Saturday, May 29, 2010

Calipari Under Investigation... Again

I'm mildly surprised that Kentucky is under investigation for the recruitment of Eric Bledsoe. Normally Calipari makes it a few years and gets his team to the Final Four before he flees for another team while his previous team has that Final Four wiped off the books.

In all seriousness, it does seem pretty clear that illegal behavior did happen at least with regards to Bledsoe's senior year of high school. The New York Times is reporting that when Bledsoe moved to a new town for his senior year that they rented a home from a woman who claims that Bledsoe's new high school coach paid her, and a college coach independently says that he was told by Bledsoe's high school coach that he needed to be paid to allow recruitment of Bledsoe because he had to recoup the apartment costs that he paid for. It's very unlikely that two independent sources would come up with that same story. And the only defense that coach has is to play the race card ("I’m a poor black man. And when one black man tries to help another black man, there’s always something wrong."), which is always the last refuge of a scoundrel.

There are also questions about Bledsoe's grades, where he seems to shockingly have turned from the C/D student he was his first three years of high school into an A/B student his senior season, although again that's an accusation that suggests bad behavior by his high school, and not necessarily by Kentucky.

The question is: how will this investigation affect Kentucky. Worst case scenario for them would be evidence that somebody connected to Kentucky did indeed pay Bledsoe's high school coach to get him, although it's unlikely that evidence like that will come up. A more likely scenario would be that the investigation will conclude that Bledsoe wasn't eligible to play college ball, meaning a high risk that Kentucky's 2009-10 season will be wiped off the books. It's not as big of a deal as the Final Fours that Calipari had wiped off at his previous two college head coaching gigs, but it would be incredibly embarrassing to have seasons wiped off the books at all three schools he coached at.

There's no question that Calipari is in a hurry to get another NBA head coaching job, and while he might not get the Lebron gig (if I were Lebron, I'd hopefully be smart enough to recognize that I'd be more likely to maximize my potential with a coach like Mike D'Antoni or Jeff van Gundy than John Calipari), he will certainly feel incentivized now that another investigation is breathing down his throat.

But if Kentucky does have another season wiped off the books I think it's time for the NCAA to step in and boot Calipari out of the college game. I talked this issue to death a year ago (see here and here), so I don't want to be too repetitive, but it's clear that the Calipari apologists just don't understand high level college athletics. Yes, it's never been proved that Calipari has been directly involved in any illegal activity, but Calipari is too careful for that (see this excellent article by Adrian Wojnarowski for great insight into how paranoid Calipari was back when he was head coaching the New Jersey Nets). He knows that other people are willing to do the dirty work.

And even in the unlikely event that Calipari has never been at all involved in any illegal activity, there's simply no way he doesn't know he's getting involved with slimy players. When a coach recruits a kid to a high level Division I school they know everything about those kids and work with them for years. He knew about the insane grade improvement by Bledsoe, and he knew about the bizarre path to Derrick Rose's passing SAT grade. Several other players back at Memphis had similarly shady academic histories. And it's not just classroom shadiness - remember that Tyreke Evans was a driver in a drive-by shooting when he was in high school, and a whole bunch of Calipari's players (including John Wall) got themselves in trouble with the law before heading to college.

So even the best case scenario is that Calipari is putting his hands over his eyes and plugs in his ears and is screaming "Maybe bad behavior is happening, maybe it's not, I just don't care and don't want to know!" And that's just not good enough. A college coach needs to be a mentor and needs to care about his kids, and he needs to set the right example, and pleading ignorance isn't good enough after this many problems off the court.

I called for Calipari to receive personal punishment after the Derrick Rose scandal, and if Calipari's school gets hit again then I think he needs to be kicked out of the game for at least a short period of time. The harshest punishment I can remember for a college coach was the eight year "show cause" punishment that the NCAA handed down to California's Todd Bozeman for paying a player and for accusations of sexual harassment, a ruling that effectively kept him out of the NCAA for eight years, and he actually stayed out for ten years before re-emerging with Morgan State a few years ago. I'd take even a one year suspension of Calipari. It will just push him to the NBA, which is fine by me. I'd rather see him fail again to win in the NBA than having to see him failing a whole new team of 15 young players in the NCAA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article...Tell the truth about him as much information as you can find!!