Kentucky makes mockery of student-athlete hype

March 24, 2012


March Madness is, indeed, an accurate description of how college basketball takes center stage throughout the country during tournament time. Men’s and women’s teams representing schools of all sizes, from major Division I universities to much smaller colleges, are competing for national titles, and their millions of fans are along for the ride.

Added to these millions, even more millions of Americans are trying to predict the outcome of the games, entering various pools or betting schemes that total in the many millions of dollars.

Various work behavior specialists claim this basketball mania results in a sizable decline in productivity by millions of workers who are glued to television, radio and sports pages to follow their teams’ advance in the various tournaments.

The Kentucky Wildcats are considered the nation’s No. 1 team. Both the Kansas men’s and women’s teams are playing this weekend in their NCAA tournaments’ “Sweet 16.” This column is being written before the Friday night tipoff in St. Louis and today’s women’s game in Des Moines. Both teams have distinguished themselves, win or lose, and Kansas University, the athletics department and the coaches have performed in a manner that reflects credit on the university.

Unfortunately, the Division I NCAA tournament playoff is a bit of a scam.

The manner in which Kentucky coach John Calipari has built his team makes a joke of the NCAA’s much-ballyhooed “student-athlete” slogan.

Calipari’s record at Kentucky and the previous stops along his coaching trail, along with the apparent approval of University of Kentucky leaders, offers proof that his No. 1 priority is winning games. Any effort to suggest Calipari’s true interest is trying to provide a college education, a degree, falls apart when looking at his record, the players on his past two Kentucky teams and the outlook for players on his current team. His goal seems to be to win and make his players instant millionaires.

After Calipari’s first season at Kentucky, five of his players were drafted in the first round of the 2010 National Basketball Association draft. Four were freshmen, one a junior.

The first player chosen was John Wall, a freshman. He was followed by DeMarcus Cousins, a freshman, fifth; Patrick Patterson, a junior, 13th; Eric Bledsoe, another freshman, 18th; and Daniel Orton, also a freshman, 29th.

The next year, 2011, three of his players were drafted: freshman Brandon Knight, eighth; senior Josh Harrelson, 45th; and junior DeAndre Liggins, 53rd.

The nbadraft.net website tries to predict the upcoming draft. Here’s its forecast, as of Friday, for those on this year’s Kentucky Wildcat team: Anthony Davis, freshman, No. 1; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, freshman, No. 4; Terrence Jones, sophomore, 18th; Doron Lamb, sophomore, 25th; Marquis Teague, freshman, 32nd; and Darius Miller, senior, 44th.

After having five players drafted in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Calipari talked about his next year’s team and told a reporter from the Lexington Herald-Leader, “I hope we do it again. … My dream now would be to have the No. 1 overall pick and six first-round draft picks. I want my sixth man to get drafted in the first round.”

He added, “I’m not saying that winning national titles is not important; it is. But if you told me we’d win a national title and no one gets drafted or you go 0-for-20 against West Virginia and five guys get drafted, you tell me what you’d want. I know that makes the old guard mad that I’d even say that, but if it’s about these kids, this would be a great day.”

Speaking at a fundraiser in December 2009, Bob Knight, one of the nation’s most outstanding college basketball coaches and a coach who stressed the true student-athlete philosophy, said, “We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching. You see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching. I really don’t understand that.”

Calipari is the only coach to place three different college teams as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but two of those appearances (1996 at Massachusetts and 2008 at Memphis) have been officially vacated by the NCAA. Calipari also is one of only two coaches to direct three different schools to Final Four appearances (UMass in 1996, Memphis in 2008 and Kentucky in 2011) with the UMass and Memphis appearances later being vacated by the NCAA.

As a result, Calipari is the only head coach to have Final Four appearances vacated at more than one school although he was not personally implicated by the NCAA.

With this record, Calipari has been named national coach of the year three times.

Obviously, winning games is the only thing that counts at Kentucky, with most of his underclassmen players leaving college for the pros. The NCAA continually pounds its chest about being focused on the “student-athlete.” What a joke.

As the NCAA Division I tournament moves into the final two weeks, KU fans will be cheering hard for the Jayhawks. This column was written Friday afternoon, but we know this morning whether the Jayhawk men were defeated or will move on to face either North Carolina or Ohio in a Sunday showdown to move into the Final Four.

Granted, there are cases, past and present, of players who have attended these elite “Sweet 16” schools who have left before their sophomore, junior or senior years and not finished their degrees. However, few, if any, schools have followed the Calipari-Kentucky blueprint of placing winning at all costs above the NCAA’s head-in-the-sand slogan about student-athletes.

Most schools try to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, but Kentucky, which probably will win this year’s title, is almost running a semi-professional program with an unfair advantage over those schools and coaches who attempt to abide by the NCAA guidelines.

