University of Kentucky athletics was “number one” three times last week.
1. New Coach Mark Stoops’ football team will play the nation’s most difficult schedule later this year. One internet site says five SEC teams are among 10 facing the toughest competition – Florida sixth, LSU fifth, Tennessee fourth, Arkansas second and Kentucky first.
2. Academics. Kentucky topped the SEC Winter Sports Academic Honor Roll. UK’s honorees included five players from men’s basketball, three from women’s basketball, eight gymnasts, eight from the rifle team, 19 from men’s swimming and 14 women’s swimmers.
3. Basketball. Kentucky will open the season ranked No. 1 and the Wildcats are the 4-1 favorite to win the national championship, says Las Vegas Superbook.
Kansas is 10-1, Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Arizona and defending champion Louisville are 12-1. Ohio State and North Carolina are 15-1.
John Calipari’s reaction? Call a press conference to talk about his favorite subject, himself. Bad idea.
“I don’t mind a little pressure,” the coach said. “I’ve had it my whole career. I’ve had the gun to my head for 20-something years. And you know what? I’m at my best when the gun is to my head.”
But Calipari’s press conference in Lexington last week was only a warm-up. A day later, apparently smarting because of his one-and-done legacy, Calipari was on a Louisville radio station threatening the NCAA. “We’ve got to change this somehow,” Calipari said. “We’ve got to encourage these kids to stay two years. But the NCAA has to do some stuff. And if they don’t do it, we need to separate from them. I’m not afraid to say it.”
Excuse me, but Calipari encouraging “these kids to stay two years” is like waiting for Rand Paul to endorse Hillary Clinton for 2016.
Let’s see if we have this straight. v Kentucky’s ball coach: Pressure? Gun to his head? No problem. v A day later, demands the NCAA do something to force college freshmen to stay in school and if they don’t it’s the NCAA’s ’s fault. v And “if they don’t do it we need to separate from them.”
What’s at the root of this rant?
Probably this: “Look, they (NCAA) have embarrassed me,” Cal told the radio audience. “I’ve done nothing, so they’re not going to come and show retribution to me and do stuff. I don’t really care.”
Cal is still sore that UMass and Memphis were made to forfeit wins, take down Final Four banners because of misdeeds on his watch. He knew nothing about Marcus Camby’s jewelry and what he was driving at UMass (Camby later confessed). Cal had no idea where Derrick Rose took his second or third college entrance exam to qualify for one-and-done at Memphis.
As ex-Commissioner of the internal Revenue Service Steven Miller is finding out, he who was in charge is responsible, and ignorance is no defense.
So Calipari wants to “separate” from the NCAA and envisions super-conferences that would regulate themselves (keep the megamillions), re-slice the pie minus NCAA cut and, Cal says, “create incentives for college players.”
An unabashed, unapologetic NBA developmental league is Calipari’s goal, operating out of university facilities, using campus rahrah as fan base, wave logos, embrace traditions, all done without academic blahblah blah. It’s the money, stupid!
Considering how busy Calipari’s mouth was last week, one wonders if he is indeed feeling pressure and not handling it well.
Still, Kentucky’s ball coach must be credited for masking a large ego with noisy rhetoric, audacity and blame game rant.
What next? As rascal Jerry Tarkanian discovered once upon a time, NCAA administrators normally have long memories and don’t take kindly to being embarrassed by ball coaches.
And so it goes.