First of all, I want to recognize the outstanding job done by BlueBloodedCatFan in finding and commenting on this story. So we shall begin this post by reposting BBCF's FanPost in its entirety:
I know this has been talked about at length on this site, but this article came out yesterday. Dick Vitale is amazing
He can flat-out recruit … he's a salesman deluxe, baby! You'd better believe his reputation helps as players have an incredible desire to compete for him. It is a great asset in the recruiting wars.
While I won't argue against that statement, this is what got me riled up
Recently he received a verbal commitment from Doc Rivers' son, Austin, to attend Florida. That's right, the same Doc Rivers who stood tall with the gold trophy as the Celtics responded from a disastrous season in 2006-07 to capture the NBA championship in 2007-08! Austin, at age 15, is a future PTPer.
He goes on to say
It is a win-win situation for the Gators, the Rivers family, and a young man who gets to play for a coach that relates well to the modern-day athlete.
Here is what he had to say about Avery
I'll tell you what is next. We are going to have some coach looking at a great athlete who just produced a child. The coach can go to the nursery, check out a true diaper dandy, look at the size of his feet and offer him a scholarship! Yes, I am just kidding, but you have to wonder to what lengths people will go to recruit!
Think about what can happen for an eighth grader between now and college. It is five years, but the kid has lock city with a firm offer of a scholarship. Gillispie made the offer, but I don't think it is healthy and good for college basketball.
And concludes with this
Kentucky got a lot of headlines out of the Avery story. The bottom line is that this is not good for the game.
Once again, another biased article at ESPN. Didn't that NABC ask coaches not to do this? A little less than 2 weeks later, Billy Donovan spits in their eye. wasn't it just a few weeks ago Kentucky caught so much grief after accepting a commitment from a 15 year old Michael Avery? A little Biased here don't you think? Serious, why is Gillispie the sinful one that is now making the NCAA thinking about changing the rules, and the other Billy praised as the golden child?
BlueBloodedCatFan has it exactly right. Dick Vitale essentially accused Gillispie of conduct detrimental to college basketball, which in my judgment book is the same thing as calling his ethics into question. Yet in his most recent article, Vitale praises Billy Donovan for the EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR.
Taken in isolation, this would just make Vitale guilty of either blatant hypocrisy or simple cluelessness that the two young men were exactly the same age (15 years old). The fact that Avery is one grade behind Rivers is utterly irrelevant, and any attempt to explain otherwise is a complete abdication of logic and reason.
As I pontificated in this earlier post, nowhere in America do we base a judgment of majority or experience on the grade one attained in school -- middle, high, college or post-graduate. One is presumed to have attained the necessary life experience to do most things at 18 years, and virtually everything including vice at 21 years (except run for a Senate seat or the Presidency -- that minimum is 35 and there is no required educational attainment). In other words, if there is a 21 year-old high school sophomore out there, he can get just as drunk as a skunk without any reasonable fear of opprobrium.
So it is also with Michael Avery, and with Austin Rivers. The two young men are the same age, and have had the same amount of time to accumulate knowledge and experience. If it is unethical or harmful for Gillispie to recruit a 15-year old, ad oculos, it is equally harmful for Donovan to do so.
If that were the end of it, we could say that perhaps Vitale was merely guilty of a failure to do proper research. We all make mistakes -- I recently mistakenly identified Sylvester Croom as the head coach of Ole Miss rather than Mississippi State -- and usually, all that should be expected of such an error is to note it to your readers and apologize to those offended.
Unfortunately, Dick Vitale has made the unforgiveable additional mistake of praising Donovan's actions even after the NABC "strongly dissapproved" of accepting commitments from recruits as young as Avery and Rivers. Vitale is not only guilty of moral relativism and hypocrisy, he completely failed to issue even the mildest reproof to Donovan for ignoring the NABC, something Gillispie did not do. It's careless, but understandable, if Vitale didn't know that Avery was the same age as Rivers. It is incomprehensible that he forgot about the NABC disapproval of the practice.
How can Vitale recover from this cataclysmic faux pas? I have no idea. Kentucky fans are not going to forgive him for looking incredibly biased and hypocritical. Certainly an apology would be a fine place to start, and if he abases himself sufficiently for his abject tomfoolery, I'll probably forgive him.
But I have a feeling I may well be in the minority. This one looks like a bridge too far for most in the Big Blue Nation.
UPDATE 05:53 PM:
I just found this:
In 2000, Vitale was recognized with the NABC Cliff Wells Appreciation Award for outstanding service to the college basketball coaching community and college basketball in general.
I wonder if, given Vitale's snub, the NABC will be wanting this back. :-)
UPDATE Saturday, July 12 2008 12:29 AM: Darell Cartwright at Scout.com has a few thoughts about Vitale -- pretty much along the same lines as ours.