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Kentucky Wildcats: Whining About "All-Access Kentucky" Is Unbecoming

Complaints from Billy Donovan and others about the ESPN "All-Access" Kentucky show are misplaced.

Seriously, Billy D?
Seriously, Billy D?
Kevin C. Cox

You knew it would happen. I knew it would happen. Kentucky head coach John Calipari knew it would happen.

When Calipari agreed to allow ESPN to do a 3-part "All-Access" about the Kentucky basketball program, there were bound to be complaints about such an effort as an informercial for Kentucky basketball aimed right at what college coaches fear the most -- recruiting.

Comes now Billy Donovan, dean of SEC basketball coaches, with the complaint:

"I wouldn't want the disruption of our guys knowing there is something going on right now and how that would impact what we need to get done," the Florida coach said. "... I do think if you are using it as a recruiting tool, I don't think that's right. ... I wouldn't do it as a recruiting tool because you are in practice with players who are in our program right now, you are practicing with your guys."

First of all, let's get one thing straight -- even as a Kentucky partisan, I admire and respect Billy Donovan. A lot. He is an outstanding basketball coach and a very fine human being for whom I harbor absolutely no ill will. In fact, if Coach Cal were to leave tomorrow, I would have Billy Donovan at the top of my list of people to come to Kentucky and coach, just like I did back in 2007 when Tubby Smith left for Minnesota.

With that disclaimed, let me say that this is without a doubt one of the most unfortunate whines I have ever had the misfortune of reading from a coach I otherwise admire.

Neither Kentucky nor Calipari, it must be pointed out, had "All-Access Kentucky" under their belt when they landed the #1 recruiting class for the last 3 years. Even if we allow that UCLA has a reasonable claim to #1 this year, and I do, that changes nothing. It doesn't change the commitment of the Harrison twins, nor James Young, nor Marcus Lee, nor the possible commitment of the reclassified Andrew Wiggins.

Calipari doesn't need recruiting help -- Billy Donovan and the rest of College basketball do.

I have good news for Billy Donovan -- nobody's asking him, at least that I know of, to come in and distract his team with an "All-Access" program. In fact, if he's worried about distractions, a reasonable person would think he would be glad it's happening to Kentucky and not Florida, right? So where's the beef?

Then there is this:

Considering the Wildcats went forward with the project, it is clear that that it checked out okay. But while the program may not violate any rules, it certainly pushes the boundaries.

The ability to showcase top unsigned recruits in conjunction with Kentucky basketball is an advantage that no other program in the country has. Calipari is going to dominate in recruiting no matter what, but this is just another edge that he has over competitors.

This would be an argument, except it is completely self-defeating. Think about the logic of "Calipari is going to get these guys anyway, but it's still unfair." That is a complete non-sequitur. You can only have a functional advantage if you get an advantage you would not otherwise have that makes a difference. These two paragraphs explicitly point out that the show isn't likely to improve Kentucky's recruiting (as if that were actually possible), yet in the same breath declare that it gives Calipari "an edge." As Coach Cal might say, "What?"

As far as boundaries, I don't see how "All-Access Kentucky" is really pushing any, or breaking any new ground. Kentucky had similar shows back during the Billy Gillispie days, if I recall correctly, and nobody said boo. The inclusion of unsigned recruits (James Young is only verbally committed at this point) was a strange decision by ESPN. The program would arguably have been better without it, and I'm not sure why they chose to add it in. In any case, I don't think it made any difference to any other recruits who might be considering Kentucky.

Honestly, I don't mind the whining, although I'd rather hoped it would come from somebody other than Donovan, whom I respect and admire. But I think, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, we all knew it would happen. I'm mostly just disappointed in the direction it came from.