Memphis East Fined And Stripped Of High School Championship Due To Penny Hardaway’s Recruitment Of James Wiseman

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In a decision that seemed inevitable, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has erased the James Wiseman and Penny Hardaway eras at Memphis East. The high school was ordered to vacate all wins and championship hardware from Wiseman’s two seasons with the Mustangs for recruiting violations, according to reports, and fined $15,000.

“I’m disappointed to learn of this decision,” Hardaway said in a statement to The Commercial Appeal. “However, it doesn’t erase the lives that were changed and the positive impacts on our youth that were made during my time at East High School.”

There had always been rumors as to how Memphis East landed Wiseman, who played his first two seasons at Nashville Ensworth. Hardaway was the coach at East during the 2017-18 school year and was an assistant for East’s 2016 and 2017 title teams.

In a letter, the TSSAA detailed the timeline of Wiseman’s relationship with Hardaway that dates back to when Wiseman played on Hardaway’s AAU team. The violation occurred when it was discovered that Hardaway paid Wiseman’s mother $11,500 in moving and living expenses.

According to the TSSAA:

“Athletic recruiting is the influence on a student or the parents or the guardians of the student, by any person(s) directly or indirectly associated with the school, to secure or retain a student for athletic purposes. In the event that there is a violation of this rule, there shall be a penalty against the school, and the student(s) who was subject to the violations shall be ineligible for a minimum of one year.”

These sorts of rules exist for a reason but they’re a bit hypocritical. What about local officials who redraw district lines to ensure that athletes attend certain schools? We don’t read too much about those people being punished.

Regardless, anyone who is a fan or alumni of Memphis East won’t forget the wins and the championship during that time, even if there is no banner hanging.

The 66 games Wiseman played at Memphis East are all vacated, resulting in $6,600 in fines, or $100 per game played by TSSAA rule. The team must also repay $8,207.56 in TSSAA playoff earnings. The total due to the TSSAA is $14,807.56.

Wiseman filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in 2019 over his college ineligibility at the University of Memphis during his freshman season. He was deemed ineligible over this same cash benefit his mother received. It’s worth noting that Hardaway is the through line. He became the head basketball coach at the University of Memphis in 2018.

Memphis East may face additional penalties according to TSSAA rule.

“The penalty and any additional period of ineligibility beyond the one-year minimum will be determined by the Executive Director based on a consideration of the number of violations involved, the number of student-athletes involved, the nature of the violation(s), the individual(s) responsible for the violation(s) and the extent to which the violation may have been knowing, deliberate, or in reckless disregard of the provisions of this rule and the commentary that accompanies the rule.”

This violation appears to be limited to Wiseman and Hardaway, and the school might appeal the sanctions. The terrible part, of course, is that the current athletes who had no connection to that situation are the ones who will be punished.

It’s probably time we do away with these antiquated rules.


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