Memphis attorneys step into the clutch as Penny Hardaway’s program wins massive victory in IARP case

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – In the months prior Tuesday’s announcement detailing how Memphis was punished Regarding the IARP case, which was sparked by the school’s 2019 decision to play five-star freshman James Wiseman despite the NCAA, the consensus was that anything but a postseason ban was considered victory should be counted.

Needless to say, they celebrate in Penny Hardaway’s office as the Tigers have achieved a favorable result.

The only real penalties—and feel free to roll your eyes at “real penalties”—are three years probation and a $5,000 fine. No off-season ban. No suspension for Hardaway. No grant cuts. Practically, things could not have gone better for a Memphis program charged with four Tier I violations but ultimately sentenced to zero.

“We have finally come to the end of an extremely challenging time and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Hardaway said. “I want to thank our players and their families, as well as our coaches and our support staff, for staying focused on what we could control while this process was ongoing. Believe me, none of this came easy, but this group has always had faith. … Our university and athletic department leaders have worked tirelessly to present the facts of our case. I am grateful to the IARP for allowing us to present these facts and base their decision on the facts. It’s now time to say all of that behind us.”

Though the cases are related to different violations, Memphis appears to have beaten the NCAA with more or less a similar defense to that used by North Carolina to beat the NCAA five years ago. In this case, you may recall that the UNC successfully argued that because the cheating classes some athletes took to maintain their eligibility were also available to non-athletes, they could not be breaking an NCAA rule since both athletes and non-athletes benefited from it. In this case, Memphis successfully argued that because Hardaway has been a philanthropist for decades, financially supporting both basketball players and non-basketball players, the $11,500 he admittedly gave to Wiseman’s family to cover the “expenses of moving” from Nashville to Memphis ( before at all) to become a Memphis coach) should not violate any NCAA rule.

Hats off to the lawyers.

“The history of the coach’s involvement in philanthropic activities was significant,” said Hugh Fraser, an arbiter who served as a senior panel member on the case. “So extensive was that story, his philanthropy, that he provided benefits that were commonly available to the wider community.”

Fraser further explained that although Wiseman faced eligibility issues ahead of the 2019-20 season opener, his panel believes Hardaway initially played the eventual No. 2 in the 2020 NBA draft without knowing that fact. Understandably, some members of the media were skeptical at Tuesday’s Zoom call. The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil asked Fraser if it “captivates the imagination” to think that Hardaway could really be in the dark about the suitability of his esteemed recruit. Fraser partially responded by saying that, on the whole, “coaches don’t get too deep into eligibility issues”.

This is of course a ridiculous statement.

The truth is that coaches often are path Digs deep into the eligibility issues of their prized recruits, which is why it’s hard for most who understand the inner workings of the sport to believe that Hardaway was truly in the dark about the status of Wiseman’s eligibility. If so, that’s a real failure of the administration.

For the purposes of this column, I’ll take everyone at their word. However, it should be noted that in November 2019, Hardaway was asked countless times why he chose to play Wiseman despite being NCAA. At the time, he never said anything that indicated he was unaware Wiseman had eligibility issues before putting the 7-foot-1 center in the starting lineup against South Carolina State.

But I digress…

Hats off to the lawyers again. They are the real stars of this thing.

Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast as Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander break down Memphis’ favorable decision on Tuesday.

Some have already begun to argue that this favorable outcome is justification for the Memphis government, which allowed Wiseman to play despite the NCAA before inadmissible and seeking reinstatement.

Let me address this in three words: no, it’s not.

Regardless of how this turned out, it still made no sense for Memphis to play Wiseman before his eligibility issues were resolved because it literally set off a case of major violations that A) put the program and head coach in for almost three years brought distress, B) God knows how much money and energy the fight took, and C) resulted in a probation that could still cause problems later. Defending the Memphis government’s decision to play Wiseman against the NCAA, now that the penalty is lighter than most expected, is akin to defending a drunk driver after his attorney dismissed the charges over technicalities. Congratulations on defeating the drunk driving charge, but it still made no sense to get behind the wheel of a car under the circumstances. Equally, congratulations on avoiding a postseason ban, but it still made no sense to put Wiseman on the pitch under the circumstances.

That will never be true.

But, and this is the most important thing to remember, it really doesn’t matter anymore because most of the time in life, whatever ends well is good — and it ended remarkably well for Memphis. Undeniably, it’s been a long three years for Hardaway to contend with this over-the-top recruiting program and for Memphis fans to worry about whether a postseason ban would one day prevent the Tigers from competing in the NCAA tournament to participate. It was stressful and nerve wracking. People seemed prepared for the worst, but Tuesday delivered the best news that Memphis could reasonably have hoped for.

The James Wiseman case is officially a thing of the past.

The punishment is basically nothing.

The future is undisturbed. Memphis attorneys step into the clutch as Penny Hardaway’s program wins massive victory in IARP case

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