Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans saw a resurrection of their program in proportions rarely seen in college sports. In a matter of a few months they change coaches, make MAJOR roster changes, and somehow change the mind of a NBA-ready player to come back for another year.
Big Blue fans were already envisioning preseason number-one rankings and a God-given trip to the NCAA Final Four. This sort of excitement could be justified after the recent string of mediocre seasons under former coach Billy Gillespie.
All of a sudden, news comes out of Memphis that allegations concerning major NCAA violations rears its ugly head. What makes it more difficult is that it happened squarely on new UK coach John Calipari's watch.
The facts are simple and hard to deny. A program with a dirty past has a coach who is equally as filthy. A marriage headed for disaster; Kentucky and coach Calipari.
Coach Calipari headed the Memphis Tigers to the 2007-08 Final Four. The NCAA alleges "knowing fraudulence or misconduct" on an SAT exam (a college entrance exam) by an unnamed player, who "competed for the men's basketball team through the 2007-08 season" and "included his participation in the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship." In addition, Memphis is also accused of providing $2,260 in free travel for an associate of a player. Both are major recruiting violations.
ANYONE with good vision can see that the "unnamed" player was understandably a one-year wonder who was the 2008 NBA top pick by the Chicago Bulls as well as Rookie of the Year. Come to think of it, wouldn't that associate of a player possibly be one of Rose's as well?
If these allegations are true, the Tigers may have to forfeit this appearance. That coupled with Calipari forfeiting a Final Four appearance while with UMass in 1996 should make Kentucky fans sweat bullets.
UK, equally known for their recruiting violations in the 1988-89 season as they are for their national championships, should have seen this coming.
Also, of concern, is the recent influx of talent to Lexington. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, along with Patrick Patterson "changing" his mind, doesn't seem on the level. How in such a short time could such a talent upgrade occur on one team? Never before had any other coach experience that kind of good fortune.
The university's response reeked of a cover-up. The school stated that Calipari "was forthcoming with the University of Kentucky during the hiring process about any issues under investigation at the University of Memphis." What this means is that Calipari knew that something was happening that could be of concern.
The statement closed by pointing out that this is a "University of Memphis issue and the University of Kentucky will not comment further." That is because UK already knows it is a coach Calipari issue and wants everything to blow over.
Ahem, Mitch Barnhart, UK athletic director: his forthcoming of issues at Memphis already blows your cover. Calipari is dirty and no amount of white-wash can clean this up.
This mirrors so many other scandal-plagued coaches and programs. Most recently, Indiana University hired Kelvin Sampson while he was alleged for recruiting violations while at Oklahoma, only to be forced out for similar allegations while as Hoosier head coach. The program is on the rebound from a horrendous rebuilding year.
This sort of parallelism, coupled with the fact that it took a rather short time for UK to hire Calipari and make some big time recruiting signings, makes this a glowing red flag for a scandal just waiting to be uncovered.
For Big Blue fans, they should put their lofty dreams on hold. It is way too early and way too foolish to expect such things from a team coming off of recent mediocrity and heading for self-destruction.