Local lawmakers weigh in on Wiseman NCAA decision

Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 10:57 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The fight over James Wiseman’s ability to play is drawing attention from state and federal lawmakers.

From his days at East High School to the moment he made the decision on ESPN, Tiger basketball fans hopes and dreams for a championship have been wrapped up in the 7-foot-1 phenom for years.

Friday's announcement that James Wiseman was ruled ineligible rocked blue and white nation.

“I think it's really devastating situation in Memphis because we are one of the few cities that live through our college basketball team,” said Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis.

Cohen announced Wednesday that he filed paperwork to reinstate the Congressional Collegiate Sports Caucus.

He calls it an informal review of a variety of NCAA issues.

Cohen said the College athletics governing board was on board with the idea.

“They were cooperative and willing to work with us,” said Cohen.

Cohen says he originally formed the Caucus with former Texas Congressman Joe Barton in 2011 over the fairness of picking teams for the college football play-offs.

Cohen says in 2019 there are new issues to tackle including compensating student-athletes for use of their likeness and the fairness of NCAA eligibility decisions.

James Wiseman was originally cleared to play for the University of Memphis in May of this year, but that was reversed last week after head coach Penny Hardaway was deemed a booster by NCAA.

Hardaway also gave Wiseman's family money to move from Nashville to Memphis in 2017. At the time, Hardaway was the East High School’s basketball coach.

That cash advance by Hardaway will likely play a role in whether or not East High School may have to vacate their 2017/2018 state title.

ESPN is reporting that Hardaway's cash advance was a recruiting violation. TSSAA ruled Wiseman ineligible to play, but the decision is being appealed.

“Honestly I think it’s very unfair because James Wiseman wasn’t the only one on East High’s basketball team,” said one East High School student. “So for us it was amazing. It made us feel accomplished like we accomplished like we accomplished a lot, so taking that away from us is taking that sense of achievement from us.”

Currently there is an appeal of the TSSAA’s ruling to vacate East High School’s state title.

State Representative Antonio Parkinson and State Senator Brian Kelsey tweeted this week they would add language to their bills allowing college athletes to profit from the likeness.

Both lawmakers are adding the line: "No TN public university may discriminate against a player based on a donation to the university by a coach.

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