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Calipari, Bledsoe Won’t Comment On Investigation

For the second day in a row, John Calipari refused yesterday to comment on the NCAA’s investigation into Eric Bledsoe.  In fact, he got a little snippy when reporters asked him about it at the SEC meetings in Destin.

“I’m not going to have any response to that,” Calipari said.  “We responded to it,” he added, referring to UK’s weekend press release.

The obligatory follow-up question came moments later and Calpari responded by saying, “Why. … What kind of question are you asking me?  I already told you the school commented on that.”

UK’s coach did open up about one thing — the level of scrutiny he has received at Kentucky.  “One thing I will say is this… coaching at Kentucky is like being in politics.  You’ve got your core group that absolutely loves you, and the others are trying to unseat you.  That’s just how it is when you’re at Kentucky.  I mean, it’s for our fans, the Big Blue Nation, you’re at Kentucky, you’re in the seat.  We’d rather not have (controversy), but I can’t control if someone chooses to write something.  I don’t have any control over that.”

A couple of observations at this point:

1.  Boo-hoo.  Big, successful programs get more scrutiny.  Ask Nick Saban or Urban Meyer.  Ask Pete Carroll.  Ask anyone associated with Indiana basketball.  Calipari is trying to feed his fanbase exactly what it wants to hear — that Kentucky is being unfairly picked upon.  But Memphis was under scrutiny with Calipari as well.  His past issues and the fact that he’s made a lot of enemies in the coaching profession lead to more scrutiny.  UK officials knew that and said that when he was hired.  Therefore it’s no time to play martyr.  Big program + Calipari = Watchful Eyes.  He knew it, UK knew it.

2.  To say “I don’t have any control” over what someone writes is once again an attempt to change the subject.  Is what The New York Times reported inaccurate?  The NCAA didn’t deny that it’s investigating Bledsoe.  Then how is The New York Times to blame for the story?  Should no one report on an NCAA investigation?  Is that just for Kentucky or should no investigations into any schools be discussed?  And technically, had Calipari steered clear of Bledsoe due to the many questions around him, he COULD have controlled what was written.  Had Billy Donovan, Andy Kennedy, Bruce Pearl or Josh Pastner landed Bledsoe, the story would be the same.  They knew the dangers, if they had signed him then they shouldn’t be allowed to complain about the repercussions.  Calipari did sign Bledsoe, so he shouldn’t try to blame a reporter for simply covering the fact that the NCAA is looking into the matter.

3.  I’m amazed at how many parallels there continue to be between Calipari at Kentucky and Lane Kiffin at Tennessee.  Examples: A coach who is a lightning rod.  A coach who most other coaches don’t like.  A coach with a tremendous track record of recruiting as well as a reputation for not following every recruiting rule.  A coach whose fanbase defends him with religious fervor, regardless of numerous warning signs.  A coach that the NCAA begins investigating.  The New York Times writes about an NCAA investigation into the coach’s program.  The program’s fans scream that The New York Times is out to get them.  So which coach and program am I talking about?  Both, obviously.  The fact that UK and UT are such fierce border rivals only makes things more fascinating.  And you can bet your last dollar on this one — if Calipari were at Tennessee, UK fans would be calling him a scumbag right now, rather than defending him.  And if Kiffin had been at Kentucky, UT fans would have called him a scumbag last year.  The similarities are astounding.  (And the situation would be the same at any other school.  I’ve come to truly believe that most fans would not only root for, but defend, Lucifer himself if he were standing on their sidelines.)



Andy Staples of SI.com seems to agree with what we’ve said about “plausible deniability” as well as the fact that UK fans wouldn’t be defending Calipari if he coached at another school.

While his reputation as a recruiter is up for debate, Calipari’s charity work is not.  Just months after putting together a terrific telethon for Haitian relief, Calipari donated $1 million over the weekend to a children’s organization in Memphis.  Good for him.  His basketball ethics have repeatedly been questioned, his off-court generosity has not.

Like his former coach, Bledsoe isn’t answering questions about the NCAA investigation.

UPDATE — More questions about Bledsoe’s high school eligibility are being raised in Alabama.

Meanwhile, one UK fan writes that Bledsoe’s story should be celebrated.  “Only the NCAA could find fault in giving someone somewhere to live.”  That’s a reference to the fact that Bledsoe’s high school coach was allegedly paying his family’s rent.  The absurdity of that comment is beyond belief.  Question: If it came out that Rick Pitino had signed 5 kids to Louisville — all of whom had had their apartments paid for by someone else — would Kentucky fans say, “Nothing wrong with that… they just needed a place to live.”  Good Lord, no.  Also, would this warm-hearted coach have been paying for the Bledsoe’s apartment had he decided to play at another school?  If he weren’t a basketball player?  If the answer is “no,” then the kid was getting an extra benefit because of his basketball talents.  Well-meaning gesture or not, that’s an NCAA amateur-status no-no and it has been for decades.

Maybe nothing comes of all this mess.  For the sake of thousands of loyal Kentucky fans, I hope it doesn’t.  Heck, for the sake of the SEC, I hope it doesn’t.  The league’s basketball is better and gets more attention when UK is the conference’s standard-bearer.  But to defend the indefensible is just silly.  Sit back and let things play out, Cat fans.  You can love UK and pull for Calipari while also admitting that his track record is spotty.  That doesn’t make you less of a fan.  It makes you a realist.

 


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