I’m not going to spill the whole bowl of beans here, because I’m going to write a column on this subject for tomorrow. And actually, I need to see how the NCAA justifies vacating an entire season’s worth of wins for Memphis, in relation to penalties handed down in similar instances involving other schools. So, I’ll wait for an NCAA report this afternoon which reportedly will strip Memphis of all its victories from the 2007-08 season, plus its Final Four appearance.
My guess is it will say it is the combination of 1). a fraudulent SAT and 2). extra benefits (plane trips for Derrick Rose’s brother) that led to Memphis having to vacate an entire Final Four season.
Just as it was the combination of 1). having been paid as a high school player and 2). playing for Duke that led to no action at all against Duke for, in essence, the same thing — playing an ineligible player.
I’m not going to say it’s a little shady — but the day’s not over yet. Let’s look at the report. Let me make clear, I have no problem with the ruling. I have no problem with the NCAA enforcing its rules. I’d just like to see the NCAA do it a little less selectively.
In the meantime, of course it’s a knock on Calipari — even though he is not named in any of the NCAA’s violations. But aside from the loss of NCAA revenue and the tarnish on its 38-win national runner-up season, the tarnish to Calipari’s legacy is the second-biggest penalty here, for a coach not even named.
(Here’s a question I’m asking — do the losses come off of his coaching record, or just off Memphis’ record? I’m trying to find out.)
I was asked, by the way, how Memphis might’ve avoided this penalty. That’s easy. It could’ve made those free throws and won the NCAA title. I haven’t seen anything in the NCAA’s makeup that would give it the juice to overthrow a national champion. Heck, the very team that beat Memphis two years ago — Kansas — was using a player named Darrell Arthur who may not have even legitimately graduated high school, after having a math grade allegedly changed without the teacher’s knowledge. His high school, South Oak High in Dallas, has already forfeited one state title for academic shenanigans.
Regardless, Calipari now officially has never been to a Final Four that wasn’t later tossed out. And both teams he has taken to the Final Four were led by talented players (Rose, Marcus Camby) who weren’t eligible to be playing. That’s just a fact.
At the same time, and I’ll make this point in the column more fully, his legacy will be what he does at Kentucky. While those Memphis and UMass black marks loom large at the moment, they’ll recede to footnotes if he has big success at UK without having the NCAA come along with its big eraser afterward.
And if he does run aground of NCAA rules at UK, he’ll join the ranks of a guy like Tarkanian, who won big, dodged the NCAA and, in the end, became a footnote himself.
There’s also this whole question of vacating victories at all. How big a deal is it? Alabama was celebrating when its football program only had to vacate a few victories earlier this summer. Florida State is livid that Bobby Bowden has had to cough some up.
More to come on this.