The NCAA's Toothless Punishment Of Memphis

Patrick MauroAnalyst IAugust 22, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 15: Derrick Rose #23 of the Memphis Tigers brings the ball upcourt against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane during the finals of the Conference USA Basketball Tournament at FedExForum on March 15, 2008 in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Tulsa 77-51. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

The great success of the Memphis Tigers during the 2007-08 season has been erased from the record books, but it's not like Back to the Future (sorry for the 1985 reference) where the very existence of Alex P. Keaton was at stake if he couldn’t power up the DeLorean and get back to the Reagan years.

This isn't the case. It still happened. We all remember it, and always will. The Tigers still went to the Finals. Chris Douglas-Roberts still missed those two free throws to allow Mario Chalmers to hit his big shot. Kids are still buying Derrick Rose’s no. 23 Tigers jersey.

The technology doesn't exist (I don't think) to zap the memory of that season from our brains. That would be something.

Bleacher Report’s Senior Writer Leroy Watson deftly details the situation in his story Memphis Appealing NCAA Decision, but Is that Enough? and raises the question of just how serious the ramifications are for cheating.

Anyone would be naïve to believe what happened at Memphis doesn’t happen all over the country. It always has and it always will.

So all eliminating wins really does is hurt Memphis in the endowment. They have to cough up some cash. It somehow doesn't seem that severe.

Then again, this isn't about student-athletes or abiding by the rules. It's big business and producing big bucks and fattening that bottom line. And the powers that be want business to run as smoothly as possible.

It marks the second time both Memphis and coach John Calipari had to vacate a Final Four season. The Tigers were stripped of their 1985 appearance (Dana Kirk ended up doing some time) and Calipari’s UMass team lost its 1996 berth.

I still vividly remember watching Keith Lee and the Tigers in 1985 as a 16 year old in Boise, ID. I still think Lee was one of the best college players never to make in the NBA.

I lived in Las Vegas and watched Rick Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats with Tony Delk and Antoine Walker beating Coach Cal's UMass Minutemen with Marcus Camby in 1996—one of the more exciting (top 10) National Semi-Finals I can remember.

The fact that the NCAA has stricken from the record UMass's appearance doesn't change the excitement and drama you feel as a fan.

It still happened. Maybe it won’t be in the record books for some future civilization to discover, but it will always be talked about.

Think of Michigan's Fab Five. Steve Fisher can still claim the best recruiting class ever with Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. They came to Ann Arbor in the Fall of 1991 and lost in the national title game—to Duke in 1992 and to North Carolina in 1993—two years in a row.

Will anyone forget Weber's infamous timeout call in 1993 just because the school vacated the wins?

It still happened.

They’re still selling Webber no. 4 Wolverine jerseys.

So in all these cases, they give up the wins and cough up the money, but are likely still making money because of the merchandise they sell.

The punishment seems so insignificant—a little like the original 10-game suspension for the first steroid offense in baseball. It just wasn’t going to prevent anyone from cheating.

If the NCAA were serious about stopping such practices, the penalties would be far more severe, as in huge bucks. In the case of Memphis, not only should the school pay, so should Calipari. The penalties should follow the coach.

Under the current system, Coach Cal was in position to cash in huge in Lexington despite his rule breaking past. That should somehow be rectified. Any suggestions are welcome.

Kentucky sells a lot of merchandise. Good for them, good for the SEC, good for the NCAA. Why get in the way of the cash flow?

Ashley Judd and the rest of the Wildcats fans should enjoy the wins now, because they might not count later, but even if they don’t, they still got to witness the spectacle.

It’s a little like eating a great meal, or seeing a kick ass concert, or good times with a friend, and then having someone tell you it didn’t count.

It still happened.

Until the memory zapping technology is in the hands of the NCAA, more serious ramifications for breaking the rules are necessary.

Or, the players could be paid, attending class could be optional, and the hypocrisy of big time college sports could end.

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