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NCAA hits Penny Hardaway with 3-game penalty over recruiting

An NCAA infractions panel handed a three-game suspension to Memphis coach Penny Hardaway on Wednesday for recruiting violations tied to two in-home visits with a prospect two years ago.

The penalty follows a negotiated resolution in December that allowed the school to resolve the case and begin probation while one individual challenged the allegations. That turned out to be Hardaway, the former Memphis and NBA star who was charged under rules governing head-coach responsibility for conduct within their programs.

An assistant coach first visited the prospect in September 2021 at his home, followed by Hardaway roughly two weeks later. But NCAA rules prohibited in-home visits for juniors except for April of that year, with those visits supposed to take place at the prospect’s current school. Both visits lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Hardaway had told the NCAA he was unaware of the rule. He will now miss the first three games of the 2023-24 season that starts in November.

“Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse,” the panel said. “The head coach’s inattentiveness to compliance — particularly at a time when his program was under scrutiny related to a different infractions case — resulted in careless violations.”

To that point, the school had been dealing with a separate NCAA probe from 2019 tied to the recruitment and short college stay of one-and-done center James Wiseman. That case ultimately led to the NCAA — through its newly formed Independent Accountability Resolution Process — punishing Memphis with three years of probation, a public reprimand and a fine but without a postseason ban.

In a statement, Memphis said school officials “strongly believe Coach Hardaway never intentionally committed a violation.”

“We will learn from this incident and be even more diligent in our education and monitoring,” the school said. “Now that the entirety of this case is finalized, we will move forward in support of Coach Hardaway and our men’s basketball program, as we do all our programs.”

Hardaway was hired before the 2018-19 season and has led the Tigers to five consecutive 20-win seasons (110-52 overall), the 2021 NIT title, the 2023 American Athletic Conference Tournament championship and two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

(Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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