NCAA: Schools must be punished

The NCAA Committee on Infractions wants its punishment of the University of Memphis upheld because schools need to be punished when they use ineligible players.

That's according to the NCAA's response to Memphis' appeal of penalties including the vacated 38 wins from the 2007-08 men's basketball season.

"Where is the risk if there is no significant penalty when things go awry? If the IAC sets aside the penalties in this case, it would send the message that an institution can take chances, even with knowledge of potential infractions problems, with impunity," the infractions committee said.

The Associated Press obtained the NCAA's response from Memphis on Monday night under an open records request. The 30-page response was filed Nov. 12 to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeal Committee.

If the appeal committee sets aside either the 38 wins vacated from the 2007-08 men's basketball season or a fine, the Committee on Infractions wants the Memphis case back "to reassess the penalties" that could have included a postseason ban and a cut in scholarships.

The university initially refused to release the NCAA's response to its appeal, citing NCAA rules that prohibit printing the document for media off the association's Web site.

But the university agreed to release the response when reminded by The AP of a recent Florida court ruling rejecting that same NCAA argument in Florida State's appeal of an academic cheating appeal in October.

Memphis agreed to redact the protected information in the NCAA's response, a process completed Monday.

The NCAA ordered Memphis to vacate the season that ended with an overtime loss to Kansas in the national championship game on Aug. 20 after ruling a player believed to be NBA star Derrick Rose was ineligible. Memphis was also fined approximately $530,000 in tournament revenue.

Memphis appealed Oct. 8 that the penalties and the committee's reasoning were unprecedented and improper.

The school targets the so-called "strict liability" standard imposed after the NCAA ruled Rose retroactively ineligible because of an SAT score that was invalidated by the Educational Testing Service in May 2008.

The infractions committee notes Memphis' counsel admitted in a June hearing that the university "took a risk" by allowing Rose to compete even though officials knew of potential problems with the SAT score.

The committee defended the penalties, calling Memphis a "repeat violator" with an "admitted failure to monitor." The major violations in men's basketball all involved Rose, creating "a significant competitive advantage."

Memphis also had its 1985 Final Four berth vacated for violations under then-coach Dana Kirk.

With those factors, the committee cites its decision not to add a postseason ban or cut scholarships as proof the members did not go overboard in punishing Memphis.

Both Memphis and NCAA enforcement staff have a chance to comment with the university getting the last chance to respond before a hearing before the appeals committee. University officials hope that will be scheduled for January.