John Calipari Is Bad for College Basketball

Thomas McGrathContributor IAugust 20, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 26:  Head Coach John Calipari of the Memphis Tigers adjusts his team against the Missouri Tigers in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Phoenix Stadium on March 26, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Forget about the vacated wins.  Forget about the vacated Final Fours.  Forget about the brash attitude.  No, none of those are the real reason why John Calipari is bad for college basketball.

The real problem with Calipari is that he represents how college basketball is changing for the worse.  Simply put, college basketball has lost its innocence.

People watch college sports to see the thrill of competition without the ulterior motive of money.  College basketball, however, is no longer a way to enjoy that. 

The one-and-done system is the start of it.  It not only makes a mockery of the American education system, it makes a mockery of college sports.  Players are using their one year merely to hone their skills before heading off to the NBA.  Anyone who thinks players like Derrick Rose and OJ Mayo were considering staying in school is joking themselves. 

For many, this makes the games less fun to watch.  If people want to watch spoiled, pampered athletes they can also watch the NBA.  At least those players won't be leaving after one year.

The other problem, and this is where Calipari comes in, is that coaches are taking advantage of the situation.  Knowing that academics don't matter (the players aren't there to get their degrees), one-and-done athletes are willing to pull strings that even college football programs prospects don't (at least USC football players take their own tests). 

Calipari and other coaches may not have direct knowledge of these incidents, but they need to understand and address these issues while they are recruiting these kids. They may not be giving the thumbs up, but they aren't giving the thumbs down either.

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The argument for recruiting a lot of one-and-done players (which is what Calipari does almost exclusively now) is that without recruiting them you are at a competitive disadvantage.  This is a false notion.

North Carolina won the national title this year without a single one-and-done player.  Last year, Kansas didn't have a one-and-done player either.  Florida didn't have a one-and-done player on either of their title teams.  You have to go all the way back to North Carolina in 2005 (Marvin Williams) to find the ONLY one-and-done player (since the rule was instituted) to be a part of a national championship team. 

So it's pretty safe to say you can win without them.

The more important issue, however, is not winning.

As I enter my senior year in high school, I am starting to look at schools.  What I'm trying to find is the school that I believe will most help me develop into the person I want to become.

Yes, a part of it is my future career, but that's not the only part of the process.  I may be plenty smart enough to achieve my goals, but I know that at this point in my life I lack the maturity to do so.  If these one-and-done kids don't understand the importance of college, beyond it being a gateway to the NBA, then they are the ones being deprived (not the universities who have to take down a banner). 

That is, once again, where the coaches come in.  Instead of stressing how high they can rise the prospects draft stock, or how easy their year will be, they need to show the athletes the bigger picture.  Not everyone makes it, and for those that don't it helps to have a backup plan.  That doesn't necessarily mean a degree, but it's part of coach's job to prepare their student athletes for the rest of their lives, and not just the part that includes basketball.

These are the reasons why John Calipari is bad for college basketball.  His actions contradict the very essence of what college basketball—and college athletics in general—are supposed to be about.  And for me, that is the real shame.

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