Will this year’s Calipari team win his first national title then meet the goal he dreamed of in 2010 of having five players drafted in the first round, four freshmen and an upperclassman? Plus, he wanted his sixth player also picked in the first round. Wonder how many of these players, past and present, will return to the campus to complete their academic requirements for graduation?

Maybe, in the minds of Calipari and UK officials, million-dollar contracts totally negate the need and importance of a college degree.

Kansas basketball coaches Dr. James Naismith, Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, W.O. Hamilton, Dick Harp, Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self all have tried to play the game the way Dr. Naismith intended: as an important and integral part of a young man’s development through his college experience.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

I knew that Calipari was a scoundrel and not a particularly good coach, but this sheds considerably greater light on that. Kentucky fans should be ashamed, but aren't.

Consequently, Mizzou and its fans should fit in quite well.

Thanks to Dolph Simons for excellent reportage on this subject.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 2 months ago

Liberal claptrap.

Calipari is participating in the free market that exists for athletes. It is shocking to see several so-called "conservative" posters agreeing with the so-called "conservative" publisher. Such outrage over kids, most of whom were not choking on their silver spoon at birth like "this reporter", entering the free market and being paid fair market value.

It is not unheard of for college athletes to forgo eligibility to pursue non-athletic careers as well. Should these athletes, too, be barred from participating?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

Good to see that pretty much anything I say, regardless of the subject, irritates you.

I'm glad that I made you waste your time on a Saturday. Perhaps you were even late for your local SEIU rally.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

He didn't express any sort of "irritation." He merely pointed out how inconsistent your position expressed here is with the religiously laissez faire attitude you typically maintain.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

If he was shocked, as he stated, then he was irritated at being shocked.

kumatt 6 years, 2 months ago

Outstanding article, Dolph. I do not understand how Calipari is allowed to coach at the college level with his history. The state of college athletics is disgusting - football and basketball. Money has corrupted and degraded the entire system.

blenheimbard 6 years, 2 months ago

What a load of horse manure you managed to cobble together in your expose of Calipari and Kentucky Basketball. A little research & you would have found that Calipari does not favor the "one and done" scenario,& strongly encourages his players to complete their degrees,just not at the expense of their careers. It's interesting reading recruiting reports on elite players being recruited by Kentucky, who are also being by other major programs, such as Kansas, do you suppose Kansas would not have signed Wall, Knight, Davis, or Teague if they could have? They would have welcomed any or all of them with open arms. And like UK fans they would have regretted their loss to the NBA after only one year. Can you imagine UK would be like this year if they had all of Calipari's recuits back? Somehow you think you have made a telling point by accusing Calipari of desiring to have a winning team. Isn't every coach supposed to desire to have a winning record? Wasn't that an aim of Phog Allen, and isn't it the aim of Bill Self?
And you cite as your guru to morality in collegiate basketball Bob Knight! Who you characterize as " one of the nation’s most outstanding college basketball coaches and a coach who stressed the true student-athlete philosophy..." Bob Knight noted for choking players, attacking them in the locker room, a man who is out of coaching because of his physical and mental abuse of his players.
Where did you get the idea that our universities did not exist for the purpose of promoting the economic success of its students?. Surely you know the basis for founding the Land Grant colleges? Their charters require scientific agriculture, engineering and mining, and military training . UK is such a school, and so is KU. They were not founded as ivory towers of academe, but as dirt under your nails, mud on your boots schools of practical education in nation building. We don't condemn the college student who is a computer phenom and drops out to start up his own company or lands a good job. We applaud them & they go on the mailing list for the building fund. And the same applies to anyother student who can make a successful jump before graduation. We don't tell them to put off success until they have their degree,... unless that degree is part and parcel with achieving that success. Why pick on an athlete, who has a limited window to use their talents. If they are in that small select group that can get a guaranteed rookie contract by entering the draft, why gamble with that financial success by staying in college? If you want the story to prove the value of making the jump look up the career of Dajuan Wagner who played for Cal at Memphis. Cal insisted he go to the NBA draft, where he was drafted by the Cavaliers. Three years later his career is ended by illness, when he would have been a senior at Memphis. The difference to Wagner and his family? Around 8 million dollars.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I hate Calipari and everything he stands for. That said, this "one and done" BS is 100% on the NBA. Colleges don't want it, the top kids don't want it. I look at Josh Selby. He was projected to be a high first round pick coming out of high school. But the NBA didn't allow him to go pro. So he went to college only because he was forced to go. I'm not even sure Self wanted him as much as he didn't want him going somewhere else and then hurting us on the court. It was a bad match from the beginning, but a match forced upon him and us by the actions of the NBA. Pressure needs to be applied so the NBA changes the way they do business. We wouldn't be burdened with kids and Selby and Calipari will adjust with some other equally slime ball tactics. BTW - Our backcourt will run circles around Carolina's backcourt. Final Four, here we come.

classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

It's nice that every single person that plays basketball at ku graduates from there and not a single one enters the draft before his four years at ku are up and he has earned his degree.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm wondering what Dolph and some of the posters here think is the purpose of going to college?

