Kentucky is in danger of joining Florida (2008) and North Carolina (2010) as the most recent members on the list of teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament the year after winning the national championship.
In fact, the Wildcats became the first team to make this list in 1979, when they went 19-12 and lost to Clemson in the first round of the NIT after winning the NCAA crown in 1978. In 1980, both 1979 champ Michigan State and runner-up Indiana State failed to make either the NCAA or NIT field.
After the 1983 champion, North Carolina State, missed out in 1984, Louisville, the NCAA’s best in 1986, didn’t get invited in 1987 and 1988 champion Kansas was placed on probation in 1989 because of a recruiting violation.
If this once fifth-ranked Kentucky team does not make the 68- team field next month, here’s an idea for Coach John Calipari based on a precedent set by Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams.
In 1959 the Boston Red Sox star was paid $125,000. Before the next season, his last, in 1960, Williams said he had underachieved in hitting a career low of .254 and insisted on a $35,000 pay cut. Thirty percent.
Since defending champion Kentucky has underachieved, Coach Calipari ought to consider a pay cut of 30 percent and contribute the money to the University of Kentucky’s general fund.
Noel & ‘The Issue’
Nerlens Noel’s knee injury put the kid on an eight-month path of grueling rehabilitation. That’s the bad news. Good news is the willowy 18-year-old has a chance to slow it all down a little, step back and watch the parade for a while.
Noel’s season- ender brought the usual refrain from those who believe a high school senior who wants to go directly to a job, in this case professional basketball, ought to have the option.
I agree. Noel’s injury is an appropriate time to examine the issue again. Solutions are not as complicated as those who profit from status quo would have us believe.
First, the villains: v The NBA Players Union. Its contract with owners includes a 19-yearold age minimum. Why 19? There is no logical or legal reason to prevent a high school graduate from pursuing a job. v The NCAA. One internet writer said last week: “Noel’s presence on (a college) campus represents restraint of trade and a bastardization of what college is supposed to be.”
Remarkable grasp of the obvious and I love the foursyllable word, don’t you?
Gives rise to the third villain in this drama that drips with dollars and greed. v College coaches and shoe companies willing to ignore the spirit of NCAA rules and operate in the gray areas.
The NCAA has no incentive to change anything as it wallows in piles of cash from television that remind us of Scrooge McDuck’s front yard.
A solution is clear an is already in place in another major sport.
A high school baseball star can be drafted and signed to a professional contract upon graduation. Before signing, if he doesn’t like his draft spot, he has another option, playing college baseball. If he agrees to forego a draft by Major League Baseball team, he is obliged to attend college for two years (minimum).
A two year college scholarship is worth as much as $200,000?
Two years in college provides:
• Opportunity for immature 18-year-old to become a 20-year-old man, physically and otherwise.
• Opportunity for universities and ball coaches to continue piling up Scrooge McDuck-type money.
• Opportunity for athletic apparel companies to increase profits from images of say, Anthony Davis (the Brow) and Nerlens Noel (flat top).
• Opportunity for fans to enjoy heroes they pay dearly to see.
Where’s the downside in this scenario?
Should work, right? Long as big money wags the dog, wrong!
Few remember it, but four months ago Kentucky was ranked in the Top 5.
It’s late February and Kentucky coach John Calipari said on Saturday that a couple of his players are “not coachable.”
Given Kentucky’s performance in Knoxville, perhaps its worst ever, maybe Calipari is right. Good thing the coach burned the game tape. He won’t have seen players in blue uniforms turning their backs on their coach while being instructed on national television. Outrageous.
Apparently coddled and cradled, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin arrived at UK with bloated sense of self. Like many 18-year-olds (going on 15 at times), they expected a seven-month stay at Kentucky before a flight to New York and a David Stern handshake.
Last Saturday in Knoxville they were openly pouty and combative juveniles headed to the doghouse.
The growing pains Goodwin and Poythress suffer in public are not new of course.
In 1979, a wizard at getting to the basket was Dwight Anderson. Trouble was, the kid from Dayton was a hard head unwilling to control his emotions and listen to his coaches. He left for Southern Cal, later had a cup of coffee in the NBA, then returned to Dayton to eventually rue the day he left Kentucky, calling it the worst mistake of his life.
In 1985 the new phenom at Kentucky was “Master Blaster.” Like Poythress, Richard Madison was a Tennessean with grand promise and comparisons to Charles Barkley. Four years on, the only thing Madison blasted was the training table menu. His weight went up, playing time went down and he became a master fizzle.