UK Basketball: Every Rose has its Thorn

I know, I have been quiet lately. 

With all the talk of SAT's, John Calipari's substandard standardized testing oversight, Derrick Rose and the mystery man, free pizza pies, Billy Clyde's lawsuit and UK's counter-action, along with the vilification of UK and UK fans, I've been trying to wrap my size three brain around what all this means.

The MEDIA'S initial reaction to the bogus SAT test of (presumably) Derrick Rose was that of condemnation of Calipari, and to a similar extent, UK for hiring Calipari.  This, I will never understand.  More on that later.

Then folks began to actually absorb (and think for more than five seconds about) the events that unfolded involving the questionable SAT score, and suddenly national media figures (Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale) surprisingly came to the aid of UK's beleaguered head coach. 

All the while, ESPN.com's Pat Forde is writing that UK fans don't care if their coach cheats, as long as he wins.

A lot to take in for a simple blogger.

But, I will at least attempt to make sense, of all this nonsense.  Beginning with ...

Billy Gillispie and his Money

I'm no legal scholar, but it seems to me that Gillispie, and UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart operated under the Memorandum of Understanding as if it were a contract.  In fact, Gillispie's attorney claims that UK enforced the MOU when they forbid Gillispie from signing an endorsement deal with a company in Texas.  If that can be proved, then UK better be prepared to pony-up some cabbage.

But more importantly than the legal claims of either side, is the fact that UK owes Gillispie the money: Am I to believe that UK President Lee Todd and Barnhart allowed Gillispie to coach for two years without benefit of a contract, regardless of the name of the document?  No sale!  Merely the fact that Gillispie was remitted a paycheck represents an execution of the contract. 

Of course, all of the maneuvering we've witnessed over the last week or so could also be negotiating ploys, by both parties.  Neither UK nor Gillispie wants an expensive, protracted legal battle.  It's simply bad publicity for the school and the coach.

Pay him his money, or some reasonable amount, and be done with it!  I'm betting Clyde would be delirious with say, four million or so.

Calipari and the SAT's

How a coach is supposed to monitor the testing of all his prospective players will always remain a mystery to me.  And how the NCAA can blame anyone but themselves, is one for the Scooby Doo crew.

For media members, fans, whoever, to place blame at Cal's doorstep for this apparent infraction is akin to blaming Tubby Smith for Joe Bologna's transgressions.  There is no connection.

There should not be any consequences for Memphis or Calipari, for the blame lies squarely with the athlete and ...  

... the NCAA -- They're the ones who validate the prospective athlete's scores!  The NCAA Clearinghouse told Memphis that (presumably) Derrick Rose was eligible.  End of story.

I wonder if they have an ample supply of mirrors up in Indy?

Now, on to more important matters ...

Joe Bologna and Pat Forde

These two go together like a hand into an Isotoner.

Last week I was so incensed at Forde's article portraying UK fans as a win-at-all-cost group hillbillies, that I began writing a post refuting his claim.  After finishing about three-fourths of the piece, I decided that it 'wasn't working.'

It 'wasn't working' because Forde is right, rather, it 'wasn't working' because it is difficult to disprove his theory: I have no hard data that suggests that UK fans don't desire their coach to cheat; there have been no studies completed, there are no reference books.

All I have is my own experience.  And I didn't think that was enough.

Thank God!

Because, less than a week later imagine my surprise when I learned of Joe Bologna's illegal "charitable contributions" to UK athletes.  Now, I'm not suggesting that Mr. Bologna's multiple mistakes improved UK's chances at winning on the court, or gave them a recruiting advantage.  No, it's his mindset that matters to me:

"I know it's not within the rules, but I'm going to do it anyway."

The same mindset that has gotten UK into trouble in the past.  The heavy-handshakes, the "jobs," Emery, Eric Manuel.  Whether a coach, booster, or misguided business owner, there seems to exist within the Kentucky fan subculture an unscrupulous sect of rule-breakers that are hell bent on bringing us all down (not that the UK fan-base is any different than any other big time college fan-base), whether intentional or not.

"Managing" the sect is the key to happiness, and more importantly, to no violations.  Rick Pitino clearly recognized that requirement, and thankfully, he acted.  Separating the 'people most likely to corrupt,' from the players.  Probably Pitino's best off-court move in his eight years at UK.

But what Forde fails to understand is that ...

It Ain't Everybody

Surely he must realize that not all Kentucky fans, or even a significant number of fans, wish our coach, or anyone related to the program, to cheat.  Collectively, we have an overwhelming emotional investment in the program.  The last thing we want is to see it razed, as it was in the early 50's, and again in the late '80's.

What Forde seemingly doesn't comprehend is that from the time that most of us were pre-adolescent we worshiped at the altar of UK basketball.  We've rejoiced, and died with the team.  We've endured heart-ache, and disappointment.  We've been to the mountain top.  We've ruled the world.  And because of this common 'combat' experience, the team has been relegated to 'immediate family' status.  And no one ever wants to see family get hurt.

Mention the word "Emery" and watch UK fan duck for cover.  All 'Emery' brings to mind are bad, sad times.  Times that no one wants to relive.  Not any sane "no one," anyway.

Perhaps Pat should conduct a survey in Kentucky to convince himself that not all UK fans are neer-do-wells.  The question -- What do you think of Eddie Sutton?  A. He nearly destroyed the basketball program, I despise him.  B. He nearly destroyed the basketball program, I love him.  C. He's misunderstood.

Which answer wins that poll, Pat?

You see Pat, most UK fans like their 'Cats trouble-free: Free of scandal, free of fraud, free of probation, free of limited scholarships, and finally, free of the garbage spewed by some, in the general direction of Lexington whenever something untoward happens ... or not.   

We want our team to win, but win with class and dignity.  And winning with class and dignity demands the program remain clean. 

Finally, please don't make the mistake of confusing the average UK fan, with those who hurt the program with their misdeeds.  The average fan fills the rafters of Rupp, and the bowl that is Commonwealth.  We fill the air-waves with complaints, and jubilation.  We buy UK gear, and teach our kids the UK cheer.  We drive to the highest peak in town to listen to Tom Leach and Mike Pratt, and before them Cawood and Claude Sullivan.     

And yes Mr. Forde, the average UK fan wants to win championships, but you can't win championships if you're on probation.

Surely you recognize that every rose has its thorn.

Happy Birthday

I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to my sister Wendy, her husband Travis, and their daughter Mallory.  Must be something in the air in October.

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!

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