I thought the days of gentlemen scholars, who merely attended college for the purpose of having a well-rounded education for their lives as gentlemen, were over.

Every kid I know is going to college in order to get a better job. If Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerman can drop out of college to become multimillionaires, I'm not sure why basketball players can't.

After all, for most, a college education is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Bruce Bertsch 6 years, 2 months ago

Dolph seems to forget that Coach Cal was an assistant under Larry Brown at (gasp) KU before embarking on his head coaching career. Also, did the Morris twins graduate? How about Mario, Darrel Arthur, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, Josh Selby, Xavier Henry and Julian Wright?

Bobo Fleming 6 years, 2 months ago

Kentucky was desperate. They saw themselves slipping out of the elite programs. They knew what they were getting and will take the cobsequences later. also add the Kansas proram onto the list of prohibition fro COACH cal. he wasnt head coach but he was assistant coach. So here is a little riddle. Name the program not put under prohibition when Mr. C left? The correct answer. None. Kansas, Umass, Memphis and Kentucy. Wait the Kentucky one is next year.

Darrell Lea 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't read the print edition of the Lawrence Journal World. Was this piece in the Sports section of the newspaper? It should have been.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Which makes this editorial rather ironic-- if it weren't for its ability to cash in on KU sports, this paper would probably disappear completely.

labmonkey 6 years, 2 months ago

I hate and despise Calipari.... but I think it is a bit disingenuous for people to preach the whole "student-athlete" thing. One goes to college to hone their skills to make money at the professional level. If you were an engineering student and a company offered you $200K per year to leave college and join their company, hell yes you would take it. If one is truly an elite talent, they will go to guys like Calipari whose goal is to get them drafted. Basketball is their trade, so why force them to stay in college four years? If these kids have any brains, they will come back to finish their degrees.

That said, I prefer coaches like Bill Self and Roy Williams who don't get the one-and-dones, but coach lesser players into #1 draft picks over a 3-4 year period. The stat we should look at is how many players who aren't drafted graduate... not how many graduate period.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

Xavier Henry.

The NBA rule that stipulates at least one year of college is ridiculous.

Let talented players go directly to the NBA. Why force them to go to college for one year, making a mockery of the student-athlete idea.

College players are "paid" to play in the form of a scholarship. If they don't want to go to college and are talented enough to be in the NBA, why force them to go to college? Dumb.

JackMcKee 6 years, 2 months ago

UK will end up having seasons vacated, jut like happened at Memphis.

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

The problem is not Calipari. It's the NCAA.

Mike Ford 6 years, 2 months ago

Dolph is omitting a bunch of information here. This subject was covered in the USA TODAY in the last week or so. I read an old USA TODAY article on this same subject that I had left over in my truck to read for lunchtime reading material. I'll repeat what I read yesterday. Where's the outrage when high school athletes like Bubba Starling sign contracts with the KC Royals right out of high school that have multi million dollar signing advances? is there no outrage because Bubba Starling is White? Many student athletes who've left early end up getting their degrees anyway. Also, according to the article Kentucky's graduation score was 974 out of 1000 so the dumb jock tag with the racist undertones as witnessed on this blog is nonsense. All I hear is a bunch of archie bunkers hating on the basis of archaic tradition. If you're not capable of playing at the NBA level stop hating at student athletes who are.

Armored_One 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't begrudge the kids. I do, however, get one damned good belly laugh out of the adults.

"Oh, the economy is trashed!" "Oh, gas prices are killing us!" "Oh, taxes keep going up!"

"Oh, wait!! It's March Madness! Who cares about the country when there are basketball games to watch?!"

Really? If a tenth of the energy put forward by fans of sports teams was directed towards straightening out the government and getting it back on track, the US could probably carry the whole EU debt on it's back and not miss a step.


There's another game coming on somewhere...

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

As a species, we lust for entertainment. College sports is one part of that. KU has already won the most important championship, the academic,. The rest is entertainment. How dare Dolph suggest we might lost to UK, should we get another shot at them. We played them down to the wire early in the season. I suppose if I had the power, I'd require students to earn a degree before they could play, and if they didn't graduate in time, could only play overseas for a year or two. The system helps many men and women out of poverty and into an education. Give them a small stipend if they need it; make them go to class and let the games begin!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

If basketball (and other sports) are so intrinsically intertwined with the academic mission of the university, why can't they just create a bachelor's degree in basketball? It could be a multidisciplinary degree, offering classes from a wide range of departments, from physical education to business management to psychology, and any others that might be pertinent. Some players would likely rather do some other major as they currently do, but for those who are here strictly to learn basketball, why not give them what they need? You could even offer associate's degrees for the one/two and doners.

timb 6 years, 2 months ago

Dolph are you leaving the A out of your name ? Just another example of someone not knowing what the Hell they are writing about.You really lost me when you quoted Bobby Knight,the biggest Bully in NcAA history,who got Fired at IU.long over due also.Have you ever interviewed Calipari? Do you know him? another poser article.

