Smooth Operator | Memphis And Penny Hardaway Escape With Three Years Probation After James Wiseman Recruiting Scandal

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The University of Memphis men’s basketball team and head coach Penny Hardaway finally learned their fate on Tuesday. The Independent Accountability Resolution Process hearing panel has charged Memphis with Level II and Level III violations, a $5,000 fine, three years probation and no further punishment for Hardaway.

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

Hardaway was accused of level I and II violations failing to “demonstrate and atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program.” 

In November 2019 before Hardaway became the Tigers’ head coach, he provided $11,500 in moving expenses for star center James Wiseman and his family to relocate from Nashville to Memphis in the summer of 2017. At the time, Hardaway was Wiseman’s coach on the Nike EYBL circuit and later coached him at Memphis East High School. 

Memphis East was fined and stripped of all wins and the championship during Wiseman’s two seasons.

At the time Hardaway was considered a booster by the school, due to a $1 million donation he gave the school in 2008 to build a sports hall of fame.

The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, ruled Wiseman ineligible at Memphis because it deemed his family had received improper benefits. $11,500 in moving expenses for his mom from a person that was not affiliated with the Memphis basketball program at the time and was considered a booster because he gave the school money 11 years prior. That cost Wiseman his freshman season?

Make it make sense.

“The hearing panel concluded that the head coach’s philanthropic involvement in the Memphis community began prior to becoming an athletics booster in 2008 and before he was hired by Memphis as its head coach in 2018,” the IARP said in a release. “The case decision references numerous gifts and financial assistance provided by the head coach to many members of the Memphis community from the time he entered the NBA until he became Memphis’ head coach, including assistance provided either directly or to the families of three former prospective student-athletes who enrolled at Memphis and participated in men’s basketball.
“Based on the case record and information developed at the hearing, the hearing panel found that the benefits provided by the head coach to the three prospective student-athletes were not recruiting inducements. According to the hearing panel, it was established that the head coach had a long-standing philanthropic commitment, particularly to youth in the economically disadvantaged Memphis community, even prior to becoming an athletics booster. The hearing panel determined that the benefits provided by the head coach were generally available to all prospective students of Memphis, not only student-athletes, and, therefore, were permissible.”

At least the IARP panel had some common sense and decided there was no reason to punish the university, the team or Hardaway.


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