John Calipari: The Incredible Teflon Coach
We live in a different world of college athletics today than our parents and grandparents did decades and generations ago. At least for NCAA basketball and football, the college game is complete with glamour, fat TV deals, and big money marketing—a far cry from the state of the game decades ago.
College basketball and football have evolved into feeder systems for the NBA and NFL, respectively, and quite honestly, who are we to complain about it? We as fans get to see a higher brand of play out on the courts and fields as we are dazzled by athletes who are not only blessed with immense talent, but are often times destined for lucrative pay days in the professional ranks.
However, this heightened competition and increased publicity can often produce unintended results, and nobody has to look any further than today's sports section to find examples.
Yesterday, allegations from the NCAA came out that accuse the men's basketball program at the University of Memphis of several major infractions. The most notable of these claims is that a member of the Tigers' 2007-2008 Final Four squad had someone else take the SAT for him using his name. It is being widely speculated that the athlete in question was point guard Derrick Rose, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and Rookie of the Year for the Chicago Bulls.
There is no doubt that these accusation against the Memphis program are extremely serious and the repercussions have been widespread, to say the least. If it is discovered that these allegations are true, then Memphis will be facing major penalties from the NCAA and could very well have to forfeit their 2008 Final Four appearance.
The proverbial finger could be pointed at many people for this whole situation transpiring, but the individual who presided over all of this is nowhere to be found in southwest Tennessee. That man would be the new University of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Granted, none of the reports that have surfaced regarding the allegations have directly mentioned Calipari as being a direct accomplice in these violations, but it cannot be ignored that all of these things happened under his watch. Some people out there may believe that Calipari is merely a victim of unfortunate circumstance—that he had no way of knowing that any of these infractions were occurring.
There is some validity to that argument, but this is hardly the first time a Calipari program has had a run in with the NCAA. His 1995-1996 team at the University of Massachusetts had to vacate their 1996 Final Four appearance because of an incident where UMass star Marcus Camby accepted money from an agent while still playing in college.
Calipari would be the only coach in NCAA history to have to forfeit two Final Four appearances, and from two different programs no less. While he may have had no direct involvement, the violations that exist at Calipari-led programs seem to have become something of a reoccurring theme.
However, if these allegations come to fruition, absolutely nothing will happen to Calipari. There won't be any action against him on the part of the NCAA. He will not be losing any scholarships or be reprimanded whatsoever.
Any sort of NCAA litigation will be placed on the Memphis program—on new Tigers coach John Pastner and his group of players that had absolutely nothing to do with this situation, all while Calipari receives the biggest paycheck of any college basketball coach at Kentucky and Rose enjoys the riches of the NBA.
And this is hardly an isolated situation. Who suffered from Kelvin Sampson's hundreds of illegal three-way phone calls with recruits? Indiana University did, as the Hoosiers struggled through one of the worst seasons in the history of their proud program in the wake of a very limited number of scholarships and resources necessary to succeed.
How about Clem Haskins, a man who presided over one of the largest cases of academic fraud in college athletics to date? Sure, he lost his job with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but he still collected his paycheck and left behind a program that was forced to abandon its 1997 Final Four banner and had yet to recover from the scandal until Tubby Smith took over the program a few years ago.
What about any school coached by the likes of Jim Harrick and Jerry Tarkanian? It certainly wasn't the coaches who suffered the brunt of the damage.
None of these rampant bevvies of NCAA violations accrue without at least some neglect of institutional control, but oftentimes not every guilty party ends up getting held accountable.
In a sports climate littered with coaching carousels and the prototype "one-and-done" players, the NCAA needs to police itself and the institutions that comprise it so that when wrongdoings do arise, nobody can be deemed untouchable.
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