DRsmith 6 years, 2 months ago

You do realize he is in at the end of his 3rd season right?

grammarrodeo 6 years, 2 months ago

Bill Self didn't recruit any of these guys? Kentucky was their only choice to play college ball? Nice try, but just about any university would have taken these players and used them for a year before they went to the draft.

Mike Ford 6 years, 2 months ago

Bill Self recruited both Derrick Rose and John Wall and got into a little bit of trouble when he spoke to John Wall at a high school tournament a couple of years ago. KU has such a particular playing system that players like Wall and Rose wouldn't fit in it. This KU system is schizophrenic in nature. KU fans want a star player to endorse the reputation and legend of KU basketball but they don't want the player to outshine KU's reputation. Sure, KU fans hated on Derrick Rose at the end of the Memphis-KU title game but who has the last laugh now? Rose turned around the Chicago Bullis around and won the NBA MVP award and stepped up his game. Numerous famous NBA players were recruited by KU and went elsewhere in the past. Joel Pryzbilla and Jason Kidd come to mind as do Shane Battier and Charlie Villanueva. I remember Raef LaFrentz, Scot Pollard, and Jacque Vaughn walking into Applebys restaurant with Shane Battier as my folks and I ate dinner back in 1998. Recently KU has been player hating against schools like UK over recruiting and Dolph blindly plays into this sentiment.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 2 months ago

Many true statements. The problem is that Dolph attacks Calipari, and I'm not a Calipari fan. UK is only following the NCAA's rules. Well, in principle. '

What the NCAA should have done is allow players to go straight in, or wait a minimum of two, and preferably three years to play.

Mike Ford 6 years, 2 months ago

Battier went to Duke because of the School of Divinity there which my father attended on scholarship before returning to St. Paul's School of Theology here. Battier was a smart player and still is with the Miami Heat.

DRsmith 6 years, 2 months ago

This writer of this article has to be the biggest clown on LJworld. Blame Calipari for playing by the rules? Until the NBA does away with the one and done rule he is doing absolutely nothing wrong. Self recruited and would have loved to pull some of the recruits Calipari got.

cowboy 6 years, 2 months ago

Calipari will be exposed again and hopefully deposed for good. Major slimeball

wildcatblue4u 6 years, 2 months ago

While discussing the scoundrel, you mention Patrick Patterson, a junior who was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. You fail to mention that at the time Patrick Patterson entered the draft, he had obtained his degree from UK in only 3 years - the last two under Calipari. You also fail to mention that Brandon Knight was an honors student with two years of college credits at the time he began "working" in the NBA. Darius Miller will graduate this year. As will Eloy Vargas. Terrance Jones and Doron Lamb will likely enter the draft with two years of college credits under their belts. John Wall was an honor roll student both semesters he was enrolled at UK. Josh Harrelson graduated from the University of Kentucky while playing basketball under Calipari. Coach Cal created a program that has enabled many former players to return to the university to obtain their degrees. And he has only been here three years. So ... what makes this a "mockery" of the student-athlete mantra?

Bill Woodard 6 years, 2 months ago

The KU men's basketball program is a national leader on the court and off, in academic progress and graduation rates.


joshselbysconscience11_ 6 years, 2 months ago

oh my...have you already forgotten the joke that is Josh Selby?? $$$ from a friend of an agent blah blah...drops out to pursue his draft prep...or what of Xavier Henry??? would Self turned ADavis or Gilchrist away from Kansas had they chosen to play in Lawrence instead of Lexington??? Before you cast the first stone, be sure of your own program's misgivings... and of course, who would rather have kids risk injury playing for their college team while risking their future??? Apparently Kansas writers and fans who somehow believe that you are above "one-and-done" players (while utilizing them anyway) and then claiming that Kansas does it the "right way" (also ignoring the fact that UK had the highest APR in the SEC last year)...much like Bobby Knight's ignorant rant deriding UK's team going to class in 2010 (and then having to apologize), it seems the same can be said of this piece's writer... not factually based and full of holes...is that the sort of legacy one can expect from Kansas? Apparently so...and if memory serves, Kansas has had the actual recruiting violations (under Self) and issues regarding ticket sales...Kansas is just like the rest of the programs in the country who utilize whatever it takes to be competitive (and in the NCAA tournament as a high seed every year)...don't hide behind self-righteousness when it doesn't even exist...funny...and hypocritical

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