Tarnished Rose: Academic allegations deliver hard hit to Bulls’ Rookie of the Year’s image

Allegations could prove costly for Bulls’ rose

CHICAGO — Right from the start, the message was crisp and direct — just like Derrick Rose’s passes.

The Chicago Bulls were starting over and identifying their new leading man was as easy as flicking in a wide-open layup that afternoon in June. He was the guy slipping on jersey No. 1 after being drafted No. 1, the kid who grew up a few miles away and was now charged with turning around the franchise.

Rose delivered. But now, he’s on the receiving end.

The explosive point guard who led the Bulls to the playoffs and won the Rookie of the Year award has come under a cloud cast by an NCAA investigation of major violations at Memphis during the only season he played there. That news was accompanied by media reports that someone at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy had temporarily changed a D to a C on his college transcript.

Yes, the past few days have been painful for Rose. And the sting might linger.

“This is going to be a multiyear story, and the problem for Derrick Rose is he’s at the foundation of this,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consulting company Sports Corp. Ltd.

In a letter to Memphis, the NCAA says an unknown person took the SAT for a player — with his knowledge — and that the player used it to get admitted. The governing body says the athlete played for the Tigers in the 2007-08 season and the 2008 NCAA tournament. Only one person fits that description — Rose.

Compounding his difficulties were the media reports that Rose was one of four Simeon athletes with a grade that got bumped up for a month — long enough to be reflected on their transcripts. That maneuver was revealed in a report by the Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general, which didn’t identify the school or players who were involved.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Bond said the students involved probably didn’t know about the grade change.

Memphis, meanwhile, is facing the possibility of having 38 wins and a run to the title game wiped off the books, which would make this the second time the school — and a program coached by the recently departed John Calipari — had to vacate a Final Four appearance.

While the allegations swirled, Rose kept quiet.

The only word out of his camp was a statement by attorney Daniel E. Reidy, who said Rose cooperated in an investigation by Memphis that uncovered “no wrongdoing on his part.”

While silence might be the best legal path, Ganis said it could lead to a conviction in the court of public opinion. But close to home, the jury is friendly.

At Simeon, a large blue banner with photos of Rose taken this season and these words — “Congratulations Derrick Rose 2009 Rookie of the Year Simeon Career Academy” — hangs just inside the main entrance.

A few miles away at the Murray Park playground near Rose’s old home in the Englewood neighborhood, an area lined with boarded up storefronts, his old friends dismiss the allegations.

“He was a smart student since he’s been in grammar school,” Danyell Freeman said. “I don’t think he needs (anybody) to take tests for him. He’s been getting good grades. He’s always been smart in school so why would he need somebody to take the SAT for him?”

Added Keke Shelby, who has known Rose as long as she can remember: “They want to see him back out here, doing nothing, but he was always a smart student so why try to take that away from him?”

They still see Rose as the same kid they knew all those years. He still comes by occasionally, although he no longer lives in the neighborhood.

“We grew up with him. He’s a nice person, nothing’s changed about him,” Freeman said. “He’s still him — little shy him.”

With that “little shy” image, it’s easy to see why the Bulls banked on him and why adidas and Chicago’s Wilson Sporting Goods signed him to endorsement deals.

Ganis estimated these allegations will cost him about $500,000 in the short term and millions in endorsements if trouble continues to follow him.

If he avoids it, though, this will be little more than a simple stumble, nothing too painful.

“He will not have very many benefits of the doubt in the future,” Ganis said. “He’s got to be very clean, but he can come back from this. He’s very talented, he’s young.”

After all, the hometown product was a symbol of hope for the Bulls from Day 1.


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