Wiseman cleared by NCAA to return to play USF, UCF
The James Wiseman saga finally has a resolution.
After months of backand-forth discussions between Memphis and the NCAA, the sports governing body has cleared the heralded freshman to return to the basketball court Jan. 12 — the day the Tigers are scheduled to play USF in Tampa.
The decision also clears Wiseman to play against UCF in Orlando on Jan 29.
Wiseman will sit out a total of 12 games under the NCAA ruling.
The sports governing body also announced Wednesday that Wiseman must donate $11,500 — the amount of impermissible benefits the NCAA ruled he received — to a charity of his choice to regain his eligibility.
The University of Memphis issued a statement that the NCAA informed school officials that Wiseman must sit out nine games for the infraction and three more for the games the freshman already has played this season.
“Based on case precedent, the circumstances of this case and other mitigating factors, the university will immediately appeal this decision,” Memphis said. “We expect a more fair and equitable resolution, and we will exhaust all avenues on James’ behalf.”
Tigers coach Penny Hardaway made clear after Wednesday night’s 68-58 win over Arkansas-Little Rock that he wasn’t happy with the punishment even as Memphis now knows how many games Wiseman will miss.
“I’ve stated from the beginning I didn’t think it was fair,” Hardaway said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. Obviously, James should be on the floor. That’s just how I feel.”
Wiseman had filed a lawsuit to continue playing after the NCAA ruled him “likely ineligible” for receiving the impermissible benefits from Hardaway — who was not the Memphis coach at the time.
Wiseman withdrew the lawsuit against the NCAA on Nov. 14 after Memphis played him in the Tigers’ first three games of the season. The 16th-ranked Tigers were 2-1 with the 7-foot-1 center on the court.
Once Wiseman withdrew his lawsuit, Memphis held him out of a win over Alcorn State while working to resolve his eligibility status with the NCAA.
The NCAA had ruled Wiseman was “likely ineligible” due to $11,500 Hardaway gave the center’s family for moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis in the summer of 2017. That started a legal battle that featured Wiseman suing the NCAA and obtaining a temporary restraining order to play two games.
Memphis said Wiseman will sit out Wednesday night’s game against Arkansas-Little Rock.
Wiseman also will miss the Tigers’ game Nov. 28 against North Carolina State in Brooklyn, New York.
The freshman also will miss the first two games of league play in the American Athletic Conference — pending Memphis’ appeal.
The NCAA noted in its release Wednesday that the payment to Wiseman’s family in 2017 was not allowed because of Hardaway’s status as a booster, which included a $1 million donation to the university for the Penny Hardaway Athletic Hall of Fame.