Memphis declares James Wiseman ineligible; Wiseman drops lawsuit vs. NCAA

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Memphis announced on Thursday that they have ruled James Wiseman ineligible to play and will immediately apply for his reinstatement. As of now, that means that Memphis’ star center will be held out of competition pending resolution of this matter.

Wiseman’s legal team put out a statement on Thursday morning announcing that they will be dropping his lawsuit against the NCAA.

“It has become clear to Mr. Wiseman that the lawsuit he filed last week has become an impediment to the University of Memphis in its effort to reach a fair and equitable resolution with the NCAA concerning his eligibility status,” the statement from Ballin, Ballin and Fishman read. “Therefore, Mr. Wiseman advised his legal team that he wished to withdraw his lawsuit.”

Parsing through the dueling statements, it’s easy to figure out what has happened here: Memphis and Wiseman realized that it is in their best interest to get this thing figured out. The NCAA realized that Memphis and Wiseman have some legitimate ground to stand on. Both sides want this PR nightmare to be over and done with.

So what do you do?

You settle.

That’s what’s happening here, and so now we wait for the negotiations to wrap up and for the NCAA to reinstate him.

The rulebook says that for an $11,500 payment from a booster, Wiseman should be forced to sit for nine games. That’s what former BYU star Nick Emery got for accepting $11,000 from a booster to go to Harry Potter World. (Not a joke.) You’d assume that there will be a middle ground reached, which means that the number of games Wiseman will miss will be less than that.

This ordeal started last week when news broke that the NCAA had informed Memphis that Wiseman was “likely ineligible” to play prior to the first game of the season. Wiseman filed a restraining order against the NCAA on Friday and played that night against UIC. He also played against Oregon on Tuesday. The way the process works here is that the NCAA informs a school that there are concerns about a player’s eligibility, the school deems the player ineligible and then applies for reinstatement from the NCAA. But Memphis, believing that the NCAA has fully cleared Wiseman to play back in May, did not do that until this week.

The core of this issue stems from an $11,500 payment that head coach Penny Hardaway made to Wiseman’s family in the summer of 2017, when the family relocated from Nashville to Memphis to play for the high school and AAU teams that Penny was coaching at the time. Since Penny was, technically, a booster for Memphis after making a $1 million donation to the University in 2008, this was a clear NCAA violation. Complicating matters is the fact that Penny ended up becoming Wiseman’s head coach at Memphis just two years later.

The next three games that Memphis plays are all at home: Alcorn State, Little Rock and Ole Miss. On Nov. 28th, they travel to Brooklyn to take on N.C. State.