Whitesburg KY

Sports in Kentucky

UK's fans are in for bizarre summer



Newsmaker follies.

Billy Clyde Gillispie sued the University of Kentucky from Dallas.

UK sued him back from Frankfort.

John Calipari’s NCAA demons past, real, imagined or massaged by media conspirators, came back to bite … the University of Memphis.

Part of UK’s Big Blue Nation was so incensed by those with the nerve to spoil Coach Cal’s honeymoon, one was moved to recycle an old Jerry Tarkanian adage: “The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, they’re going after Cleveland State.”

(Erase Cleveland State, pencil in Memphis)

So …

While Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd are red-faced again and retreated behind “no comment” …

While Billy Clyde and UK bring in the lawyer$ …

While Calipari spins and looks as innocent as James Cagney in “Angels with Dirty Faces” …

It all bubbles up in a caldron we call the Perfect Storm to abide Big Blue fans through the summer and on to October 15. From coffee shop, barbershop, and beauty shop, to civic club gatherings and internet message boards, it’s going to be juicy.

Allow me to weigh in with a few common sense perspectives.

• CALIPARI. Is and will be Kentucky’s coach no matter what happens at a Memphis-NCAA hearing short of Armageddon or another investigation of Cleveland State. Calipari has been embraced by fans like nobody since Rick Pitino was king. And, Twittering ‘Coach Cal’ has already charmed metro media into a kind of ga-ga tweet hypnosis.

Still, common sense leaves us to wonder how the NCAA has enough evidence to mail a letter to Memphis officials four months ago, inquiring about academic records of a signee and about reimbursements (or not) the signee’s brother travelling on team charter trips.

Also, curious to me, how Calipari came to be in need of a strength coach just when Derrick Rose was ready to dress out as a Memphis Tiger.

If the NCAA levies sanctions that cost University of Memphis money, wins, scholarships and/or probation because of its hoops program in 2007-08, then captain of their ship is not innocent and claims of “I didn’t know about this…” is not enough.

If Memphis is punished, Calipari ought be pursued with the same dogged zeal the NCAA and media herd used on Kelvin Sampson at Indiana.

But, Kentucky Wildcat fans need not worry. UK has its coach. Perfect fit in an imperfect world.

• BARNHART. Barely a fortnight ago, UK’s director of athletics was crowing about his rising popularity. By last week television stations around Kentucky had trotted out video of the AD’s boast that he had done a thorough background check on his new ball coach.

Then the Memphis Appeal

learned Memphis had gotten a letter in January from NCAA enforcement. Oops. This, after Barnhart hired his new ball coach at a price Calipari said exceeded his expectation. Oops.

Still suffering decision-making wobbles and considering the current economic climate and his performance at a public university, Barnhart has earned a public reprimanded and a pay cut.

• TODD. I believe poll-taking qualifies as the most overrated enterprise in American society, but even a sampling of how tax payers feel about performance of the CEO at Kentucky’s flag ship university would serve public interest.

• GILLISPIE and UK. If it looks, waddles and quacks like a duck, it is one. A memorandum of understanding written on legal parchment, agreed to by both parties, dated and signed by employer and employee, followed by a hand-shake, this looks, waddles and quacks like a binding contract.

Unless one side violates terms or both agree to tear up the MOU and start over, it’s a legitimate pact. Anything less is dishonorable.

Common sense says, unless UK is able to retain Daniel Webster’s ghost to persuade a judge or jury otherwise, Billy Clyde is a winner.

Epilogue. That Gillispie owns a residence in Kentucky and sued UK from Dallas smacks of cowardice. That lawyers for UK whine and want the case heard in Kentucky smells like desperation.

Since truth and fairness is the same everywhere in America a proper verdict fair can be expected, right? Stop laughing.

Landon Slone

UK basketball walk-on Landon Slone asked, but was denied an audience with Calipari last month and so the Paintsville native discussed his future with an assistant and was let walk away.

Failure to give Slone an audience is first evidence Calipari told the truth on day one. He does not walk on water. This was a mistake. The assistant coach who failed to encourage Slone to wait until a meeting with Cal should be required to watch video of Slone’s playing time last season. A roster spot should have been assured for a native son who’s proven he can play in the SEC.

An eastern Kentucky battler, Slone could be an ideal addition to Morehead State’s roster and first rate starter in the OVC.


KHSAA Hall of Fame inducteeto be Raymond ‘Corky’ Withrow is 71 years old, not 75 as reported in this space last week.

Worth Repeating

Minnesota assistant coach Saul Smith weighed in on the NCAA-Memphis-Calipari tempest last week. Should have held his fire. Tubby II twittered: “… The UK athletic program will never regain its true champion nature with businessmen running it. Never, no matter how many so-called blue chip players you bring in. You can’t sacrifice your integrity for success. You just can’t do it …”

Comment: Saul should have gotten a reality check from dad before his twitter. University of Kentucky has been barnacled by television and radio media rights firms, shoe companies, marketing licensors, slight-of-hand boosters and cheats and sundry other profiteers since the term Fabulous Five was respectable and had nothing to do with Michigan mercenaries.

And so it goes.

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