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Staying clean involves some luck, which Kentucky has had

John Calipari and Kentucky run a clean program, but sometimes, others make a mess that programs pay for.

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NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

As the trial on college basketball winds down, the two teams that are seemingly in the most trouble with the NCAA are the Louisville Cardinals and the Kansas Jayhawks.

With texts, wiretaps, and testimony, prosecutors and the FBI were able to show that both UofL and KU had staff members directly work with agents from Adidas to compensate players and their families in order for them to play for their programs.

Brian Bowen Sr. testified that UofL assistant coach Kenny Johnson dropped off a bag of money to help pay for his family’s stay at the Galt House, a swanky hotel in the city of Louisville.

As for Kansas, Adidas bag man T.J. Gassnola gave Billy Preston a car and his family around $90,000. There were multiple texts between Gassnola and Self that suggest the Kansas coach may have known what was going on.

Other big-name programs that were struck by collateral damage from this trial were LSU, North Carolina (while named, the Heels were exonerated), and Duke.

Outside of a random text from Gassnola to Self that insinuates UNC, UK, and Duke pay players without any actual evidence to back it up, John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats came out of this trial unscathed.

So that leaves us with the question: Is Kentucky clean or just lucky?

It’s been noted that Calipari’s usual success with the top of the class (top 5 recruits) hasn’t been what it used to be. The last time Cal landed a recruit in the top 5 was in 2015 when Skal Labisierre committed to the Cats as the No. 2 overall player.

Cal’s highest recruit since then was De’Aaron Fox at No. 6 overall.

While Kentucky has been in on the top guys in the country, they’ve all gone to Duke, the Arizona Wildcats, or to Kansas. Kansas and Arizona have been heavily implicated in this pay-for-play scandal while Duke has just been inserted into the melee following the Zion Williamson information.

If we recall, the commitment to Duke for Zion was out of nowhere. It was seemingly down to UK and the Clemson Tigers, with Clemson making a late surge. Then he put on the Duke hat, and everyone was stunned.

Was Calipari not willing to play the game the other schools were? Had he gotten so much of a lead in recruiting that he didn’t have to resort to offering extra benefits? Was the rest of college basketball just trying to catch up?

When asked about how he reacts if a player asks for extra benefits, Calipari answered the following way at SEC Media Days:

“We walk. We’re not...I’m not going to deal with it,” said Calipari. “If my staff is uncomfortable, there’s other kids.”

As for now we just don’t know. Calipari has done a great job of getting guys of high character to play at Kentucky. Luckily, he hasn’t had to deal with much off the court nonsense.

I would be remiss to neglect to mention that both Bam Adebayo and Kevin Knox were named as players to meet with Christian Dawkins, an agent from Adidas wrapped up in the UofL scandal, but neither player had committed to Kentucky at that point, and Kentucky was never implicated in wrongdoing.

What if it turned out that someone around them — like a parent or guardian — took illegal benefits, then everyone found out after they played at Kentucky? Neither Calipari nor Kentucky would have known, yet they’d still be punished by the NCAA all the same.

That’s why running a clean program involves some luck when you’re recruiting so many elite recruits every year. Thus far, Kentucky has run a clean program and managed to avoid any recruits who would have gotten the program.

Kentucky is one of the few big-time programs that remains unscathed. Calipari has even gone so far to offer fixes to the situation instead of blatantly ignoring, ala Coach K.

The dirty business of college basketball has been laid bare for the entire world to see. Any actions taken by the NCAA will not be sufficient if history can be any indication of things. The questions remain as to what, if any, actions will be taken against those schools that were implicitly involved with paying recruits.

Big Blue Nation doesn’t have anything to worry about for the moment. This trial is almost over, but one there are more on the horizon.

For now, John Calipari appears as if he is one of the few doing things the right way.

I hope that continues.