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Report: NCAA “Expanding Inquiry” Into UK Hoops Signee Noel

Well, there’s bad news and then there’s bad news.  Bad news — for Kentucky faithful — is that the NCAA is reportedly expanding its investigation into top Wildcat basketball signee Nerlens Noel.  What’s make that news tougher to swallow is who’s reporting the story.  That would be Pete Thamel (peering over Noel’s shoulder at left), formerly of The New York Times, currently of, and regularly on the trail of John Calipari.

NCAA investigators have been snooping around the Noel case for a while now.  His academic record as he moved from one school to another has always been under the microscope.  So, too, have his contacts and his inner circle.  Now, “according to a person with knowledge of the NCAA inquiry,” the NCAA is asking more questions about how Noel paid to travel to his unofficial visits.

Thamel writes:


“What made the NCAA’s visit to Tilton (School) intriguing is that a senior Kentucky official, UK chief compliance officer Sandy Bell, accompanied (NCAA assistant directors of enforcement Cindi) Merrill and (Frank) Smith for the meeting. Bell didn’t ask many questions, according to the source, but did take notes and spoke up occasionally. The presence of two NCAA enforcement officials and Bell gives the appearance that this case has gone beyond the routine checking of top prospects, according to one former NCAA investigator.”


A “veteran compliance official” called the presence of Bell at the meeting “unusual but not incredibly unusual.”  It does suggest, however, that Noel’s presence on this year’s UK roster might still be in some doubt.  To what degree, only the NCAA knows.

Noel is expected to replace Anthony Davis’ as UK’s shot-blocking man in the middle this season.  And after this season he’s expected to be one of if not the #1 pick in the NBA draft come summer 2013.

Wildcat fans must already be murmuring (cursing, plotting) over the fact that Thamel’s first report for Sports Illustrated is once again focused on Calipari’s hoops program.  As someone who’s worked in the media for 20 years, I can tell you that most writers do not carry grudges, even though most fans believe all writers do.  In this case, though, even an outside observer like myself has to wonder how/why Thamel seems to be on a permanent UK basketball beat… while writing for The New York Times and now Sports Illustrated.

That said, whether Thamel has a vendetta against Kentucky’s coach or not, his report should be taken seriously by those in the Commonwealth.  After all, Kentucky’s top compliance officer took things seriously enough to hop a plane to New Hampshire and sit in as Noel’s situation was again given the once-over.

Which by now is more like a thrice-over.



A Kentucky program that wins the national title and has its entire roster drafted is the number 1 national story in college basketball.  I would guess the reason Thamel keeps following Calipari is because he KNOWS there is a huge story there and he wants to break it.  


 @bradleygator Once a journalist says they "know" there is a story all credibility is out the door.  At that point there are not an unbiased investigator looking for the truth, they are someone with an agenda looking to prove a point


Nobody has ever accused Calipari of being stupid. The guy knows and uses the system better than anybody (right Wes?). Basketball recruiting is a cesspool.  Everybody knows that. It's a fact. The fact that Calipari runs the pool like he owns it, signs essentially a fresh starting five every single year comprised of players who are consensus Top 10 players is conspicuous, even discounting his previous 11th hour escapes from the houses the NCAA was burning to the ground. I doubt Calipari earned the reputation of epic sleezebag by simply being so virtuous that others felt sickened and jealous.  It may turn out that there's too much money at stake between Nike and the NCAA to expose what's going on. But sooner or later, someone will get crossed and the truth will get exposed.  Until then, Coach Cal really is a victim of his selfless love and success.......


 @AustinVol Maybe it is conspicuous but all the top NCAA basketball investigating journalists keep going after the story, and all they have done thus far is knock on the doors of  DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe's friends and stopped Enes Kanter from being eligible.  Honestly, the most conspicous thing might be a recruit choosing someone else other than Kentucky.  Come to Kentucky you can win a national championship, and if you are in the top 6 you will be drafted.  Maybe we should be investigating the recruits that don't go to Kentucky? 


That being said, Thamel investigates UK for two reasons 1) he wants to be the one to "bring down" Cal 2) when you write about UK, your stories get hits.  I would say it's a little "conspicuous" his first article wasn't about the UNC scandal, Rodney Purvis, or Shabazz Mohamed.


@MrSEC more inquiries following calipari, say it ain't so


"...I can tell you that most writers do not carry grudges, even though most fans believe all writers do."  Please.  Most fans don't even know which writer they're reading at any given moment.  All fans care about is information about their team.  Writers have never been important in the world of sports, and in this day and age of the Internet, their worth is next to zero.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



... Said the anonymous guy who comments nearly everyday under something this writer writes.


If I do this site for a million years, I'll never understand why people want to be so ugly to/with/about people they don't know.  This story is about UK and an NCAA investigation.  Yet you're mad about a throwaway line regarding writers.


If writers aren't important in the world of sports, what value do we place on the anonymous people who rail against them in comment boxes that the writers provide for them?  Less than zero?  


And judging by the emails and comments I get from every single SEC fanbase every single day, I'm pretty sure that writers -- internet or print -- are still important to quite a few folks.  Or else people wouldn't take the time to curse or praise.  




Thamel knows what every other fan, writer and coach outside the commonwealth knows. When the curtain is pulled back it will be shocking for even the most cynical of college hoops fans (and certainly those who have steadfastly defended Calipari's "clean record")...


 @AustinVol "When the curtain is pulled back?" What more do you want from the Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dana O'Neil?  They have been hot on Cal's trail over the last 3 years and they haven't gotten anything to stick yet.  Show me something conclusive and maybe I'll buy it


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