Wise­man cleared by NCAA to re­turn to play USF, UCF

Orlando Sentinel - - SCOREBOARD - By Teresa M. Walker

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.

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