Memphis played an ineligible student-athlete.
It got caught.
So now that 2008 Final Four will be eliminated from the record books, and any Tiger fan claiming it shouldn't be, well, I can't help those people. Again, Memphis played an ineligible player, and the NCAA was very clear in announcing the ruling that there is a price to pay when an ineligible player participates. It doesn't matter whether the school playing the ineligible player knew he was ineligible or even played a role in his ineligibility, just like it doesn't matter if the player wasn't ruled ineligible until after his college career was complete.
"Strict liability" is what the NCAA called it. Play 'em at your own risk.
Corey Maggette admitted to receiving payments from Myron Piggie. (Getty Images) Honestly, I'm not sure I agree with the "strict liability" point of view because it seems wild that the NCAA could clear a player and then later penalize a school for playing said player. But whatever. That's what the NCAA claims it can do, and that's what it did to Memphis.
But what I would like to know is why "strict liability" hasn't been enforced across the board?
That is, if Memphis can be penalized for playing Derrick Rose, even though the NCAA initially cleared Rose and to date has never accused Memphis of playing a role in what caused Rose to be ineligible, then why wasn't Duke penalized for playing Corey Maggette under slightly different but mostly similar circumstances?
That's the question some Memphis fans are asking. This is where I see their point.
For those unfamiliar, here's the deal: A summer basketball coach named Myron Piggie made cash payments to Maggette when the elite recruit was still in high school, and that money came from a revenue pool that included donations from at least two sports agents.
Connect the dots, and it's clear Maggette benefited from money supplied by agents, meaning his amateur status was compromised. Still, none of this was public knowledge at the time. So the NCAA cleared Maggette to play at Duke, and he helped the Blue Devils reach the 1999 Final Four before entering the 1999 NBA Draft.
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Less than a year later, a federal grand jury handed down an 11-count indictment of Piggie that details the payments to Maggette. Piggie cut a deal and admitted to making the payments; Maggette admitted to receiving the payments. So none of this falls under the he said/she said umbrella, and the NCAA's Jane Jankowski was quoted in April 2000 as saying that the NCAA "will have to determine if Duke, in fact, had an ineligible player in the NCAA tournament. And, if so, what monies would have to be returned for use of an ineligible player."
Fast-forward nine years, and no money has been returned. The banner still flies.
So I asked Paul Dee about strict liability Thursday. He's the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.
I wanted to know whether a school that played a player who was later found to have taken cash would also be at risk of the strict liability clause and thus forced to vacate anything and everything made possible by said player.
At first, Dee said he wasn't aware of any case that fit my description. But then I told him the story of Duke and Maggette, at which point he said, "I don't know that a case was brought against Duke for that, whether he admitted it afterward or not, or whether somebody brought the case or not. And I'm not familiar with that particular case or that particular issue."
To answer Dee's questions:
• Yes, a case was brought against Duke.
• Yes, Maggette admitted taking the money.
Still, it took nearly four years -- and a push from Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel, who wrote a splendid column about the situation at the 2004 Final Four -- for the NCAA to address the Maggette situation. In what can best be described as a strange press conference, NCAA president Myles Brand called NCAA Vice President of Enforcement David Price to the podium in San Antonio.
Here was his explanation: "Our executive regulations specify that if an individual plays while ineligible in the NCAA championships, we can either vacate the team's participation in the championship and/or assess a fine for the money that they received. The standard for that is whether either the institution knew or should have known that Maggette was ineligible or if Maggette himself knew that -- or should have known that he was ineligible. After a lengthy investigation, we came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to determine that Maggette knew or should have known, and we believe firmly that the institution did not know and should not have known."
How the NCAA could determine that Maggette didn't know he was taking money from Piggie is tough to understand, particularly when Maggette had long ago testified under oath that he, you know, took money from Piggie. Hilarious, right? But the key point is how the NCAA basically said Duke wasn't penalized because it did not know and should not have known that Maggette was ineligible.
To that point, it's important to remember that the NCAA has made no allegation in the Memphis case that the school knew or should have known that Rose was ineligible, but for some reason that doesn't seem to matter. The NCAA is now throwing around the term "strict liability" and explaining how the only thing that matters is that the Tigers used an ineligible player, and that's why the school's Final Four banner is coming down just 16 months after earning it.
Meanwhile, Duke's 1999 Final Four banner still flies high.
And when people claim the NCAA uses selective enforcement, this is what they're talking about.