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NCAA rule change allows Memphis to reassign assistant coach Keelon Lawson

Dedric Lawson, Shonn Miller, Daniel Hamilton

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men’s tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)


Former Memphis assistant coach Keelon Lawson has accepted a role as a member of Tubby Smith’s support staff, a move that qualifies as a demotion.

Smith told the Memphis-Commercial Appeal on Monday that his three assistants will be Joe Esposito, Saul Smith and Pooh Williamson, all of whom came with him from Texas Tech. Lawson, according to reports, is expected to receive the title Director of Player Development.

This is significant because Lawson is the father of Dedric and K.J. Lawson. Dedric averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 boards as a freshman for the Tigers, while K.J. was a top 50 recruit in the Class of 2015, although his freshman season was mostly a waste due to injury; he averaged 8.8 points in 10 games. Still, the Lawson brothers are the two leading returning scorers for the Tigers.

The problem is that an NCAA rule had prohibited anyone associated with a prospect or a student-athlete -- a parent, a coach, a friend, a trainer -- from being hired in a support staff role within two years of that student-athlete enrolling at the University. Dedric and K.J. have been enrolled for just under a year.

Here’s the catch: That rule is very likely going to change on Thursday.

That’s when the Division I Board of Directors will meet in Indianapolis, and at that meeting, they will determine whether Proposal No. 2015-30 will be passed.

According to the report from the NCAA’s Division I Council meeting from April 6th-8th, this is Proposal No. 2015-30, which was adopted by the Council and approved effective immediately: “In men’s basketball, to permit an institution to reassign an individual associated with a prospective student-athlete from a countable coaching staff position to a non-coaching staff position or strength and conditioning staff position, provided the individual has been a countable coach at the institution for at least the previous two academic years.”

Lawson was hired by Memphis in a countable coaching staff position in July of 2014, meaning he’s spent 21 months on the job and been with the program for the last two academic years. As of this July, NCAA rules will allow him to accept a position as a support staff member without endangering the eligibility of his sons.

The one qualifier?

Whether or not the rule gets through the NCAA’s Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. A rule that was approved “effective immediately” by the Division I Council doesn’t actually become effective until it is approved by the Board of Directors.

But, as a source told, if a proposal makes it this far, it might as well be a rule.

Which is probably why Memphis feels so confident that they’ll be able to make this happen.