College Basketball

Memphis, not Calipari, will be villified longer

Nice try, Gary Parrish. Very nice try.

But if I were to say you were wrong, it would very well diminish the meaning of “wrong” for future generations, and I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

You are past wrong, beyond wrong if you will. You are located somewhere between fool and foolish, probably closer to the previous than the latter.

Okay, you are partially correct, using partially only in the loosest of constructions. Society doesn’t associate certain programs with being corrupt, programs like Ohio State and Oklahoma that had one bad apple and then faded into sustained high-profile mediocrity.

We as society associate those programs with the men who corrupted them.

But programs that succeed, programs that are glorified, programs that legitimately contend for a national title and then face the wrath of the NCAA and are never heard from again, we put the blame squarely on the program.

When I hear UNLV, I don’t think about their resurgence under Lon Kruger. Hahaha, please. I think of Bill Bayno and Jerry Tarkanian and three decades of NCAA probing.

And by the way, you associate Tarkanian with Kelvin Sampson and Jim Harrick, who were both explicitly indicted by the NCAA as cheaters. Tarkanian, despite the NCAA spending more money investing UNLV than any other program before or after, was never found to have committed any violations. But that’s for another article, Gary.

No, I’m attacking you, Gary, not for your comments on Tarkanian, but for being a flat-out fool. So from here out, Gary, I’ll stay focused.

Unless something gets tied to the coach, or unless violations are found under the same coach at multiple institutions, society is not going to associate the violations with the coach.

And even then, if there’s enough time between the violations, we’ll still associate them with the school.

Go ask any 10 college basketball fans who was the Southern Methodist coach in the 1980s when they gave Jon Koncak illegal payments and I’ll bet you anything no more than two of them will associate those payments with Dave Bliss’s regime. They, like me, associate it with the wide-spread corruption at SMU during that decade.

Or for that matter, go ask 10 college basketball fans about St. Bonaventure’s. I’ll bet you anything nine of them remember the school having to forfeit their entire season for playing Jamil Terrell despite Terrell only having a welding certificate, but how many can remember the coach who signed him or the school president who gave the go-ahead?

While John Calipari’s reputation will take a hit, even if nothing can get tied back to him, in the long run it is Memphis that will lose credibility.

And there is one reason and one reason only: Memphis is not a major conference school.

We don’t associate Georgia with corruption, as you point out, because Jim Harrick and his son were the criminals. They were the ones who gave their students freebies to stay academically eligible. But Georgia is also a major conference school with a $1 billion television contract behind it.

Why would ESPN or CBS degrade a program that it’s paying nearly $20 million each year?

But Memphis and UNLV and Southern Methodist (at least since 1996) and St. Bonaventure’s are not major conference schools. They’re in Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA and the Atlantic-10 respectively, low high-major conferences at best and run-of-the-mill mid-majors at worst.

Sure, ESPN and CBS might show them a couple times a year, but never in the most coveted time slots unless they’re playing a major conference foe.

If they go on probation, it’s because they’re a bad program, not just because the coach wants to bend every rule.

And sure, there are exceptions, but there also are not many.

Southern California’s athletic department is breaking rules left and right in every sport. So too is Florida State. But we give them the benefit of the doubt.

Southern California gets a pass because the NCAA has not investigated it in football and Tim Floyd has always been a shady character. Florida State took care of its academic scandal internally and has instituted more oversight over Bobby Bowden’s football program.

How much attention has there been to the fact that the Seminoles went on probation in nine other sports for the same scandal?

None if you have been keeping track.

Really, only Alabama among major programs has been associated with being a corrupt program in post-Southwest Conference NCAA history, and that’s really only because of their three major football scandals.

Miami too has spent time unjustly under the national spotlight, as somehow Dennis Erickson avoided the blame for the Hurricanes’ mid-1990s probation, but most of their attention is not for cheating the NCAA but for cheating the law.

No, major programs get associated with the coaches that bring them down, with Kelvin Sampson at Oklahoma and Dave Bliss at Baylor, with Tim Floyd at Southern California and Kelvin Sampson at Indiana. The big contract holders of ESPN and CBS will forever make sure of that.

But when you look at a small school, then the blame can be placed exactly where it needs to be: on the institutions themselves.

I don’t care what any of these coaches have done; I really don’t. If you want me to believe that the institutions did not know that their coaches were cheating, then you might as well put me in a diaper and hand me a bottle. I’m not that naïve.

Sure, they can’t keep track of every little thing, and trust me when I say every little thing is a secondary violation that you and I never hear about. If a school isn’t self-reporting a dozen minor violations a month, then clearly the school isn’t doing its job of self-monitoring.

But if you want me to believe that the athletes at Florida State took it upon themselves from the guidance of one “learning specialist” to set up their illegal test-taking ring, then you’re crazy. It wasn’t just the someone in the institution thought he or she could help out a few students and created the situation where they were told to cheat.

No, someone higher up ordered it, even if who it was never gets uncovered.

We need to blame the schools, and not just the Memphis’s and UNLV’s of the world. We need to blame the Georgia’s and the Southern California’s too.

And that’s where you go wrong, Gary.

You think because we did not blame those schools (and we did blame UNLV), we won’t blame Memphis. nd we will.

This is not the first time Memphis has gone on probation, and we blamed them the first time. And this is not the first time John Calipari has seen one of his former programs go on probation, and we blamed the school the first time too.

Sure, Calipari will get his share of the blame, as he should, but much of it will be left on Memphis. And if Calipari wins a national title at Kentucky or takes them to the final four, all will be forgotten.

Which brings me to Kentucky.

Twice, Kentucky has gone on major probation, and the first led to one of only two complete uses of the death penalty ever on a major sport program at a Division I school.

In 1952, the NCAA canceled the Wildcats’ season due to a point shaving scandal under Adolph Rupp.

Then in 1989, the Wildcats almost were given the death penalty again after the NCAA found proof of improper benefits given to two recruits. Kentucky was placed on three years probation and Eddie Sutton was forced to resign.

But do we think of Kentucky as a corrupt program? Do we even think of Rupp or Sutton as corrupt coaches?

Most of us do not. They both won after the scandal to erase our memories

And that’s why Gary skims the line between being foolish and being a fool.

We, as a society, have too short of a memory span. If Kentucky wins soon, we’ll forget everything we think we know about Calipari and the only thing we’ll remember is that Memphis is a corrupt program.

And Calipari will win at Kentucky. That’s as clear cut as a Sammy Sosa lie.

So Gary, you’re more than wrong. Just letting you know.

Nice try, but that’s as much kudos as I’ll give you.

By bsd987

I have written for since 2004 and was named a featured writer in 2006. I have been Co-Editor of the site since January 1, 2009. I also write for where I am a founding member of the Tennis Roundtable and one of the chief contributors to both the Tennis and Horse Racing sections.

I am "Stat Boy" for's weekly podcast, Poor Man's PTI.

I am currently a Junior at Rice University majoring in History and Medieval Studies. My senior thesis will focus on the desegregation of football in Texas and its affect of racial relations.

Please direct all inquiries to [email protected]

Burton DeWitt
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