We've talked about this at some length. I, and others, have expressed significant discomfort with having more players offered scholarships than scholarships available, and effectively having to persuade some of the excess players to see their way clear to move to another school.
Seth Davis has what I consider to be an important piece today that addresses this situation and and explained a number of the more troubling aspects. For example, scholarships used to be for four years prior to 1972, but that changed. Why? Well:
[NCAA President Miles] Brand also expressed a willingness to reconsider the rule requiring schools to keep scholarship agreements to one year. Scholarship agreements used to be for four years, but that was changed in 1972. (When I asked a veteran basketball coach why that rule was changed, he said, "Because football coaches wanted to run more players off.") "There's something to be said for the argument that we should have longer scholarships," Brand said. "That issue keeps coming up and we keep putting it under review, but maybe it's time to look at it again." [Emphasis mine]
I can't speak to the veracity of the college coach Davis asked the question to, but I can make the point that no matter what the rationale for changing the rule, it is clear that it was not made with the student-athlete's best interests at heart. That doesn't mean that Calipari's honesty with the players is necessarily bad -- it isn't. Nobody would argue that it is better for a player to gather splinters on the bench than to play.
Still, there is a perception here that coaches are essentially waiving players that don't measure up. Calipari rightfully resents that argument:
Not surprisingly, Calipari takes umbrage at the suggestion that he is running off players at Kentucky. "There are guys here who are just not going to be able to play the way we play, and they're better suited to go somewhere else," Calipari said. "I don't want a kid who thinks he can be a professional not playing in February and looking at me like I'm screwing him. If you know kids are not going to play, you tell them."
No matter where you stand on the issue, Calipari is surely right -- there are situations, and UK this year is one of them, where the players who are leaving would have been sitting and not playing, with the arguable exception of Matt Pilgrim. But even if that is true, that would not be the case if Calipari had not over-promised scholarships. Yes, that means that we would likely have had to pass on the combination of Bledsoe, Dodson, Cousins and Wall. But it is hard to argue with Brian Cook's reasoning when he took issue earlier this year with my post on the subject, and frankly got it more right than I did:
He [meaning me] excuses this behavior in two ways: blaming the athletic director for letting it happen and citing the massive contract Calipari signed, which "demands immediate results."
Why? It doesn't, of course. It demands eventual results, or at least it would if anyone at Kentucky gave a tenth of a crap about the players currently on the team.
He's right, you know -- Calipari could have made do for a year with the players we had, and brought in more great players next year when all sorts of scholarships would have opened up. It wouldn't have been the end of the world for UK basketball -- we have suffered for four years, and I have no doubt that Coach Cal could have substantially improved our fortunes even without the likes of Bledsoe, Dodson and Cousins. We would have needed either Wall or Bledsoe, but you see my point -- we could have done well even without the shock and awe of the best recruiting class in many years, maybe ever.
Do I mind being taken to task on this issue? No. I don't like players being put into this situation any more than Cook does, but as I have said and still maintain, I will not become a scold of our new coach this early on no matter how compelling the argument on this particular point. Circumstances may not have been chaotic enough for a Michigan fan like Cook to be willing to overlook this unpleasant reality, but I am a fan of Kentucky, and it takes less transitional difficulty for me to excuse unpleasantness than it does from a relatively disinterested third party, at least as a one-time event. Yes, I know other coaches have done this in the past at UK and elsewhere, but that is nothing more than the Golden Rationalization at work, i.e. it's okay because others are doing it.
Fortunately, Davis points out in his article that the conference commissioners are taking a stand against this practice, particularly the SEC. The newly formed ethics group of the NABC is also concerned about the practice. It isn't okay, at least not by me, and I am glad to see the SEC and the NABC beginning to take notice. We all know that this effective wavier of players is far more pervasive in football than basketball, but that does not mean that we should ignore it when it happens in either sport.
Finally, Davis takes aim at the National Letter of Intent program:
The NLI explicitly states a coaching change is not a reason for a player to be released from his obligation. Yes, schools often release players anyway when those situations arise, but why should they even have that option in the first place?
That's a good question. The NLOI program has been rendered moot by the fact that most coaches don't want to be seen as forcing a player to stay where he doesn't want to be. Why keep up the pretense? Just do away with the practice altogether -- it isn't enforced anyway, except rarely, and it never ends well when it is.
And now, for the news:
UK Basketball News
Doron Lamb and Mychal Parker -- the first 2010 domino to fall?
Doron Lamb and Mychal Parker are both said to be on unofficial visits this week. I think it's likely that one of these two are likely to be the first to commit to UK for the 2010 class.
A Chinese Shooting Guard to Replace Jodie Meeks?
Heh. Well, why not speculate? Nothing else to do around here right now.
UK Football News
Hope and concern: Kentucky
Chris Low continues to do great work, and he gets UK exactly right.
Jarmon focused on preparing for supplemental draft
Good luck to Jeremy. We wish you were in Blue and White this year.
Other UK Sports News
Sawyer Carroll Named Midwest League All-Star Game MVP
Congratulations to Carroll. UK baseball continues to make an impact on professional baseball.
NCAA Sports News
Trouble Still Shadows College Hoops
"And the thing that really concerns me is that among top 100 programs, I believe if you asked coaches, there’d be a pretty strong consensus around 10 that are not in substantial compliance. And there might be another 15 that people really suspect are not in substantial compliance."
This quote is disturbing not for it's allegation, but for the fact that it is literally pregnant with specious nonsense. Just because there are programs at the top that may not be in compliance does not impute that activity to every one of them. And asking coaches on the outside looking in is a sure way to guarantee a fait accompli.
Was there more trouble at Georgia last year than we knew about?
Did Mark Richt throw Stafford and Moreno under the bus? Team Speed Kills looks at this burning question, among a few others. Lane Kiffin continues his almost unbroken string of appearances in Sprints.
Other News of Interest
Latest Rondo Rumor: Memphis - CelticsBlog
Celticsblog does not want to believe Rajon Rondo is on the trading block, and sees this as another potential step back. Danny Ainge is publicly downplaying any rumors of relationship issues between Rondo and the coaching staff. Read all about it at the above link.
Good for her. To her opponents -- shut up and play. Get some ear protection or something. A Sea of Blue is a no-whining zone.
The Daily Schadenfreude
Elliot Williams leaving Duke to transfer closer to home
Ouch. This used to be what happened to Kentucky, but it has been happening more and more at Duke recently.