Commentary

Voices: Make NCAA cheaters pay

Fans can help clean up college sports by making the cheaters pay in court

Updated: October 23, 2011, 1:26 PM ET
By Shaun Assael | ESPN The Magazine
John Calipari & Derrick RoseJoe Murphy/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose and John Calipari were the story of a Memphis season that has since been vacated.

THE BEST IDEAS ARE USUALLY THE SIMPLEST ONES, and Martin Zummach's idea to clean up college sports couldn't be simpler: "Coaches who expose a school to sanctions should pay for the wreckage they cause with the money they made."

If you've never heard of Zummach, it's because until recently, he wasn't trying to be a college sports crusader. He's a trial lawyer who defends whistle-blowers and underdogs, sort of like the Gene Hackman character in Class Action. But as a major donor to the University of Memphis and a past president of its alumni association, Zummach simply had a big problem with John Calipari and Derrick Rose. What incensed Zummach was that when Calipari left Memphis to take an eight-year, $31.65 million deal with Kentucky in 2009, no one asked the coach to return the $232,000 bonus he received for leading the Tigers to the 2008 national title game. He was allowed to keep the money, even though the NCAA voided the Tigers' entire season after determining that Rose shouldn't have been eligible because of discrepancies in his SAT scores.

Seeing red, Zummach did something no college sports fan had ever tried: He threatened to sue the coach and his star on behalf of Memphis ticket holders, all of whom were left paying top dollar to see a decimated team. "I wish we didn't have to do it," says Zummach. "But the university wasn't doing its job. So someone had to."

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• Author of "Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour"; the New York Times best-selling "Sex, Lies and Headlocks"; and "Steroid Nation"