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Penny Hardaway and Memphis avoid major punishment in James Wiseman scandal

The Tigers were found to have given “impermissible extra benefits.”

PK Invitational - Memphis v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 class, was a Kentucky lock.

That is, until Penny Hardaway - Wiseman’s high school coach - accepted the head coaching position with the Memphis Tigers, his alma mater.

Naturally, Wiseman followed a coach that he trusted, but in hindsight, that may have not been the best decision. Just three games into his collegiate career, the NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible and launched an investigation into his recruitment and the Memphis program.

The investigation referenced gifts and financial assistance provided by Hardaway to the Memphis community dating back to his time in the NBA, including assistance provided either directly or to the families of three former prospective student-athletes who enrolled at Memphis.

Initially, Memphis was given a notice of allegations that featured seven total violations (four Level I), three of which were tied to Hardaway (one Level I and two Level II).

Thirty-four months later, a ruling has finally been given by the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) and it’s not as harsh as most anticipated.

Despite citing the program, “failed to monitor the education and activities of an athletics booster, provided impermissible extra benefits, and conducted impermissible recruiting activities with prospective student-athletes,” Memphis was given the following punishments:

  • $5,000 fine, plus “0.25% of its average men’s basketball budget based on the average of the men’s basketball program’s previous three total budgets.”
  • Vacation of all wins (3), records and participation based on student-athlete.
  • Three years of probation.

As for Hardaway, he was not assessed any penalties as the panel found that the school failed to provide him with ‘sufficient education’ regarding permissible activities.

This is just the IARP’s second ruling after NC State, with four other schools waiting for their final ruling - Louisville, Arizona, Kansas, and LSU.

While there is no timeline, NCAA Vice President of Hearing Operations, Derrick Crawford, told the media on Tuesday that the cases are on track to be resolved in “late spring, early summer of 2023.” However, one would expect more significant punishments, as Memphis was not tied to the FBI probe regarding pay-for-play.

The IARP’s case decision document can be read here.