University of Kentucky President Dr. Lee Todd has recently received much criticism from UK fans over his reaction to Matt Avery giving UK basketball coach Billy Gillispie a verbal commitment. After hearing of Avery's commitment, and his tender age, Dr. Todd asked, "8th grade?" Bewilderment would be the adjective I would choose to describe Todd's initial reaction; bewilderment that Gillispie and his crew of non-stop recruitiers were invading middle school gymnasiums scooping up ballers out of their mother's arms. Bewilderment that Gillispie couldn't find any players who are qualified to drive a motor vehicle.
Anger is the adjective I would use to describe UK fans reaction to Todd's words of non-support. Anger that the lowly President of the University would dare criticize our most excellent head basketball coach and his recruiting efforts. What Dr. Todd failed to realize, or didn't care about, was the fact that UK fans are as attuned to who says what, as it relates to UK basketball, as a mother is to the eating habits of her newborn child. We hear, read, and see everything. Nothing goes undissected, nothing goes uncommented on. Dr. Todd, who is a highly educated academic, is surely intelligent enough to realize his controversial words would create debate. Surely he cares what UK fans say and think
Well, we now know the truth. In an article by Jerry Tipton , Dr. Todd relates to us his reason for his well-reported first response, and why he is now aiding Gillispie in the recruitment of high school "undergraduates". It seems, like many of us, Dr. Todd spoke before he knew the whole story. He was uninformed of the facts of young Mr. Avery's "recruitment" when he uttered his now famous question. The context of the commitment was not fully understood by Todd, so therefore his words were spoken before he knew the circumstances. By the way, context and circumstances are key here.
My intention is not to condemn Dr. Todd, quite the contrary. I think he is to be applauded for being open-minded enough to listen to the facts surrounding Avery's "recruitment". He has altered his stance from disapproving to supportive because he is now in possession of all of the facts. I believe that Todd learned that Avery's father initiated contact with Gillispie, not vice-versa. I believe that Dr. Todd learned that Gillispie wasn't stalking middle schoolers. I believe that Todd learned that, like it or not, recruiting 8th and 9th graders is commonplace in today's hyper-competitive marketplace of college basketball.
Todd is now so accepting of the practice that he took the time to meet with UK recruit Vinny Zollo and a gaggle of his relatives. When the high school freshman took his visit to Kentucky earlier in the week, he and his family came away from the meeting very impressed with Dr. Todd's passion for UK basketball. Todd must have put on quite a show, because Robin Curry ( Zollo's mother ) raved about him in her interview with Marc Maggard.
Dr. Todd is so sold on the concept that when he heard his friend and sometimes confidant William Kirwan ( U. of Maryland chancellor ) denounce the recruitment of such youngsters as "appalling," Todd said "I will give him some of the circumstances and see if that adjusts his thoughts." He then added, "I can see why ( Kirwan ) reacted that way. But I look forward to talking to him and explaining things."
Todd, in a few short days, made the Evil Knievel leap from unapproving, to point man for UK in the raging debate over early-commitments. In Recruiting Re-Education 101 Dr. Todd gets an "A+".
The lesson to be learned from Todd's amazing turnaround in thinking is that often-times our first, knee-jerk reaction to any given issue can be wrong. I know I have been guilty of stating uneducated opinions that have been based on little, or inaccurate information. But it's not just us common-folk who knee-jerk react. The best and brightest of our esteemed news media have been responsible from time to time for putting out bad information: Anyone born before 1970 will surely remember the attempted assassination of President Reagan. The networks were full of mis-information for several hours after the shooting. Reporting first that Press Secretary James Brady was dead, then reporting that no, James Brady was alive. Only to come back again to tell us that Brady was indeed dead. Well, it turned out he was alive and continues to be alive to this day. The 2000 Presidential election network coverage teams made very public and embarrassing mistakes when they reported that Al Gore had won Florida. I could care less about ones political leanings, but the fact remains that they (the networks) got it wrong. They weren't in possession of all the facts before they "spoke", misinforming millions of people.
Huge mistakes have been made when people, or groups of people rush to judgment, and knee-jerk react to situations that instead call for measured words, and thoughtful consideration. Billy Gillispie's education of Dr. Todd can be a lesson for all of us. The context, circumstance, and intentions of someone's words or actions are very difficult to ascertain when one doesn't have the benefit of facts and truth. In my opinion, making determinations based on anything less is unwise and often-times harmful.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!