University Of Kentucky Basketball: New York Times' Pete Thamel Strikes Again

Michael DaMannContributor ISeptember 16, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20:  Eric Bledsoe #24 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball over Tony woods #55 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Kentucky defeated Wake Forest 90-60.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Well, guess what. Pete Thamel, bane of journalism, has mounted his high horse yet again. He has a new article on the New York Times website, ostensibly about the Birmingham News story regarding Eric Bledsoe, but in actuality just another stop on his campaign of misinformation.

I am hesitant to include the link to the story, as I want to avoid helping Thamel garner web hits, so instead I will cover the salient points, while interjecting my usual wise, yet witty rebuttal thing for which I am renowned.

One interesting thing to note is that he calls his article “analysis”. I guess that’s so he doesn’t have to defend his writing as factual. Unfortunately, the distinction is mentioned only once, in small letters over the headline, so chances are many will miss that important information, and believe that this is a valid news report.

Thamel briefly goes over the grade report/transcript discrepancy as reported in the News. He then goes on to say:

“There is also the curious matter that Bledsoe, who had a history of getting low grades, aced Algebra III before taking Algebra II, The News reported. Who should be more embarrassed: the N.C.A.A. for not noticing the discrepancy, Kentucky’s admissions office for not questioning it or Parker High School for allowing it?”

The answer is, you, Pete Thamel, should be more embarrassed. The labels Algebra II and Algebra III don’t necessarily mean that the classes are meant to be taken consecutively. Often, though there is no fixed rule, Algebra II could be identified as “Intermediate Algebra” while Algebra III may, in turn, cover pre-Calculus, Geometry or Mathematical Analysis.

I am not aware of any evidence that II is a prerequisite for III at Bledsoe’s high school. In fact, Algebra III will, out of necessity, often cover the same concepts as II, so a 90 score in Algebra III (Bledsoe’s score) could very well lead to an A grade in Algebra II since a lot of it would be information Bledsoe learned in the previous class.

At this point, I would like to inform Thamel of a wonderful entity known as “Google”, where this, and similar information can be found at the mere click of a mouse.

Additionally, one may surmise that Bledsoe was taking Algebra III before II because it was the class that was available to him in night school, that he could attend while meeting his other responsibilities, such as basketball. From the Birmingham News report: “Even if night school overlapped with the season, Martin said, Ford always held early-afternoon practices, meaning Bledsoe would have attended class afterward.”

What if the Algebra II class was held in early afternoon? Or on game days? Is it not possible that an exception might be made? After all, the News also states “She (Parker High guidance counselor Parks) described Bledsoe as an "average" student who needed an "extra push" and received assistance from herself, Ford, teachers and the principal.

Next, I really want to call attention to this line in Thamel’s story:

“Three independent compliance officers, who were granted anonymity because of privacy laws surrounding discussions of students’ grades, said in interviews on Tuesday that under N.C.A.A. rules, the organization could vacate Kentucky’s 2009-2010 season, in which they reached the Round of 8.”

I love the fact that the compliance officers mentioned broke the law discussing Bledsoe’s grades. Those privacy laws are there for very good reasons, and the NCAA should immediately launch an investigation to discover which officers were responsible, and punish them accordingly.

As many of you may already know, I recently asked the musical question “Pete Thamel of the New York Times: Web Hit Whore or Calipari Hater?” here on Bleacher Report.  I now can definitively answer: Both. Because after he states,

“One of the compliance officers was skeptical that Kentucky would have to vacate last season’s record because there was (sic) enough mitigating factors, including Bledsoe’s passing through the N.C.A.A. Clearinghouse, for Kentucky to argue that they followed proper protocol.”

He immediately follows with, “He added that other relevant factors could include Calipari’s history of problems with the N.C.A.A. and a more aggressive recent effort by the N.C.A.A. to clean up college sports“. (my emphasis)

Here, for your edification, is the history of John Calipari’s problems with the NCAA:

1997 - Calipari is exonerated of any wrongdoing following an investigation by the NCAA over improper benefits player Marcus Camby received from an agent.

2004 - Tom Yeager, the NCAA’s chairman of the committee on infractions, says to Calipari, in a letter obtained by the New York Daily News, “The committee fully recognizes you had nothing to with the violations of Marcus Camby during the 1995-96 season. In a sense, you were an innocent victim.”

2009 - Calipari’s 2007-08 Memphis team is investigated by the NCAA. Calipari is informed by that organization that he is not considered “at risk” in the investigation.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about why Thamel felt the need to identify two instances where Calipari was either characterized as an “innocent victim“, or was not even considered to be culpable, as his “problems”, and not the problems of the schools or programs that actually suffered punishment.

Thamel closes his noxious diatribe with this gem:

“Calipari is at a premier program, but the smoke from UMass and Memphis has followed him. Todd, the president who wanted Kentucky’s titles to stick, stepped down last week.

As questions continue to arise in Lexington, a new president has to decide whether having a successful program adds up to accepting recruits who ace Algebra III before taking Algebra II.”

You can tell that he wants his allusion to “smoke” to recall the adage “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, even though Cal was found by the NCAA, twice, to be a non-smoker at UMass or Memphis, and the final sentence is obviously a tacit call for UK’s new president to demand Calipari’s dismissal.

This is, to me, inarguable proof that Thamel possesses a definite bias against Calipari, and is no longer even bothering to feign impartiality. It is indeed a sad day for journalistic integrity.