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Kentucky Basketball and the Fairness Doctrine

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While Kentucky football coach has the Louisville Courier Journal’s Adam Himmelsbach as a moral authority, Kentucky basketball’s head coach John Calipari has his own moral authority in the form of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton.

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You know you're reaching a level of success when the "local" media take potshots at your program(s). Last week, it was Adam Himmelsbach's deep "concern" for the state of the Kentucky football program. This week, Jerry Tipton chose to take a shot at John Calipari, UK basketball and ESPN over the "fairness" of ESPN televising the Bahama's tour and the NBA Combine held in Lexington.

While Himmelsbach hit Stoops for the way he handles discipline, Tipton hits on the concept of fairness. He maintains that Kentucky gains an "unfair" advantage when ESPN televises UK off-season events. The fact is that it is an "unfair" advantage. So what? Who said life was fair? What is fair, however, every team in the country could have invested the amount of money in basketball that Kentucky has. Every team in the country could have hired John Calipari if the money was right for him and the school (whoever that might be) gave him the same leeway that Kentucky has given him.

In my opinion, Kentucky went many years thinking it was only "fair" to have a crappy football program because of the basketball program's success. While that may or may not have been the actual case, the UK football fan base never felt that way. They always rejected such an idea of fairness. It didn't take long after Kentucky made the decision to support football for the snakes to crawl out from under the rocks. The fear is that Kentucky football might, some day, reach a level of success not seen before. Considering Kentucky's basketball tradition, it wouldn't be fair for football to go into a mode of excellence. So far, Kentucky's women's program and Matthew Mitchell haven't drawn the attention of the "fairness" crowd. If Mitchell continues building the women's program, look out.

What Tipton fails to realize is that the lack of fairness in life is the engine that sparks innovation, and it is innovation that drives success. The fact is, only Duke with their nine McDonald's All-Americans could've pulled off what Kentucky and Calipari has done with the ESPN attention. The difference between the two schools is John Calipari's innovation comes from a creative mind. Coach K just didn't think of it first. That's the difference. He has his own advantages, like coaching the USA Team in the off-season along with long time assistant, Jim Boheim.

When Calipari issued his now infamous complaint about that advantage, it was considered whining. I saw it that way, myself, when I considered that Calipari has used the one and done rule to Kentucky's advantage by placing so many players in the NBA since he's been at Kentucky. Coaching the Dominican Republic team certainly didn't hurt recruiting since he signed a certain freshman player off of that Dominican team. The idea of Calipari crying crocodile tears was not becoming in my eyes.

Could he, however, have been preparing the world for the televised NBA Combine? Possibly. With Cal, you just never know what's up his sleeve. For some reason, it seems to be in the coaching nature to whine. Anyone read about Rick Pitino's whining about UL being an Adidas school? Puhlease. Does John Calipari pay any attention to shoe companies in his recruiting? I really don't have any idea, but I seriously doubt it. I think the most influential people in a recruit's decision are his or her parents, not shoe companies. I'm pretty sure that Calipari's ability to get a kid drafted is more important that what a shoe company, a high school coach or an AAU coach can do for that kid.

I want to give you my own experience with the concept of fairness that happened on my recent cruise. While following my wife around shopping during our stop in Aruba, one of the first things I noticed was how many husbands stand outside stores while their wives are inside buying junk for the relatives and close friends back home. While milling about on the street, I ran into to two men, one had a South Carolina hat on and the other was wearing an Ole Miss hat. I joined them to talk about the upcoming Kentucky-South Carolina football game and SEC football in general.

I noted how Ole Miss might be in contention for the SEC West championship. The first thing heard from the Ole Miss guy was that he wasn't a football fan. Then I looked at his hat and it had "basketball" underneath "Ole Miss." Before I could ask him about being a basketball fan, he said he really hated Kentucky. I asked, "So you hate Kentucky because we're good?" His response was pretty much in the affirmative. It turned out that he was Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy's father-in-law and lamented that Kennedy receives only a minimum amount of support from the University of Mississippi. He didn't think it was fair.

If you think about this, the reason he hates Kentucky has everything to do with Mississippi's failure to support their basketball program in the same manner that Kentucky supports theirs. It really has nothing to do with Kentucky. Humans, being humans, create a transference into hate for Kentucky because of their own failings, in this case a failure to match what Kentucky does in terms of a financial commitment. That's fair. Right? I wonder if he's taking any pride in the accomplishments of the Ole Miss football team today.

Getting back to Jerry Tipton and his concept of fairness: In his world, you have to ask if ESPN should, or would, televise a combine held at Ole Miss? Would the talent level in Oxford be such that 90 NBA scouts and management level people would attend? Should they be forced to attend in the name of "fairness?"

We need people like Jerry Tipton only because he has the guts to take on the local team, unlike Himmelsbach over in Louisville. You might note that Himmelsbach hasn't yet provided any moral guidance on how UL might better control their football players. Since the UL player was charged with drug trafficking, it only seems fair that he should express his moral outrage in Louisville's direction. There's been no article about so-and-so's arrest should be a concern for Bobby Petrino. Don't' hold your breath waiting for such an article as this. Here's his list of recent articles.

At least Jerry Tipton is consistent in his criticism of Kentucky basketball. He's been that way since he began writing for the Herald-Leader. His dream is obvious, at least to me. He wants that smoking gun that will get him a Putlizer and Kentucky basketball is his potential meal ticket. Remember the Patrick Patterson stories and the mysterious fax stories? The fact is, Kentucky knows Tipton is watching and they refuse to give him anything of value, but he's always there. In the end, that probably helps keep Kentucky basketball clean. Just remember, Kentucky basketball coaches have been making fun of Jerry Tipton at UK press conferences since Rick Pitino was hired to bring Kentucky out of the abyss. He' become everyone's nutty uncle.

Is it obvious that Tipton lives in a non-competitive environment and believes in pipe dreams, fairies and the Mothman? Or, is he right about the "fairness" thing? You tell me?