NCAA finds Memphis men's basketball committed multiple violations, but school avoids postseason ban

After a years-long NCAA infractions investigation, the University of Memphis was found to have committed multiple Level II and Level III violations Tuesday.

However, the basketball program and head coach Penny Hardaway avoided significant sanctions and penalties, as the Tigers will not be subjected to a postseason ban and Hardaway is not facing a suspension of any length.

Memphis has received a $5,000 fine, three years probation and the basketball team must vacate its win from the Nov. 5, 2019, game that former star center James Wiseman participated in.

“We have finally arrived at the end of an extremely challenging period, and I could not be more grateful," Hardaway said in a statement. "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.”

WHAT WE KNOW: Details about the Memphis NCAA infractions case

Wiseman played in two more games for the Tigers that season before being ordered to sit out the next 11 contests. Wiseman eventually withdrew from school before serving the full suspension to begin preparing for the NBA Draft.

What was initially a probe into Memphis' handling of Wiseman's eligibility status — thanks to an $11,500 payment Hardaway made to Wiseman's mother in 2017 during his time as a high school coach at Memphis East — quickly morphed into a thorough examination of Hardaway, the basketball program, the school's compliance staff, the entire athletics department and former university President M. David Rudd.

After years of meetings, interviews and procedural maneuvering, the IARP hearing panel determined Memphis is guilty of four Level II violations and five Level III violations. That's in stark contrast to initial notice of allegations, which charged Memphis with at least four Level I violations (the most serious) and at least two Level II violations.

Among the violations Memphis has been found guilty of by the IARP are the school's failure to monitor the education and activities of an athletics booster (in this case, Hardaway), the activities of an athletics booster (again, Hardaway) and the providing of impermissible extra benefits to prospective student-athletes. The payment Hardaway made to Wiseman's mother only became an NCAA violation when he signed Wiseman, the No. 1 recruit in the country, after taking over the Memphis basketball program in March 2018. Hardaway, a Memphis native who once starred for the Tigers, was deemed a booster in perpetuity due to a $1 million donation he made in 2008 to help fund the university's Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame.

The NCAA formally requested its infractions case against Memphis be referred to the IARP in November 2019. On March 4, 2020, the IARP’s Infractions Referral Committee gave its stamp of approval, which officially started the clock on the investigation.

The case dragged on for more than two-and-a-half years, largely slowed by its broad scope (the Complex Case Unit conducted dozens of interviews), repeated deadline extension requests (at least eight) made by the school and Hardaway, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further complicating matters was a cloud of contentiousness that loomed throughout the bulk of the proceedings. In a series of back-and-forth correspondences between December 2020 and March 2021, things got ugly between Rudd and the Complex Case Unit. The clash centered around Rudd’s claims that the CCU violated numerous NCAA bylaws designed to foster “respect, fairness, civility, honesty, responsibility, academic integrity, and ethical conduct” by engaging in “potentially traumatizing practices that are antithetical to a collaborative process.”

IRP Case Decision: University of Memphis by The Commercial Appeal on Scribd

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Memphis men's basketball avoids postseason ban after NCAA violations