Monday, November 11, 2019

Wiseman Case is a Litmus Test For NCAA

By Jean Neuberger

College basketball tipped off last weekend and already, we've got some controversy.

The scene revolved around 7'1" center James Wiseman, who, despite the NCAA informing Memphis he was "likely ineligible," suited up and played for the Tigers in a blowout of Illinois-Chicago.

It was discovered that, while Wiseman was a student, his parents moved from Nashville to Memphis. Their moving costs were aided by Penny Hardaway giving the Wisemans $11,500. Hardaway wasn't the coach at his alma mater then; he was coaching at Memphis East High School. However, he was, in the NCAA's eyes, a booster.

When Hardaway became the coach of the University of Memphis, he then was able to get Wiseman to commit to play for him in college. Obviously, there was a conflict of interest in his recruiting, and the NCAA was forced to take a look.

This leads to the ultimate litmus test for the NCAA. Will they finally show some backbone here?

Will the NCAA toe the line and make every team, every player ... adhere to the same rules and face the same punishments? Or, will they cave as the overwhelming unpopularity keeps them scrambling for mercy.

In the long run, I don't blame James Wiseman, nor do I his parents. It seems perfectly reasonable for James not to know that his parents got that kind of money from Hardaway. And, one can't fault the Wisemans for taking the money to help their son in his quests for future stardom.

The blame, if any, seems to fall either Hardaway or the school.

The Wisemans don't know the NCAA rules and regulations. Penny does. At least, he knows enough to know that a situation like Wiseman's would warrant him to ask the administration at Memphis about it. There's a conflict of interest here. Would it clear the NCAA's regulations?

Now, if Hardaway did that, the blame falls entirely on the school. But, if Penny recruited and signed Wiseman without making anyone aware of it immediately ... as soon as the process started, the fault is his.

Someone needs to be held accountable for this mess.

The good news for Wiseman at least is this: he has options. He can sign a select contract with a G-League team. He can play in Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. His options are plentiful, even if the NCAA says no.

Which takes us back to the NCAA. If they let this entire case slip, there will be an avalanche of situations like these to come. Given how many headaches the NCAA has faced, they can't afford not to be tough on this one.

So, having said that, someone needs to be held accountable. It should be Penny. Or the university. Or, perhaps both.

But it shouldn't be James Wiseman.

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