The Kentucky Wildcats are in the Final Four and they are one of the favorites to cut down the nets.
Much of the credit for the fantastic year can be given to coach John Calipari. By bringing Kentucky to the Final Four, Calipari tied legendary coach Rick Pitino as the only person to go to the Final Four with three different teams.
This is quite a feat for any coach in college basketball, but if you check the official stat books you won’t see any record of it.
That’s because Calipari’s programs have always been surrounded by controversy.
It all started when Calipari performed wonderfully as the head coach at UMass. The little school from the Atlantic10 had made little noise in college basketball before Calipari was hired on as the head man.
Calipari led UMass to the Final Four in 1996, behind the great play of Marcus Camby. A thorough investigation revealed that Marcus Camby received improper benefits from an agent, which is a NCAA violation.
Calipari denied any knowledge of the incident between Camby and his agent, and the NCAA cleared him of any wrong doing.
UMass had the records revoked, and the banner was removed from the rafters. UMass has not been able to match the success since Calipari left the school.
After a brief stint in the NBA, Calipari returned to college basketball to coach the Memphis Tigers.
As expected, Calipari did not skip a beat and recruited some of the best players in the game. Calipari once again returned to the Final Four in a remarkable 2008 season with the Tigers, which was led by the superb play of point guard Derrick Rose.
An investigation by the Memphis Commercial Appeal uncovered the fact that a player was academically ineligible to play. The problem is that player was arguably one of the best in the country and most certainly the best on Memphis, Derrick Rose.
The NCAA alleged the prospective player became eligible after an "unknown individual" completed his SAT.
The story was proved to be true, and the school was punished. However, Calipari was—once again—cleared of any wrong doing.
Soon after the finding, Calipari left Memphis and secured a job with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Memphis was forced to forfeit its NCAA-record 38 victories and Final Four appearance. Memphis has not been able to match the success since Calipari left the school.
The perception surrounding the incidents is not working in Calipari’s favor. While he seems like a very like-able guy and genuinely great coach, he can also appear arrogant.
His appearance reeks of Gordon Gecko from the movie Wall Street, a shrewd businessman who will do anything to achieve success, without caring who gets hurt along the way.
He brings little schools to the championship game with shady practices, but the minute they are discovered, he bails for a bigger school—and an even bigger paycheck.
Regardless of whether or not it’s true, it’s this perception that has hurt Calipari’s reputation.
This may seem unfair when you consider that it happens all the time in college sports, and no one is exempt to the fine line between fair and foul.
Calipari is not alone in working for a school that has been under investigation for NCAA violations.
In college football, Jim Tressel, one of the best coaches in the game, is under fire for his knowledge of players selling memorabilia.
In college basketball, other coaches are under fire for similar offenses. This includes UConn head man Jim Calhoun, one of the most respected coaches in the game today.
UConn was under investigation for giving impermissible benefits to a blue-chip recruit.
Calhoun is being punished by the NCAA, but his reputation is not tarnished and he still receives incredible respect from the media and the college basketball world. Is this a double standard?
The bottom line is that college basketball will always have a fine line when it comes to recruiting.
Players are openly admitting to receiving improper benefits from schools.
This is something that happened as far back as the Fab Five and still continues in the game today.
Schools and coaches are feeling more pressure than ever to land the best recruits and stay within the NCAA guidelines.
Like him or not, John Calipari is an outstanding coach.
The job he has done with a young group of kids in Kentucky has been nothing short of amazing. Calipari does not need a title to be vindicated, but if Kentucky does win the national championship, the talk of his past should be replaced with praise for today’s team.
Calipari is one of the best coaches in the game today, and he should be recognized and applauded for his work.
While others will chose to scrutinize and criticize for violations in the past, it’s time to stand up and applaud Calipari as the great coach that he is.
Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at email@example.com.