Memphis basketball hearing begins

The NCAA Committee on Infractions hearing for the University of Memphis basketball and women’s golf programs has begun in an Indianapolis hotel.

The hearing began at about the scheduled time of 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Athletic Director R.C. Johnson, university attorney Sheri Lipman and the university president Shirley Raines arrived at the hotel at about 8:15. The trio had nothing to say to assembled reporters aside from a nod of acknowledgment.

There’s not many media members gathered here. There is only one television station from Memphis, a free lance television reporter from Indiana and a sportswriter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The NCAA’s judicial body, its Committee on Infractions, meets about six times a year. It can hear one or multiple cases in a day. Because there is only one case on its docket for Saturday, that suggests the Memphis allegations are a complex matter.

The allegations of major violations in the basketball program pertain to the 2007-08 season. The most explosive allegationinvolved the college entrance exam taken by star freshman Derrick Rose.

Then Coach John Calipari, who moved to Kentucky this spring, is scheduled to appear via a teleconference. He is in China in a pre-arranged goodwill trip.

The NCAA wrote a letter to Calipari earlier this year telling him he was not at-risk personally of a sanction.

No judgment will be made on Saturday. Typically, it takes six to eight weeks for the Committee on Infractions to arrive at a judgment.

In the closed hearing, Memphis’ representatives are expected to defend against the allegation that Rose submitted a fraudulent SAT. Memphis said in its official response to the allegation that there was a lack of conclusive evidence about the authenticity of his test.

In its official response, Memphis noted that the only evidence suggesting Rose did not take the entrance exam came from Lee Ann Harmless, a forensic document examiner hired by the NCAA. Because Harmless concluded that Rose “probably did not write the questioned hand printing or cursive writing” on the exam form, Memphis says in its response that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude fraud.

Furthermore, Memphis said it took all reasonable steps to assure Rose’s eligibility before he ever played a game for Memphis. Those steps included asking the NCAA to approve Rose’s participation, which the NCAA provided. Memphis is expected to cite those factors as reasons the school should not have to forfeit its 38 victories from the 2007-08 season nor vacate its Final Four appearance.

In its official response, Memphis acknowledged that more than $2,000 in travel expenses were improperly paid for an associate of Rose, reportedly older brother Reggie. But Memphis argued that the payments were an administrative error the school has already taken steps to correct.

Memphis noted that other travel expenses had been paid by the proper person.