ESPN interviews spurned Wildcats

Just received the following release from ESPN’s Outside The Lines. It’s an issue worth discussing, what happens when coaches cut players loose, especially new coaches. But I don’t remember ESPN giving it this treatment when Rick Pitino did the same thing at Louisville (albeit more slowly, because the NCAA had a 5-3 recruiting rule in place).

I wrote a blog entry on this very phenomenon on June 14, which you can read here.

Now, the ESPN release:

Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN)

When John Calipari became Kentucky basketball coach this summer, he inherited a roster put together by his predecessor, Billy Gillispie. But Calipari needed roster room for his own recruits, including sensational freshman John Wall, and six of Gillispie’s players say they were encouraged to leave. Since athletic scholarships are renewed on an annual basis, the players had little recourse but to leave if they actually wanted to play, so they left.

Some players tell Outside the Lines Calipari told them that they were unlikely to get much playing time in his system if they stayed. Several players said the dramatic roster turnover at Kentucky is an example of how coaches have little loyalty to returning student-athletes, especially when a new coach is hired. Kentucky officials say Calipari just wanted players who fit his style of play. Outside the Lines’ Tom Farrey examines Kentucky’s roster turnover under John Calipari.

“I thought I was going to finish my career there, graduate from UK.” — Kevin Galloway, guard, who left Kentucky after meeting with new coach John Calipari

“It hurt because I abided by the rules. I did everything I was supposed to. . . . Kept up a good GPA, went to class every day, didn’t fail any tests. . . . I feel like just for following my part of the contract, they should follow theirs.” — Matt Pilgrim, forward, on feeling pressured to leave UK

“He was very clear and very honest that (some) may not fit this dribble-drive approach. . . . It’s a decision that they jointly made, that they might find more playing time elsewhere.” — Dr. Lee Todd Jr., president of the University of Kentucky, on what Calipari told players who eventually left

“If you talk to the average scholarship athlete, they believe they’re on a four-year scholarship or maybe a five-year scholarship. . . . But the reality is, there’s no such thing as a four or five-year scholarship. There’s only a one-year renewable.” — Ramogi Huma, head of an advocacy group that lobbies the NCAA and government on behalf of athletes


12 thoughts on “ESPN interviews spurned Wildcats

  1. perhaps espn wouldn't go after Calipari like this if he didn't come off scott-free in the messes HE left behind at UMass and Memphis.I view it as KARMA. Rick Pitino left Kentucky in a GREAT place. Calipari has now left two schools high and dry and having to deal with NCAA violations.He deserves everything he gets.

  2. Eric, not sure why you would single out Pitino in asking why ESPN didn't give him the same treatment. If you want to take that tact, shouldn't it be why doesn't ESPN give this treatment to every new coach that runs off new players? Or, even better, is this a fair system for the players? (Hint: It's not)

  3. I think the average sports fan views taking committed players with you to a new school, kicking out players at your new school to make room, and leaving your old school with a vacated season a little differently than just the average coaching change.There WERE plenty of articles about Pitino going to a bitter rival.

  4. Well, Pitino is the most immediate example, and I covered him first-hand and was the beat writer when that stuff happened. That's why I mentioned him.If you look at my extended discussion (in the blog that I linked, six months ago when this story was actually an issue), you'll see that I note that these two coaches are far from the only ones involved in this practice.

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