I had already written my Wednesday column, for the most part, when Brian Bennett came out with his story about the University of Louisville denying a request from running back Anthony Allen to speak with Arkansas.
Allen hasn’t expressed a desire to talk with the Razorbacks and new coach Bobby Petrino (U of L’s old coach), but would like to have the opportunity to do so.
His father, Amos Allen, told Brian, “They told us that if they let Anthony go there, it would be open season on their other players.”
This is where it gets a little unclear. What players are they talking about? I thought Petrino left the cupboard bare. I thought the group was riddled with off-the-field issues.
But I digress.
Clearly, this dredges up old memories of another player who was denied permission to transfer to the school of his choice. His name was Marvin Stone. He was leaving Kentucky and wanted to go to Louisville. But UK, citing a policy of not allowing players to transfer to other SEC schools or schools on its schedule, denied him a release. What followed was a stiff and prolonged period of media condemnation, accompanied by a legal challenge, which prompted UK to change its mind.
U of L, meanwhile, apparently had no qualms about being on the receiving end of such a transfer, and took Stone.
Now, however, the school apparently has a problem with the practice, and says Allen can’t talk to Arkansas, specifically because its coach is Bobby Petrino. (Imagine the firestorm had UK said Stone couldn’t talk to U of L specifically because its coach was Rick Pitino.)
Now, I’m not sure what my columnist colleague Rick Bozich will write about today. It may be that he tackles this subject first. If not, it may be up to me to weigh in on it later this week. So I’ll just not comment on it at all at this point. I won’t say a word.
All I’m going to do is print what was said back in 2002 when UK athletic director Larry Ivy and coach Tubby Smith tried to institute such a policy with Stone.
Our own Rick Bozich called Ivy’s handling of the Stone situation “ham-handed.”
Our own Pat Forde (now of ESPN) called it “repugnant and wrong.” He said it was evidence of “the plantation mentality” in college sports. He called the affair “a national black eye for Kentucky” and “the low point of an error-prone tenure” for Ivy.
The following is courtesy of a Jan. 13, 2002 piece by Jerry Tipton in the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Indiana University professor Murray Sperber called the rule giving schools the authority to release or not release players who wanted to transfer, “absurd.” He also said: “It shows you how everything in the NCAA and the rules are weighted toward the coaches and the athletic directors, and (weighted) away from the so-called student-athletes. Coaches can go any time, any place. No penalty. No problems at all. It’s a means of controlling players. It’s a means of being punitive.”
Jay Bilas of ESPN said that denying Stone permission to transfer to U of L made UK look “scared.” He also said,“You get adults signing contracts and breaking them to go to other schools. To me, it would be hard to sit a kid down and explain to him how that is equitable.”
There was this withering criticism from Dan Wetzel of CBS Sportsline, now of Yahoo! Sports:“In citing a policy that is hypocritical, unduly harsh and completely small-minded, the UK athletic director and coach have shamed themselves. . . . UK’s spineless defense is that policies are policies, college hoops is big business and other schools have done this also — a terrible example of misplaced priorities and situational ethics. We certainly expected more out of “teacher-coach” Smith. Deep down he knows this is wrong, but has yet to demonstrate the conviction to demand the policy be ignored. If Smith said so, it would be done. Since it hasn’t, let this be a cautionary tale to future recruits who consider placing their trust in the program.”
Also from Tipton’s report:
Under the headline “Abuse of Power,” Sports Illustrated suggested that Kentucky acted “Stone cold” in initially denying Marvin Stone a release to Louisville. The magazine quoted Ramogi Huma, a former linebacker at UCLA who created the Collegiate Athletes Coalition, a quasi players’ association for college athletes.
“I hope recruits pay attention to which schools treat their players right and which ones don’t,” he said, “because what Kentucky is doing is tyrannical.”
To which, ESPN commentator Jay Bilas said, “To me, that’s really a scared position to take. Like Kentucky’s going to be frightened of anybody else? I can’t imagine that.”
So let’s review. In denying Stone permission to transfer to U of L, UK was called hypocritical, tyrannical, absurd, ham-handed, repugnant, wrong, punitive, harsh, small-minded, shamed, spineless and scared.
That’s when the policy was UK’s. Now we see if what’s good for the goose is also good for the Cardinal.
I’d advise that there are two mitigating circumstances. First, the nation doesn’t care as much about a U of L football player and Arkansas as it did about a former UK player signing on for Pitino. So there won’t be a national uproar. Second, Allen has not expressed a desire to transfer to Arkansas, though the fact that he and his father drove up to Louisville for this appeal says something.
Still, those don’t change the root comparison. More to come, I’m sure.