More on Knight and Calipari

There are several problems here.

First, Bob Knight wears two hats. He’s a “basketball personality,” and spoke in his capacity as an Indiana University honoree when he told a group at a Hall of Fame banquet that college basketball lacks integrity and Kentucky is an example for hiring John Calipari after he left two programs on probation.

If Knight the ESPN analyst says this, he needs to back it up, tell what he thinks or knows about Calipari’s conduct, and put something more behind the allegation than just his judgment.

But Knight didn’t make his comment on College GameNight, he made it at an IU function in his capacity as honoree.

The judgment here should be on ESPN. If it is serious about Knight being a media professional, it should require him to further explain himself and offer basis for what he thinks.

Don’t hold your breath.

Others who should not hold their breath — University of Kentucky fans.

Don’t like the heat and insinuation? Too bad. This is who you hired. You take the good with the bad. And so far, the good has far outweighed the bad. You’re 10-0. You have the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation. You have a chance to win a national championship. Oh, and from time to time, some people are going to say some mean things about your coach.

Still probably preferable to everybody raving about your coach on the way to a 10-loss season.

This remains a fact — Calipari went to Final Fours with two schools, both had to forfeit those trips because its best player was ineligible. UMass had to box up its trophy and return it to the NCAA. Memphis has appealed its NCAA sanction, which includes probation. UMass simply had to vacate and repay. It didn’t receive probation.

The NCAA is not necessarily interested, in such cases, in assigning blame to the coach. And this is where the NCAA does everyone a disservice. Not being named personally in an NCAA violation is not in itself an exoneration. It simply means that the NCAA couldn’t find enough evidence to go after you, or didn’t feel like trying.

These basketball coaches are the CEOs of their programs. They are paid like CEOs, and are the unquestioned authority of their programs both in philosophy and day-to-day operation.

It is past time that the NCAA, when it sanctions a program, should also make a statement on the CEO, up or down. The coach was culpable. The coach was not culpable. The coach was negligent but not guilty of wrongdoing. The coach had no way of knowing about the violation and proceeds with a clean bill.

The NCAA owes this to its member schools — and to its coaches, or at least, those coaches who aren’t doing wrong. Such rulings might have put these issues to rest for Calipari — or have clarified that he was negligent.

All we have now is people connecting the dots, which is fine for schoolchildren or famously big-mouthed basketball coaches. But in the media, you’re taught not to make assumptions. You have to connect dots sometimes, but you don’t cross that line of assumption without risking credibility.

Knight’s speech might’ve been a great after-dinner talk, but it was not journalism, and it was not backed up by the standards that ESPN ought to require.

If he’d wanted to make the same point, he could’ve held up no better example than Indiana University itself, which hired Kelvin Sampson when he already was on his way to repeat offender status at Oklahoma.

My guess is that holding Kentucky up as the bad example was more expedient, and that Knight perhaps didn’t want to slap the crowd in the face. And let’s not forget, he probably has more than his share of experience with Kentucky that is less than, shall we say, savory and above board. So perhaps Knight didn’t want to slap IU in the face for its own “lack of integrity” in the Sampson hiring. Maybe he’s softening toward his old school.

I’ve had several people write to say that Knight, given his laundry list of bad behavior, is not one to lecture anyone on integrity. I agree that if he’s talking about handling referees or dealing with the public, Knight is hardly someone to listen to. But when he’s talking about playing within NCAA rules, he absolutely is credible.

At ESPN, he’s entitled to whatever opinion he wants to espouse. He just ought to have to explain it like everyone else.


14 thoughts on “More on Knight and Calipari

  1. A pretty good article, but I take exception to your point that ESPN should discipline Knight in some way. He was not on ESPN business nor working as an agent of ESPN when the comment was made. Knight has always called'em like he sees'em. The word about Calipari at Memphis was that he got such good recruits because he didn't have a salary cap, will they say that about him at Kentucky some day too?

  2. Never said in here that ESPN should discipline Knight. I only said that ESPN should require Knight to explain himself further.

  3. Why would Knight want to essentially defend IU? He hates that school now after the way they handled his dismissal. The last thing he would want to do is defend him. Besides, using IU as an example would have been pointless considering IU fired Sampson once the issue happened at IU, thus preventing the credibility issue.

  4. Eric, Coach Knight did explain his point. It is right there in the record books under 1996 Final Four and 2007 Final Four….. both vacated by John Calipari teams. What more does he need to explain?

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