“Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124-(e)-(2), the institution [Ed.: that’s Memphis] shall vacate all wins in which student-athlete 1 [Rose] competed while ineligible during the 2007-08 men’s basketball regular season. Further, in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52, the institution’s participation in the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship shall be vacated and any trophy awarded as a result of that ineligible participation shall be returned to the NCAA.”
That was the ruling issued last week on conclusion of the Committee’s investigation of this sordid affair. With just a few keystrokes and the posting of a PDF report, gone are all the victories accumulated by Memphis with Rose on the court, including the win over UCLA. Poof!
In the wake of the Committee’s ruling, UCLA fans have been nailing themselves to the cross. Many with whom I’ve spoken argue that UCLA should have had its shot at Kansas and, at worst, should be considered tournament runners-up. Jill Painter, who covers UCLA sports for the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote that Calipari “got away with a crime and doesn’t have to do any time. It’s schools like UCLA that suffer. Could UCLA have beaten Kansas for the championship? We’ll never know.”
The righteous outrage is understandable. The 2008 team was our best chance at hanging a 12th banner in Pauley Pavilion, and it would’ve been nice to face opponents whose best players hadn’t defrauded their way onto the team. It also would’ve been nice if the NCAA’s band of elite crimefighters hadn’t needed two full years to crack the case. To review: Rose failed three straight times to get a qualifying score, then somehow – defying the laws of probability – passed the SAT in Detroit. Getting to the bottom of this one didn’t mean consulting Scotland Yard or retasking spy satellites.
Don’t Believe the Truth
Does it follow, though, that Bruin fans are entitled to imagine, Sliding Doors-style, what might have happened in a title game against Kansas? Not really. In the Orwellian dreamworld of NCAA rules enforcement, vacating a win is not the same as declaring a forfeit. The latter would have reversed the outcome of UCLA-Memphis, taking the Bruins’ loss and deeming it a victory instead. The former... well, the former is confusing. Memphis’s win gets stricken from the historical record, but UCLA’s loss does not. There were, the NCAA is saying, only three teams at the Final Four that year. UCLA lost to no one.