I find myself writing about Kentucky basketball way more than any single program deserves in the offseason, but so much of what is going on there is just so compelling that I can’t help it. It’s rare that a team goes through such a complete overhaul in an offseason, never mind an iconic program like this one. The program found itself in the news three different times yesterday, for three totally unrelated reasons:
1. The NCAA is investigating Memphis for major violations – Allegedly, the NCAA is investigating whether a player cheated on his SAT. They aren’t saying which player for privacy reasons, but it has come out that it was a player who only played in the 2007-08 season. In other words, Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT. There is speculation that Rose had another high school classmate take his SAT for him. There are also reports that benefits were given to an associate of a player – travel expenses and perhaps more. I don’t want to suggest a big conspiracy here, but if John Calipari was aware of what had happened (likely), and he was aware that the NCAA was poking around (also likely), then that would certainly have been a big incentive for him to jump to Kentucky. As it is, even in the worst case scenario this will lead to nothing meaningful. The likely penalty if found guilty is that the school will have to forfeit their 38 wins and championship game experience. So what? Derrick Rose is still a first pick and millionaire, Calipari is still a rich coach with a loaded team, and the current Memphis program is unaffected. Another example of why the NCAA is hopelessly toothless, or perhaps of how they don’t really care about cheating as much as they say they do.
2. Billy Gillispie is suing Kentucky for $6 million – Gillispie claims he is still owed $6 million by the school after he claims he was fired without cause. Funny, I would have thought that being a terrible coach and ruining a proud program would be more than cause enough. The punchline in this bizarre story is that Gillispie had never bothered to sign a contract in the time he worked at Kentucky. What?!?!?!?!?! He and the school had a memorandum of understanding, but it had never progressed beyond that. This isn’t the first time that a coach hasn’t had a contract, and every time it seems truly insane – the only way a guy wouldn’t want a contract that is sign and iron-clad is if he was delusional enough to believe that he was perfect and not at all susceptible. In other words, that he would have his job forever. If Gillispie was naive enough to think that a program like Kentucky would keep a coach regardless of what happens then it’s no wonder that he was such a bad fit or that he lasted just two years.
3. John Wall gets a slap on the wrist – Wall, the top point guard recruit in the country, signed with Kentucky last week and immediately elevated the program significantly. He’s a Derrick Rose clone, only perhaps even more athletic. There was an issue hanging over him when he signed, though – Wall and a couple of friends had been caught by the police walking out of a house that they certainly weren’t supposed to be in. He was charged with breaking and entering and found guilty. Lucky for him, the D.A. was a basketball fan. If he completes 75 hours of community service and stays out of trouble for six months then his record will be wiped clean. Hopefully this was just momentary stupidity and not the sign of a guy eager to throw his ridiculous potential away. We have morethan enough of those in sports already.