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More On Calipari To Kentucky

There's a kabuki dance of sorts that happens when a school hires a guy who is either damaged goods or who has a shady rep.  The A.D. and the president rush to assure supporters that their new coach is either misunderstood, or reformed, or both, and that they've left no stone unturned to assure that he has integrity.

DBR translation:  we're sick and frickin' (thanks Roy) of losing and of our alums bitching. So hire the guy and hope for the best.  To an extent, that's what's happened at Kentucky, where John Calipari is the new coach, and where brinksmanship may be redefined.

When Eddie Sutton met Emory and destroyed a program of historic stature, Kentucky was really lucky to get Rick Pitino.  The guy did a tremendous job of getting things back together, and of introducing some level of character to the wackiest school in the Situational Ethics Conference, aka S.E.C.

And Kentucky backed it up otherwise, introducing a zero tolerance alcohol policy after a few embarrassing incidents.  But over time, things have slipped.  Tubby Smith, an admirable coach and very decent man, was run off for not winning enough.  There was a sexual assault charge which ended with the woman feeling victimized and harassed, and a couple of what we called Kentucky Kar Kapers, including one player who was found with some questionable (NCAA wise) material in his car and another woman who was "encouraged" to drop her case.

And now, the zero tolerance policy is basically toast, Pitino and Smith are gone, not to mention C.M. Newton, and the rakish Billy Gillispie who was actually celebrated for his rough edges until he started underperforming, is gone too.

And so now it's John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats, a perfect match of the man and the moment.

As the stench from the AAU world grows worse, and as Kentucky fans grow more honest in admitting they'd be okay with cutting corners if it meant not being stuck in the NIT,  who better than Calipari to slip behind the wheel of the big blue roadster?  Kentucky is now in a position to lead college basketball over the cliff. A big-time tsunami of money has long since washed over college basketball, and pro ball too for that matter.  Everyone is angling for a share, which is perfectly understandable, and most of all by the kids themselves.  We don't completely buy the argument that colleges are simply exploiting athletes - as Phil Henderson said long ago, Duke exploited him, but he exploited Duke right back - but at places like Memphis, which has historically not done well at graduating basketball players, or UConn or Maryland, which both have abysmal graduation rates, you can see the argument.

With thousands upon thousands of athletes, though, you can see the NCAA's dilemma.  Even the fat CBS contract can't pay every student athlete, and you can believe that if they tried to pay just revenue sports participants they'd be sued under Ford Field.

So it's tough.  You can't wash money out. Perhaps what they could do is to peg it somehow to academic performance, which would not discriminate against women or participants in Olympic sports and which might have the added benefit of really encouraging academic effort.  So while a pedestrian (or worse) athlete like, say, Charles Shackleford could get pocket money, a guy like FSU's Myron Rolle could rack up enough money to, say, pay for a year or two of medical school.

Who knows.  But it's pretty clear where the current system is heading, and given the mania of Kentucky fans, Calipari is the perfect guy to give the keys to.

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