Whitesburg KY

Sports in Kentucky




High school football is in full swing. The college game is preparing to march onto center stage, but Sports Department’s other stuff keeps raining on the parade.

To wit:

• Media fascination with Brett Favre.

• Pennant races. Cubs? Stick a fork in ’em, again.

• Rick Pitino jokes.

• Media fascination with Michael Vick.

• NCAA punishments.

And, John Calipari.

With Pitino gone to Florida for R&R, Kentucky’s coach took his honeymoon to Louisville last week. When a television reporter asked his reaction to the NCAA erasing 38 wins from Memphis basketball’s record (and his), the king of twitter, Facebook, MySpace, text-message and instant information technologies, said he hadn’t heard, had no comment, and ducked away.

Here was the Calipari UK fans had better get accustomed to. Nice guy self-wrapped in transparency when he controls the conversation and leverage to change the subject.

OVERSTATEMENT. In Louisville last week Commissioner of Office of Local Government Tony Wilder introduced Calipari with breathless overstated recall of the coach’s first press conference. “You captured this state in those few moments better than anyone I know of.”

Gee, how many of the Commonwealth’s 4,269,245 citizens has Wilder gotten to know since April?

Capture a state in a few moments? Wow. Even the Mother of All Battles for Kuwait required 100 hours.

A majority of UK fans, I hope, will wait before falling in love as Wilder has.

UNDERSTATEMENT. After the NCAA stripped her school of a 38- win 2007-08 season, a Final Four banner and $533,000, Memphis U. president Shirley Raines said, “We know the rules. We did our due diligence. We did everything we could to determine the studentathlete (Derrick Rose) was eligible and that the rules were being followed.”

Due diligence? Apparently most of it after the NCAA letter of inquiry arrived.

The NCAA says …

Rose failed a college qualifying test three times.

Rose’s brother Reggie traveled on the team plane without reimbursing the athletic department $1,700.

And, while Memphis was not officially aware of Rose’s failed test score until midway through his freshman year, when it was invalidated by Educational Testing Service, Rose should have been suspended immediately and wasn’t.

Red flags? Scarlet banners.

The NCAA’s Infractions Committee chairman Paul Dee said last week, “This is a situation of strict liability. If (Rose) is ineligible and does not meet initial requirements, the penalties are related back to that time and a determination is then made: Did he play in any contests after the fact? In this case, he did.”

That time, as Dee called it, was Calipari Time.

Bottom line on the Memphis issue as it relates to Kentucky is a simple 3-prong question? Who was responsible for due diligence over Tigers basketball in 2007-08? President Raines? Director of athletics R.C. Johnson? Who?

The answer has nothing to do with NCAA rulings past. Zero.

SECRETARY OF STATEMENT. Calipari controls his, refusing to talk about the past. But he can’t change the subject so easily with savvy UK fans, including this from one e-mailer, “… looks like he got out of Dodge just in time, didn’t he?”

Impact on UK’s program?

Fans don’t like mention it, but reality is what it is. A history of NCAA probations in all but Pitino and Tubby Smith years (1990- 2007).

UK’s past, coupled with Calipari’s, means the NCAA will monitor one-and-done recruiting, test scores, progress toward a degree and compliance generally like no time since Jerry Tarkanian was in Las Vegas.

A few ideas.

• UK’s Mitch Barnhart whisper in director of compliance Sandy Bell’s ear. “Psst. Keep an eye on King Cal’s slippery side or we could all be looking for work.”

Speculation percolates already that the NCAA is reviewing John Wall’s recruitment.

• Since Memphis coach Josh Pastner told ESPN.com last week, “… (probation) affects a lot of student athletes, coaches, university officials and fans,” his predecessor should do the right thing.

Calipari was not implicated and not obligated to explain anything about Memphis, but he can write Memphis U. a check for $533,000; and one for $1,700 Reggie Rose never paid. Then pen another for $100,000 for pain and suffering for Pastner’s program now on probation. And for jumping his contract with Memphis to take the UK job.

It’s the right thing to do.

Finally, UK fans chortling over Pitino’s demise better take a deep breath.

Those practicing their Karen Sypher! chants for UofL’s visit to Rupp Arena January 2 might want to heed advice for an e-mailer last week, be ready, “… when UK goes on the road and student sections start yelling “Remember UMass! Remember Memphis … Oh-and- 38, Oh-and-38!”

And so it goes.

You can reach Bob Watkins at


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