John Calipari is one of just a handful of coaches who have taken two different teams to the Final Four.
What makes it all the more impressive is that he did it at two schools (Memphis and UMass) that play outside of the big six conferences.
So yes, Coach Cal has proven himself as a winner.
The issue is now whether or not those wins stay in the record books when he leaves.
In case you missed it, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal broke a story late last night that Memphis was being charged with violating three NCAA rules. Two of them were regarding travel expenses for an associate of a player, but to be fair, that same individual also reimbursed the school for other trips he made. This could be nothing more than an accounting error.
The allegation that is a bit disconcerting is that a player on the 2007-08 team that reached the title game committed
knowing fraudulence or misconduct in connection with his entrance examination. Specifically, on (date redacted) an unknown individual completed (name redacted)'s SAT, with (name redacted)'s knowledge, which was used to obtain his admission into the institution.The document also says that the player competed for Memphis in the 2007-08 season, but mentions no other year. Who was the only player that played just that season?
Let me preface this by saying that the Memphis coaching staff, including Calipari, is not at risk of being charged with any violations in this case. Just like he was never charged with a violation when Marcus Camby was getting paid by an agent, which vacated the UMass Final Four run from the record books.
But as a Kentucky fan, this has got to worry you. If the NCAA does in fact force Memphis to forfeit their 38 wins from '07-'08, it will mean that Calipari's two best seasons as a coach will have been erased because of the actions of the two best players he has ever coached.
Kentucky just signed one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time. But with all the controversy surrounding a kid like John Wall (or even DeMarcus Cousins, who refused to sign with UAB because they did not put a release in his LOI in case Mike Davis left), how sure can you be that Cal followed all NCAA rules and regulations landing this kid? How comfortable can you feel watching Kentucky win games this year (and trust me, they will be winning a lot) knowing that he has left UMass and now possibly Memphis with a pile of NCAA violations to dig through?
It is sad to say, but, at this point, I almost don't even care about violations of this nature. Recruiting in major college basketball and football is on the same level as steroids in baseball - I just assume everyone is dirty. So what if Tim Floyd paid some guy a couple grand to get OJ Mayo to USC? So what if UConn had some dealings with a rogue, wanna-be agent that was representing high school kids (and stealing millions from Rip Hamilton)? So what if Derrick Rose needed "help" on his SAT's to get into Memphis?
Calling these kids student-athletes is a joke, especially the one-and-done guys. And that is a travesty. Playing sports at that level, representing a school, and sometimes even an entire city or state, is an incredible honor and certainly an amazing experience.
But until the NCAA is willing to actually do something about this problem, we are just going to keep running into the same issues.
Because right now, can you really blame anyone for this? I can't put it all on the kids, who are, in fact, just kids. More often that not, they are being counseled by adults who don't always have the kids best interest at heart. Is it all the coaches fault for partaking in this practice (or in Cal's case, turning a blind eye)? Well, no. College coaching is a ruthless business - if you coach at a big school and you don't win immediately, your job is on the line (ask Cal's UK predecessor Billy Gillispie). If guys like Jim Calhoun and Calipari are winning games and hanging banners by skirting the rules, then everyone is going to be. If cheating is what it takes to win, and winning is what it takes to get (and more importantly keep) a job, then, well, even Derrick Rose could put that one together.