Kentucky Basketball: Catching Up With the NCAA Question

So is there an investigation, or isn't there?  You aren't going to find out in this article, unfortunately.

But the news media and bloggers are chattering, and as usual, A Sea of Blue will try to take a look a the tea leaves and see if we can divine anything meaningful.

First, Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal.  Unlike some recent Bozich pieces which have been dubious at best, this one actually makes sense:

We don't have the who, what, where or when. I'll take a crack at the why.

Because TMZ is making a push past entertainment, politics and fashion into sports news and gossip. Because it has never been bashful about dressing up a minimum of details beneath a sexy headline.

I think this is right.  TMZ is likely trying to branch out, via it's Tiger Woods bimbo eruptions and Tiny Gallon revelations into high profile sports figures, including college sports programs.  Gossip sites like TMZ are unquestionably unethical in the way they do business, and too often their "thinly-sourced" allegations turn out to be false.  Every time they are somebody gets hurt, but it isn't TMZ.

But like most people who trade in rumors and innuendo, they get it right, too.  Every time they do, it enhances their credibility and forces us to consider every single thing they write as having a grain of truth in it. That's why A Sea of Blue and other sites are forced to deal with TMZ's claims -- we can't just ignore them because their track record proves that can be very dangerous.

Would the world be better off without sites like TMZ spreading gossip?  Unquestionably, but the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has a sharp edge on both sides.  More after the jump.

John Clay takes the pragmatic view, and echoes A Sea of Blue's earlier comment:

Truth be told, the NCAA asks questions of a lot of people. If you are Kentucky, with Calipari as coach, with numerous NBA-ready, agent-attracting players, the compliance branch in Indianapolis is going to take an interest.

This is indisputably true, which just amplifies the common-sense concept that almost every Kentucky fan has had from the day John Calipari signed on the dotted line -- spare no effort in compliance matters. As I said here, the NCAA is going to investigate Kentucky just because there are so many high-profile athletes coming here, and the high-profile athletes are the ones most likely to draw flies.

This needs to happen not because of any history Calipari has in questionable recruiting.  Despite what you read from the ill-informed on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, John Calipari has never implicated in any way in a recruiting violation.  Both times Calipari has been at ground zero of NCAA difficulties, it has been about players retroactively being declared ineligible for one or more games due to actions by the player that Calipari had no way to know about or suspect.

However, Calipari is now a celebrity coach at a celebrity program, so it seems obvious to even the most casual observer that UK will be scrutinized closely by the NCAA, the media, the psuedo-media, gossip sites and blogs.  That should not worry us, because if it does, we should stop doing what we are doing and go back to recruiting "safe" players outside the top 25, lower our profile, and settle for less in terms of Final Four appearances and NCAA championships.

WAVE 3, the Louisville NBC affiliate, interviewed Louisville lawyer Jim Ellis for a story about the TMZ report:

"The fact that a UK player former or present talked to an agent is not illegal," said Ellis.

That's true, of course.  What would be illegal is if a player promised, either verbally or in writing, to have a relationship with the agent after his time in college.  That's unquestionably what TMZ's source is alleging, and Sports by Brooks claims at least one of the players is John Wall and his relationship with Brian Clifton.  Despite SbB's claims, I am confident this relationship has already been fully investigated by the NCAA.  Wall had to repay some money and sit out a game early in the season due to this issue.  It wouldn't be unlike the NCAA to follow up, but I don't think there is any "there" there.

Finally, we have Alan Cutler, who jumps to what I consider to be some unreasonable conclusions:

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out TMZ is talking about John Wall and his former AAU coach Brian Clifton who is now part of Wall's team now that he's moved on to the NBA.

The other player is obviously Eric Bledsoe whose high school grades are being looked at by a law firm in Birmingham.

John Wall isn't that much of a leap, of course, but the questions surrounding Bledsoe had nothing to do with an agent and everything to do with grades.  I don't think Cutler's conclusion here is as obvious as he thinks it is.

Further, Cutler places the current Kentucky recruiting class as the "current players" that TMZ's site refers to.  I think this is mistaken, also, especially since the 2010 recruiting class clearly are a separate group until they suit up for Kentucky.  It isn't impossible that this is what TMZ meant, but it does seem unlikely to me that their "source" would be so undiscriminating.

So where are we?   Well, right back where we were -- a bunch of speculation, but no facts yet.

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