John Calipari Deserves Criticism for Repeated Rules Violations

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2010

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 25:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts as he coaches against the Cornell Big Red during the east regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 25, 2010 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

John Calipari is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing coaches in college basketball today.

A lightning rod for critics, he once again finds himself in the middle of a mess because of alleged rules violations.

Calipari himself had nothing to do with the latest oddity surrounding one of his players.  On the heels of a New York Times report documenting Eric Bledsoe’s support network during his high school days, Kentucky officials stated that the NCAA cleared the talented freshman guard.

Sound familiar? The NCAA also cleared another talented freshman who starred for Calipari, only to discover that Derrick Rose’s SAT was not actually taken by Derrick Rose.

On the heels of the Times report, the small faction of Calipari supporters not wearing blue from head to toe are rallying to defend the smart, sneaky coach.

SB Nation’s Andrew Sharp defended Calipari in a shockingly one-sided piece, saying that the NY Times was on a fishing expedition to nail Kentucky’s program in some way, shape, or form.

Regardless of the motivation behind the investigation, the Times found what it was looking for.

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Sharp believes that people dislike Calipari because he is so good at what he does—using any means necessary to repeatedly land the nation’s top players.

People dislike Calipari because he is a shyster. He has already gotten two schools in hot water, only to bolt to greener pastures before the NCAA handed out penalties. If he stays around Kentucky for too much longer, it stands to reason that history will repeat itself.

Calipari’s supporters say that he has never been named specifically in an NCAA investigation.

NCAA rules make it possible for programs in hot water to nail a fall guy—a young assistant coach who was simply following orders. It happened last week when UConn fired two assistants for recruiting violations.

Ultimately, the head coach is the face of the program. He oversees his assistants, sets the ethical standard, and has the final say on recruits. If violations happen under his watch, he should be held responsible.

Jim Calhoun can’t be touched for something he should have known about. Calipari hasn’t been touched, even though both UMass and Memphis have been forced to vacate a Final Four appearance thanks to violations that occurred under his less-than-watchful eye.

That brings us to the weakest argument of all: John Calipari had no idea rules violations were happening all around him.

Institutions have the ability to do extensive informal background checks on recruits, talking to coaches, teachers, family, and friends. The New York Times might not be able to access transcripts legally, but the University of Kentucky can.

Evidently Derrick Rose’s surprisingly respectable SAT score and odd high school transcript didn’t raise any red flags around Memphis.

Eric Bledsoe’s sudden academic success should have also been looked at with some degree of skepticism. Marcus Camby’s bling and shiny new rides should have raised some eyebrows.

But they didn’t.

If Calipari isn’t guilty of knowingly covering up multiple rules violations, he is without question guilty of extreme negligence. He continues to cement his legacy as a winner—and a cheat.

Some things never change.


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