CBS Sports' question to their "nearly 100" college coaches today was: "Who is perceived to be the biggest cheater in the sport?" The answers were not surprising, but they were revealing.
John Calipari and Scott Drew were nearly tied with 36 and 34% respectively. I have rarely seen an article disclaimed as much as Gary Parrish does this one:
Let me start by making one thing clear -- that we at CBSSports.com are not calling anybody a cheater. We worded the question carefully and specifically for a reason, because it's unfair to call anybody a cheater without proof. So please don't tell your friends that "CBSSports.com called John Calipari and Scott Drew cheaters," because we've actually done nothing of the sort.
What we did is ask a bunch of coaches to tell us who they "perceive" as the sport's biggest cheater.
It's difficult to say whether these men's appearances in our poll is a result of cheating or of them achieving things in recruiting others simply do not believe they ought to be achieving. Either way, jealously and petty differences likely play a role, and it's probably important to remember that, too. What's also important to remember is that this poll is in no way, shape or form an indictment of anybody, and that nobody is getting a postseason ban. This poll is merely a reflection of the mostly unsubstantiated opinions of a bunch of men who should know college basketball better than anybody else knows college basketball. So, like I wrote before, take it for what it's worth, for what it is.
For what it's worth, this was a fair but overboard disclaimer. They would have been perfectly within their rights as journalists to use half this much space. The first paragraph was more than enough.
The problem is, though, what do you say after that? Do you blast Cal and Drew, signing on to the idea that these guys not only "should know college basketball better than anybody else," or do you back away from the result like it's more radioactive than the bottom of the Chernobyl wreckage? Parish chose the latter, and that's smart. Given the revelations yesterday by Jeff Goodman that he believes Calipari tried to get him fired, and the subsequent furious backpedaling on Twitter today, one can only wonder what wold have happened if he were writing the article instead of Parrish.
I know that no Kentucky fans will be surprised to learn that the coaches believe that Calipari is perceived to be a cheater -- there in no doubt whatever he is perceived that way, and that perception is only reinforced with every #1 recruiting class he lands.
But as easy as it is to blame the coaches who participated, let me suggest we back up a bit and put ourselves in their situation. Suppose you are a coach at, say, Oregon, which is a quality Pac 12 school with a lot to offer any athlete. How do you explain losing two top-25 recruits to the Kentucky Wildcats, Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer, out of your back yard without so much as a fair-thee-well to a school half a continent away? Do you admit that you are incompetent and can't sell a quality public university to two gullible schoolboys from your home state? Not if you want to keep your job.
No, you have to convince yourself that the coach that landed those guys must be cheating, because, by God, there is no damn way he is better than you. Multiply that sentiment times 100 and voilà!
We can't blame any of these guys for saying this, because they darn well had better believe it, or they'll be looking for work sooner rather than later. When coaches decide that they can't compete with another coach because the other coach is simply a better recruiter, do you think it is in their best interests to acknowledge that? No, because it makes them look incompetent and ineffective, and if you are pulling down high six figures or more per year, you can't afford to ever look incompetent and ineffective. Besides, you know you are competent and effective, even if you really aren't. So the other guy is cheating, ipso facto.
Calipari and Drew are particularly easy targets. Drew is young and cocky, and Calipari is older and cocky. That whole "cocky" thing has a lot more to do with this outcome, along with the success, than anything else. It's easy to dislike a cocky guy, and even easier to think he's up to something shady.
So I'm not blasting CBS, or Parrish, or anybody else. Parrish is fishing for links, and this time of year, we all do that, so I can hardly blame him for it. The result was so predictable that anything else would have been real, almost earth-shaking news. What if Tom Izzo had been fingered as #1 or 2? That, my friends, would have been a story.
This is not. But hey, it's something to talk about.