The TMZ Blog is reporting that the NCAA is taking an "aggressive look" at four UK players, two current players and two recent NBA draftees. The reported investigation allegedly centers around the possibility that these four kids had relationships with professional agents before they came to Kentucky.
According to a source who was interviewed by an NCAA investigator, the agency is interested in at least four players -- two current and two who were just drafted by NBA teams.
I cannot confirm this "investigation" with anyone, and neither can TMZ, apparently. This report hinges on one person who was allegedly interviewed by the NCAA to whom the NCAA investigator revealed the entire scope of the probe. If that sounds a bit suspicious, it does to me as well. Something along these lines has been whispered for months and leaked out in various ways and from various places, but TMZ's high profile requires me to take this seriously enough to mention it. Trust me, it will be mentioned by everyone else in the sports world, so we can't hide from it.
If there really is such an investigation, it will not be long before major news sources confirm it. As of now, I am classifying this as rumor # 1,254,546. One part that makes this seem less than credible is the idea that there are two Kentucky players currently on the team who have had contact with an agent. I can think of one that may have, but that's all. So it does make me wonder about the credibility of this report, not to mention the fact that TMZ isn't exactly in the sports reporting business. But it would not be the first time they managed to scoop the New York Times, SI or ESPN, because they don't confirm their rumors before reporting them, and sometimes the rumors are right.
On a broader note, I think this points up a potential pitfall with Calipari's high-profile recruiting, and the importance of investigating any such potential contacts with agents as thoroughly as possible. Calipari has effectively announced to the world that he will recruit "one and dones" every year, and these kids may hear that as carte blanche to begin preparing their entry into the draft as early as possible. In other words, his recruiting strategy could actually encourage this sort of activity. It could also encourage the NCAA to be especially aggressive toward Kentucky basketball.
I think it's very important that Calipari send a clear message that dalliances with agents will absolutely not be tolerated at Kentucky -- see Reggie Bush and his pre-USC plans for the reasons why. These kids need to know that if you are going to play here, your record with agents pre-college had better be pristine, and Calipari is recruiting well enough that he should be able to make that demand without losing his ability to land five star after five star. The NCAA is definitely going to investigate this issue not just at Kentucky but elsewhere, and Kentucky is a logical starting place considering what we just saw in the NBA draft.
So, my fellow members of the Big Blue Nation, be assured that even if this report is wrong, and this is not actually happening, it surely will eventually. It is just a matter of time. It is the price every school pays for recruiting at the very highest level. I recommend that Kentucky also invest in a substantial increase in the compliance staff if they have not already -- remember, a very small compliance staff was another thing that got USC in such a bind.