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John Calipari: University of Kentucky Completely Drops the Ball with New Deal

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts from the sidelines against the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJune 28, 2011

I logged onto ESPN.com earlier today and saw a brief headline that caught my attention: Kentucky rewards Calipari with extension, raise.

Now I'm not a UK Wildcat fan. In fact I'm not really much of a fan of college basketball at all. So the article didn't catch my attention for that reason.

It's also not like Calipari was going anywhere. His contract wasn't set to expire, which would have made him a much-coveted free agent coach, so it's not really "news" from that angle either.

No, the headline caught my attention for a different reason.

What has been the biggest theme in college sports—if not all of the sports world—over the last year or so?

Corruption and rule breaking.

I know that there were high profile offenders and incidents long before Cam Newton's scandal last fall, USC losing it's appeal to the NCAA (thus effectively forfeiting their national title in addition to Reggie Bush's Heisman), and the coup de grâce of sorts, the Ohio State tattoo-Gate that cost Jim Tressel his job and basically pushed Terrelle Pryor out of Columbus.

But somehow—maybe it's three national championship winning programs each marred by controversy so close to one another—college football seems to be at its nadir in terms of credibility and integrity.

That's why I find it so bizarre that UK, one of the most storied basketball schools in history, would "reward Calipari with extension, raise."

Calipari may not have been dealt a series of lengthy suspensions over the years or accrued hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for complicity in major NCAA violations.

But he's certainly no choir boy either.

There were problems with players taking benefits when he was at UMASS, and even more egregious accusations during his tenure at Memphis (mainly, that players were not taking their own tests).

Both of those programs were forced to vacate all their wins from their greatest seasons, 1995-96 for the Minutemen, 2007-08 for the Tigers.

I don't mean to pick on Calipari, because clearly he's not the only coach to have these types of accusations surround his program. And who knows, maybe he is 100% completely innocent of any rule-breaking during his long tenure, as unlikely as that may be.

But it still seems like horribly bad timing for UK to give Calipari a raise and an extension, much less endlessly fawn over him via their latest press conference.

Part of my disbelief over the news of Calipari's extension came because, in this age when college athletics are plagued by scandals, improprieties, and non-performance-based firings, I would have liked to see a story about a coach who has been squeaky-clean get the huge raise and long-term extension.

Of course, such a man might not exist....maybe JoePa and a few others, but they seem to be an endangered species.

But that's pure naïveté and wishful thinking on my part.

So let's just say this: I hope that this extension isn't soon rendered moot, at the moment when we see Calipari at a press conference—a la Tressel—announcing his resignation under sketchy circumstances. That would be another round of debate I could do without. 

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