Kentucky Basketball: Once Again, Into the Breach

Word out of Memphis today is that the NCAA will strip Memphis of the entire 2007-08 season.  That's right, in an ever-expanding tradition of doing the pointless under the notion of egalitarian fairness, the NCAA will pretend like Memphis' glorious 2007-08 season never happened, and that Kansas' NCAA tournament was won by forfeit.

That's wrong.  Period.  Here's why:

  1. The NCAA never proved by any reasonable standard that the unnamed player (allegedly Derrick Rose) did not take his test.  It is frankly un-American for a person to be effectively convicted of wrongdoing without, at minimum, clear and convincing evidence.  From what I know, the evidence the NCAA presented did not meet that standard.  Not only that, the NCAA cleared every one of Memphis' athletes through their clearing house.  Are we now to assume that the NCAA has no responsibility for any error they make?  That seems to be the lesson here.

  2. How unfair is it to Kansas to taint their championship in this way?  I understand the concept that cheaters should not benefit from their wrongdoing -- that is just and right.  But before you go ripping away all a team's credibility, you should darn sure be certain, with unambiguous and undeniable preponderance of the evidence, that you are doing the right thing.  The NCAA can't do that, but apparently they don't really care.

    As to Kansas?  Well, boys, that great last-second comeback just never happened.  Miracle Mario's shot will forever be meaningless, because Memphis wasn't really there to defend him.  Memphis never should have been there, they will say, and a truly deserving team would surely have beaten you.  Your championship will have an asterisk by it, an asterisk you don't deserve.

  3. This is the entire punishment, apparently, for Memphis.  No scholarship loss, no nothing.  Just a determination that an ineligible player played (a determination apparently lacking significant proof), and a forfeit of games on that basis.  No blame for Memphis except for the fact that Rose's brother failed to timely reimburse the school for some expenses, and even that creates no real punishment.

More after the jump.

In my opinion, this NCAA decision is truly worthy of the Hall of Shame, because failing some significant revelations hereforto unknown in the final report, this looks like a railroad job from start to finish.

Did Derrick Rose take his test?  He claims, repeatedly, that he did nothing wrong, which presumably would include defrauding the NCAA and the testing service by allowing a stand-in to take his test for him.  He also claims that he took the test.  So we have the word of Rose versus a test score that was not thought to be invalid until long after the season began, presumably a priority fo the NCAA Clearinghouse.  But the NCAA apparently thinks it's responsibility in this fiasco aught to be limited to judge, jury and executioner, and the failure of their so-called experts at catching alleged cheating is like the U.S. Government when an IRS agent gives you wrong tax advice -- they are not on the hook for anything, and you can tell it to the judge.

At the end of the day, this is something that aught to outrage everyone.  If Rose or anyone else is proved guilty of defrauding the NCAA or the school, the athlete should be prosecuted, not get away scot-free.  It is against the law in every state in the Union to present a fraudulent test score in order to obtain monetary or in-kind benefit.  In fact, doing so across state lines as has been alleged in this case is mail fraud, and if Rose actually did what he is accused of by the NCAA, Patrick Fitzgerald should be empaneling a grand jury right now to investigate.  The problem is, its easier to blame Memphis, even when it seems the school could not reasonably have known about the alleged fraud -- it even fooled the NCAA's so-called experts, quite possibly because as far as we all know, it never actually happened.

I feel for Memphis, as they did not deserve this.  It is, based on the facts am aware of, wrong, unjust and based on insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.  It also ignores the real problem, if there actually is one -- the bad behavior of a player, and punishes an institution who, as far as I can tell, could not have reasonably been aware of the misbehavior.

Finally, I come down to this article by Geoff Calkins, who rakes John Calipari over the coals:

But as much as they might like to pretend otherwise in Lexington, this is less about the basketball program at Memphis than it is about its former coach.

Just look at the penalties as they’re doled out today. That’s all you need to do.

Memphis won’t get banned from television or the NCAA Tournament. Memphis won’t lose any scholarships.

The Memphis basketball program under first-year coach Josh Pastner won’t be affected as it goes forward.

The Memphis basketball program under Calipari?

Whack.

Whack.

Whack.

And, yes, I know, Calipari won’t be implicated in the report. That’s part of the genius of the man.

You know, when I started out this article, I intended to really blast this guy.  But after thinking about it, all this is is plain sour grapes designed to appeal to a justifiably unhappy audience.  Being mad at the NCAA is just not good enough, because quite frankly, they are supposed to be the good guys even when they are screwing you.

But Calipari, on the other hand, has all sorts of circumstances to pick on.  Not only that, he abandoned Memphis for the greener pastures, and is a really, super-convenient place to put all the blame and anger.  He is a much less sympathetic figure than the NCAA in this particular case, plus it's always nice to hate the coach who just ran off with a much prettier, sexier program.

In the end, I think I'll just embrace the hate.  Hope you feel better for having written that, Geoff, and we'll look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis, where you can write more nasty stuff about Calipari as we march toward our eighth national championship.  I look forward to your work, and the article bemoaning the fact that you got yours stripped and we didn't.  Maybe then, you'll place the blame where it properly belongs.  But I'm not going to hold my breath.

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