening to those facts and thoughtfully rendering its decision. We respect and will fully comply with the IARP's decision."
Violations according to IARP
The Independent Resolution Panel determined that this case involves Level II and III violations of NCAA legislation. The Independent Resolution Panel concluded that the following Level II violations occurred:
- Despite knowledge that student-athlete No. 1 was ineligible, Memphis officials allowed the student-athlete to compete, disregarding the NCAA rules and processes regarding the binding nature of interpretations by academic and membership affairs.
- Memphis failed to monitor the education and activities of a men’s basketball booster, the head coach, in the men’s basketball program.
- Memphis failed to cooperate by not disclosing and providing access to all electronic devices used by or accessed by former assistant coach No. 1 during former assistant coach No.1’s employment by Memphis. A forensic examination revealed the hard drive of the former assistant coach No. 1’s computer had been reformatted June 5, 2020, the day after the Complex Case Unit requested preservation of such devices. As a result, the data on the computer was deleted and unrecoverable, and Memphis did not conduct an adequate investigation into who had reformatted the computer’s hard drive.
- Memphis failed to cooperate by not producing requested and relevant documents within the scheduling deadlines established in the agreed-upon case management plans. The university produced most of the requested documents at the end of the investigation, which impeded the investigation.
The Independent Resolution Panel concluded that the following Level III violations occurred:
- Memphis provided impermissible recruiting inducements and publicity when a member of the Memphis men’s basketball staff took photographs of a prospective student-athlete in a Memphis jersey in public view during an official visit. The photographs were given to the prospective student-athlete who posted them to his social media account. Memphis self-reported this violation.
- A member of the Memphis men’s basketball staff conducted an impermissible activity during an unofficial visit when he photographed a prospective student-athlete in a Memphis jersey while the prospective student-athlete was involved in a game-day simulation.
- Video of an open gym session involving both incoming men’s basketball student-athletes and uncommitted, prospective student-athletes was posted to a Memphis men’s basketball social media account by a member of the Memphis men’s basketball staff. Memphis self-reported this violation.
- While recruiting a prospective student-athlete, the Memphis head coach made an impermissible written offer of aid via text to the prospective student-athlete’s father. Memphis self-reported this violation.
- Six men’s basketball student-athletes were provided an impermissible free meal at a restaurant owned by the former assistant coach No. 1.
Penalties according to IARP
The Independent Resolution Panel concluded that this case involves Level II and III violations of NCAA legislation. Based on its assessment, the Independent Resolution Panel classifies this case as Level II-Standard for Memphis. The Independent Resolution Panel used the Division I membership-approved penalty guidelines to prescribe the following penalties for Memphis:
- Core Penalties:
- A $5,000 fine, plus 0.25% of its average men’s basketball budget based on the average of the men’s basketball program’s previous three total budgets.
- Three years of probation, from September 27, 2022, to September 26, 2025. During this period probation, Memphis will:
- Require at least one counsel from the university’s Office of Legal Counsel to attend two NCAA Regional Rules Seminars.
- Inform all men’s basketball prospective student-athletes in writing that the university is on probation for three years.
- Publicize information concerning the nature of the infractions and a direct link to the public infractions report.
- File a final compliance report with the NCAA Office of Committees on Infractions by September 30, 2025, confirming Regional Rules Seminars attendance and how the information was distributed to other members of the Office of Legal Counsel who engage with athletics.
- Prior to the conclusion of probation, Memphis’ president will provide a letter to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions affirming the university’s current athletics policies and practices conform to all NCAA requirements.
- Additional Penalties:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Vacation of all wins, records and participation based on student-athlete No. 1’s participation in the November 5, 2019, contest or in any NCAA postseason competition at any time he was ineligible.
- Vacated records will be reflected in Memphis’ men’s basketball program and its head coach, and in all publications in which records are reported.
- Public reference to the vacated records will be removed from athletics materials and displays.
- A Memphis representative must contact NCAA media coordination and statistics and appropriate conference officials to identify the specific student-athletes and contests impacted by the penalties and provide a written report detailing those discussions.
- The individual records of ineligible student-athlete No. 1 will be vacated.
- Any institution that may subsequently hire the affected head coach will reflect the vacated wins in the head coach’s career records.