Miss a week, miss a lot. Remember when the last week of May used to be a quiet sports time around here? That was back in the days when horses threatened to win Triple Crowns. This year it’s just a jockey.
Between May 20 and May 31 three years ago, I checked the records to find that I wrote exactly one story — a gamer on the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. A year later, in the columnist’s chair, I wrote about a pro beach volleyball tournament in town, a U of L women’s golfer and UK’s decision to bail on a men’s basketball game against UMass.
Not exactly stuff that crept into ESPN’s SportsCenter.
But May went out like a lion — actually, more accurately, a Tiger — this year.
Before I was off for a week, news broke about Jeremy Jarmon being suspended for a year by the NCAA. Then last week, I watched from the sidelines as major news erupted.
So let me play catch up:
NCAA CHARGES AGAINST MEMPHIS
Two allegations: One that Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT and was therefore ineligible when the team made its run to the 2008 NCAA title game, the other that Rose’s brother got some free trips on the team plane and didn’t reimburse the program. Neither Rose nor his brother has been named in public documents, but are believed to be those involved from the context.
Let’s get this straight from the top — unless something pretty dramatic happens, this will not have much affect on John Calipari at Kentucky. It would take a pretty big bombshell for Calipari to be implicated in any kind of alleged scheme to have someone take Derrick Rose’s SAT for him. If Rose is found to have let a substitute take his test for him, I don’t believe for a minute that he orchestrated it himself. But that’s my opinion. I haven’t seen any more facts in the case than have been made public. People can speculate, but that’s a charge you don’t make unless you’ve got something to back it up.
On the charter plane business, I’ve been offered rides on team charters a good number of times in my life, with various programs, and in every instance the offer was made by a head coach. (For various reasons, I’ve never taken any of them up on it.) I don’t think in the end Calipari will be singled out as the responsible party on the charter plane business. I guarantee you he knew who was flying. Whether he knew who had paid and who hadn’t is questionable. Anyway, it’s a matter that will probably be cleared up by a reimbursement check.
While this “not at risk” letter the NCAA sent Calipari is nice for the coach to have, it also doesn’t mean much. If Memphis or Rose pointed a finger at Calipari in response to questions, he could find himself at great risk pretty quickly.
Don’t expect that to happen.
Meanwhile, this has been an “Aha!” story for many. Media members and commentators who warned that UK could be putting itself at risk with this hire didn’t have to wait long to claim those predictions had come to fruition.
The lynchpin of these arguments has been the reported possibility that Memphis could have to vacate its 2008 Final Four appearance. That would mean that both of Calipari’s Final Four appearances as a coach would have been wiped out by NCAA violations. Neither would have involved him, according to the NCAA, but both would be wiped from the record.
If that were to happen, I’d say it should be a huge concern for any school where Calipari is coaching.
It’s not going to happen.
Did Memphis get to the NCAA title game with an ineligible player in 2008? Quite possibly. But unlike Marcus Camby at UMass, whose transgressions took place while a student in Amherst, Rose’s alleged violation happened before he ever arrived at Memphis, and in fact, his academic credentials had been cleared by the NCAA itself before the fact. His situation more mirrors that of Duke, which went to the NCAA title game with Corey Maggette in 1999. Maggette took money from AAU coach Myron Piggie, it was learned after that season. Duke claimed to have no knowledge of the shenanigans, and the NCAA didn’t strip the Blue Devils of their Final Four appearance.
Among those who lacked oversight in the Rose situation, apparently, is the NCAA’s clearinghouse itself. I’m not sure, but I don’t think schools even receive individual copies of potential students’ SATs. As far as I know, they only get the result. How then was Memphis to have rooted out a handwriting inconsistency on a test that was taken by a non-Memphis student in a classroom 500 miles away?
Now I’ve watched a lot of NCAA infractions cases move forward, and one thing to remember is that you NEVER know what minute point the NCAA might seize upon to anchor its case. You may think you’re comparing apples to apples in comparing NCAA cases, but they have a way of turning something into an orange before you know it.
Right now, the operative statements are the ones Memphis has prepared for the NCAA (which they’re not yet making public) and any statements Rose has given the NCAA.
(In the meantime, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this. And that is, if you’re a prospective college athlete, and you’re thinking about breaking the rules, just stop and really take a good look inward, pause and give some thought to what you’re about to do, then do the smart and safe thing . . . and sign with USC.)
At any rate, barring a vacated Final Four, the reality of all this for Calipari is far less damaging than the commentary to this point would suggest. Though both Calipari, and by extension UK, already has suffered some damage through perception alone.
Don’t get me wrong. The whole business won’t be a bullet-point on his resume. But it also isn’t anywhere close to a smoking gun.
At the same time, there are some guys in this mess who may have dodged a bullet, which brings us to . . .
THE TODD-BARNHART ANGLE
There is a serious question to be asked of UK about this deal at Memphis, but it isn’t aimed at Calipari. There’s reporting out there to suggest that some UK Trustees didn’t know that these allegations had been brought by the NCAA, despite claims by UK president Lee Todd and athletic director Mitch Barnhart that Calipari had been “very forthcoming” about the allegations.
This is not how business should be done at UK, or any state university. I don’t expect Barnhart or Todd to talk about upcoming NCAA investigations with the press, though it would be nice. It is and was reasonable, however, to expect Barnhart and/or Todd to inform both the board of trustees and the athletic board of the pending charges at Memphis. This was not a secret, even though nobody knew about it. The letter was public record the minute it was received by Memphis.
Also, NCAA director of enforcement David Price, in describing his discussions with Barnhart prior to the Calipari hire, paints a different picture than Barnhart did. Price said he had no discussions with UK regarding current cases, and that he referred UK to discuss it with Calipari.
Now it’s possible that Barnhart and Todd got lucky in this. They didn’t know Calipari was in the clear, but it looks as though he will be. Still, if I were a trustee at UK, I’d want to know immediately why I wasn’t informed of the full picture when Calipari was hired. But that’s just me.
GILLISPIE SUES UK:
This would be high comedy, if there weren’t so much money inv
I actually have a little more work to do before I weigh in fully on this one. But I will offer you this little take on the Top Ten reasons UK says its “Memorandum of Understanding” with Billy Gillispie didn’t constitute a formal contract:
10. Was written on a napkin from the Qdoba next to Memorial Coliseum
9. Did not indicate clearly enough that the coach was to beat teams like Gardner-Webb
8. Provided an incentive bonus for number of times the coach said “whipping”
7. Coach signed his name Billy “Glide” Cillispie
6. Coach marked through two paragraphs because they were “bad paragraphs.”
5. Witness to the memorandum signing is listed as “Jack Daniels.”
4. Last contract sent to Gillispie for signature was on a day he lost to Vandy by 13, raising question as to whether either party was of sound mind.
3. Was composed on an iPhone.
2. Salary is listed as “a very very very very very lot of money.”
And the No. 1 reason UK says its memorandum of understanding was not a formal contract . . .
1. Gillispie’s tenure was a joke, why shouldn’t the contract have been one?