Here we go. This is the part of the story that opposing fans and some national media member have been waiting on. Since John Calipari was hired on as head coach of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team, this is the moment of truth. Just about everyone outside of Lexington predicted that any success Coach Cal had with Kentucky would be tainted. He was “The Vacater,” a term of derision based on NCAA infractions that occurred under his watch at Massachusetts and Memphis. Though never personally implicated, everyone knew that John Calipari was dirty and when a dirty coach coaches at a dirty program… it’s not that hard to connect the dots.
But, a funny thing has happened. In the decade since John Calipari took the Kentucky job, there have been a lot of high profile programs running afoul of the NCAA. Some, like North Carolina, have received slaps on the wrists. And others, like Louisville, have seen wins vacated and NCAA titles forfeited. As of yet, nothing concrete has come down in Lexington, much to the chagrin of the same folks that knew that a Calipari/Kentucky collaboration was rife with NCAA rule-breaking. It would appear that the conventional wisdom isn’t all that conventional.
Big time college athletics is a dirty business. I’ve often said that any program is a bad decision away from being the lead story on ESPN’s SportsCenter and having the NCAA’s investigators on campus. I’m not naive to believe that any program is completely clean. While other programs have been hit with the NCAA hammer and other programs have been implicated by the FBI, the Wildcats have remained relatively untouched. Now that assistant coach Kenny Payne’s name has come up in testimony from disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti, the folks that need Kentucky and John Calipari to be the bad guy are ready for the other shoe to drop.
What if it doesn’t?
I understand rivalrying and all that. I get it. I know that a lot of folks put a lot of their “sports talking head” capital on the fact that it would be Kentucky and Coach Cal vacating titles and removing banners. To me, there are two reasons why I remain unworried about the Wildcat program:
Obviously, this can all change. There could be video of Coach Cal or Kenny Payne giving a recruit a grocery bag of money. And I, for one, believe the system is broken and changes should be made independent of what the NBA does with its “one-and-done” rule. It’s just strange that as the majority of college basketball gets implicated in a multitude of scandals that even the fans and supporters of teams that get caught redhanded still want, still need, John Calipari to be the Boogeyman. To paraphrase Calipari himself: are you talking about what is happening or what you want to happen?