Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

The Story of the Disappearing Season: Should Strict Liability Be Used in the NCAA Infractions Process?

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

The Story of the Disappearing Season: Should Strict Liability Be Used in the NCAA Infractions Process?

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION ..................................................................... 848

II. OUR STORY: THE SEASON THAT NEVER WAS ....................... 849

III. "MEMPHIS, WE HAVE A PROBLEM," EVEN IF THE SEASON IS COMPLETE .......................................................... 851

IV. NOW THAT THE INVESTIGATION IS ALMOST COMPLETE, THE NOTICE OF INQUIRY ARRIVES .................... 855

V. FINALLY, SOMETHING CONCRETE TO RESPOND TO .............. 855

VI. PUBLIC AND MEDIA PERCEPTION: A NEW BATTLE FRONT .................................................................... 862

VII. THE INFRACTIONS HEARING ................................................. 864

VIII. DAY OF RECKONING: THE DECISION ................................... 865

IX. "BUT WE MIGHT GET A WORSE PENALTY!": TO APPEAL OR NOT TO APPEAL ............................................................. 868

X. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT' S OVER, BUT YOU JUST AREN'T SATISFIED? ..................................................... 873

XI. WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN? ........................................ 875

With two minutes and twelve seconds to go in the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game, the University of Memphis Tigers led Kansas by nine points. It appeared that Memphis had won its first national championship in any sport, and the fact that it was men's basketball would forever change the University and the City of Memphis in a positive way. However, after an incorrect call, missed free throws, and a coach's silent instruction to foul, the game was in overtime and Kansas had the upper hand, eventually winning 75-68. Because the NCAA Committee on Infractions later declared that Memphis' participation in the game would be forever erased from the record books, perhaps it was fortuitous that the game was lost.

I. INTRODUCTION

The Principles for Conduct of Intercollegiate Athletics from the Constitution of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) include a Principle Governing Eligibility.1 This principle mandates eligibility requirements, which help to promote "competitive equity" among NCAA member institutions. In keeping with this principle, in 1983, the NCAA passed what was then known as Proposition 48, which set a minimum high school grade point average and test score that a student-athlete must achieve before being eligible for practice and competition upon entry into college.2 The idea was to level the playing field so that every eligible student-athlete had met at least a minimum academic standard. This minimum academic standard, in turn, promoted fairness among the institutions, so that no institution could compete with student-athletes who were not academically qualified.

While the minimum requirement has fluctuated, the concept of a level playing field has remained. But what happens when a student-athlete is discovered, after the fact, to be ineligible? Should "strict liability" be used to take away all that was achieved through competition, thus emphasizing the "level playing field" concept, or should the inquiry be fact specific, thereby recognizing the concept of fairness? And how was "strict liability" used in the University of Memphis' infractions matter involving the 20072008 men's basketball season? This Article explores these questions.

II. OUR STORY: THE SEASON THAT NEVER WAS

As the 2007-2008 academic year began at the University of Memphis, excitement surrounded the men's basketball team. John Calipari became the men's basketball head coach in March of 2000 and had slowly reestablished a program that was successful in the post-season.3 In Calipari' s first year as the head coach, the Tigers finished in third place in the postseason National Invitational Tournament (NIT), winning that tournament the following year.4 After two post-season appearances in the NCAA tournament, the first ending with a first round loss and the second ending in a second round loss, the Tigers were back in the NIT, losing in the semi-final game. …

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