Lawyer who beat NCAA thinks Wiseman will win eligibility case

Published: Nov. 11, 2019 at 6:29 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Tiger basketball star James Wiseman will be allowed to play as long as a temporary restraining order against the NCAA is in place. The No. 1 Memphis recruit is suing the organization after the NCAA deemed him likely ineligible.

There have been only a couple of lawsuits against the NCAA that have gone to trial. A legal ethics lawyer who won his fight with college athletics tells WMC Action News the outcome of this case could change the NCAA forever. ​

Wiseman boarded the Tigers’ team plane Sunday with his teammates headed for the biggest game of the season thus far, this time against 14th ranked Oregon. Meanwhile, the nation debated the No. 1 recruit’s eligibility.

“One-hundred-percent confidence level there is no violation here,” said Richard Johnson, ethics lawyer and college rights advocate.

For Johnson, his opinion is there is no question Wiseman did nothing wrong.​

According to Wiseman’s legal team, the NCAA says Wiseman is likely ineligible after Tigers coach Penny Hardaway gave his mother, unbeknownst to Wiseman, $11,500 to move to Memphis in 2017. ​The NCAA allegedly declared Hardaway a booster for UofM after a $1 million donation to the school in 2008. ​

"The rule is so poorly written, it's insane," Johnson said.

Johnson, who was the first lawyer to go to trial against the NCAA and the first to win in court, says the booster rules are so loosely written that they can be challenged. He also believes this payment does not constitute a violation of NCAA rules.

“There was no recruiting of James in 2017 so there can’t be a recruiting violation,” Johnson said. “And he wasn’t a current college athlete, meaning he wasn’t enrolled at Memphis so there can’t be an improper benefits claim.”​

Longtime CBS Sports College Basketball Columnist Gary Parrish disagrees and thinks Wiseman and UofM could face serious consequences.​

"According to the current NCAA rules, that is undeniably a major, major violation," Parrish said.

Johnson says if Wiseman wins his case, this could empower other athletes and schools to challenge the NCAA over eligibility.

Wiseman and his legal team are due back in court Nov. 18, but that date could change or the case could be moved to federal court.

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