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Sprints Is Tired of John Calipari and His Ilk // 05.31.10

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. (Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.)

--Occam's Razor

The above quote is a philosopher's way of saying what Isaac Newton said this way: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." Or, put even more plainly: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ...

Despite our attempts to make things as complicated as possible, especially when our personal loyalties are involved, things in life usually aren't any less simple than they appear. Yes, there are conspiracies. Yes, people can look as guilty as possible and still end up being innocent. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. And if John Calipari is an exception at this point, there might not be a rule to begin with. Which is probably how Calipari would prefer it.

The New York Times reported Friday that the NCAA is looking into the possibility of academic and financial "irregularities" involving Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe. What kind of irregularities, you ask. Oh, just the run-of-the-mill grade-fixing and pay-to-play irregularities.

¶Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe's high school coach paid her at least three months' rent, or $1,200. By moving there, Bledsoe was eligible to play for Parker, which he led to the Alabama Class 5A title game. Maurice Ford, the coach, denied paying the money.

¶A copy of Bledsoe's high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover - a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year - for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.

¶A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother. Ford denied this, saying, "I don't prostitute my kids."

Anyone who knows the Calipari argument knows that Truzenzuzex at A Sea Of Blue differ strongly on this topic. And to be fair to Tru, he's done about as well as a Kentucky fan can do in being even-handed about this. But how can you really write this?

A college coach, hereforeto unnamed, alleges that Bledsoe's high school coach demanded a specific sum of money to recruit Bledsoe. Exactly what this sum was, or how that process was supposed to work, is unknown.

None of these allegations involve Kentucky whatsoever.

None of them involve Kentucky because, apparently, Maurice Ford changed his mind before meeting with Calipari. "What the heck?" he surely thought. "Yeah, I consider myself 'a poor black man,' but I don't really need the money, anyway. What am I going to do with money? Buy things?"

Sure, Kentucky's name isn't literally mentioned in connection to the payments, but the implication of the article (and the dictates of common sense) are pretty clear on this one: If true, it means that Ford was looking for someone to pay him. Kentucky might not have paid up in the end, but it defies logic to believe that the Wildcats weren't also asked if they would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Foundation for the Reimbursement of Maurice Ford's Generosity.

Mr. Ford, for his part, has been making a spirited defense to the media.

"If you kept up with the story, you know I was against him coming to Kentucky to play with John Wall," Ford said. "So how could I be shopping him to Kentucky when I was against him coming to Kentucky. What sense does that make?

"I was on record stating I did not want him coming to Kentucky to play back-seat fiddle to John Wall. Why would I shop him to a school I didn’t want him to go to? What sense does that make?"

Which is convincing and Occam's Razor-ish as far as it goes. But what someone says publicly and what they say privately are also two totally different things -- and, again, it seems counterintuitive that Ford was asking some people to recognize his selfless endeavors and allowing others to ignore his efforts to improve humanity.

I think John Clay sums it up best (though probably in too many one-sentence paragraphs).

But there is more than enough information in the story to make you believe that alarms should have been going off somewhere over on the Avenue of Champions.

If you wanted to listen. ...

But as one perceptive observer put it Friday night, Cal's problem is that he doesn't consider any kid off-limits. ...

There wasn't one red flag. There were a collection of red flags.

And how many times can Calipari say, "I didn't know"?

Tru argued that "there is another" common denominator beyond Calipari, and he makes some good arguments about the socio-economic factors playing into all of Calipari's ineligible players (one each at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky, which is some sort of trifecta, I suppose).

But I think even Tru would admit that none of that has any relation to the question that has to be asked here: Did Calipari know that Bledsoe was allegedly ineligible. And if he didn't know that Bledsoe was ineligible, or that Derrick Rose was ineligible, or that Marcus Camby was ineligible -- is he stupid, incompetent or simply the unluckiest person in the history of human civilization? Because the only other plausible answers are either that he knew and didn't care or knew and was a part of it.

My skepticism of Calipari's excuses is not part of any vendetta or hatred for Kentucky. Anyone who's followed my writing over the years knows that I'm highly critical of Lou Holtz's time in Columbia, and for much the same reasons. After Holtz left Arkansas? The NCAA found problems. After he retired from Notre Dame? The NCAA had issues. After he retired from South Carolina? The NCAA found violations. A pattern -- and one that Holtz attempted to dodge time after time. (In the most outrageous example, he actually tried to argue that players would have died if he hadn't broken the rules. Really.)

The fact is that it's personal on this level: I'm tired of coaches who think they can spend their lives breaking the rules, or trying to stay just on this side of breaking the rules, while pretending that they run an ethical, above-board program. I'm not naive to the fact that almost all programs run into gray areas from time to time, or that life maybe isn't always as simple as Occam's Razor.

But patterns are not accidents. And a coach that runs into trouble at three different programs is a pattern, no matter what justifications that coach or his supporters might construct. And for coaches to encourage fans to think otherwise is to cynically rally them behind the good name of their schools while continuing to do whatever that coach wants to in order to enrich himself and enhance his reputation.

And ultimately, it leads to the question that should most trouble fans of schools with coaches who repeatedly run into rules problems and repeatedly shrug them off or present a smokescreen of excuses: How stupid do these guys think we are?

SEC wants baseball tournament to become traffic nightmare
The league is considering moving its championship event to Gwinnett County. I've driven through Gwinnett County more times than I would care to in my life -- which means, more times than zero. Forget finishing the games before 2 a.m. -- fans won't even be able to get to the stadium before 2 a.m. if Duluth is the choice.

But shouldn't there be a clause making sure it's cooler for Georgia?
The Athens Banner-Herald takes a look at the draft contract for the next six years of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party Cocktail Party Cocktail Party.

The schools would then have the opportunity to sell naming rights to the game to a corporate title sponsor.

This is the solution, ladies and gentlemen. An alcoholic beverage company would probably be rejected outright, so let's go find a shrimp cocktail sauce company and get the right name back on the game.

It's not that we're terrible right now. It's that we're going to be great in the future
Ron Morris finds a -- um -- unique angle in South Carolina being next-to-last among SEC schools across the board.

USC ranked 11th of 12 in the SEC all-sports standings released by The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. While it is the lowest finish for USC in the 19 years of SEC membership, 11th place is not far from the eighth-place finish the Gamecocks have averaged over the years.

Well, actually it is. When you consider that this is a 12-team list we're talking about here, that's a 25-percent drop relative to the rest of the conference. What, exactly, would you call "far from" if that's not it?

Hyman believes that commitment exists. It is why setbacks such as the 11th-place finish in the SEC all-sports standings do not serve so much as a barometer of where USC is in stuck, but as a gauge of how much work still needs to be done to achieve across-the-board success.

If your mind is numb after reading that sentence, you're not alone. Take a moment to readjust to your surroundings -- known to those of us who didn't write this column as "reality." Is it quite possible that the standings can serve both "as a barometer" and "as a gauge of how much work still needs to be done"?

Listen, I like Eric Hyman and think he's taking my alma mater's program in the right direction for many of the reasons Morris lists. But while the last administration is mostly responsible for the problems of the past few years, some of the problem lies with the blind acceptance of fans and the media that South Carolina was moving in the right direction despite all signs to the contrary. Columns like this don't help; they do the opposite.

For those who think 2011 will be the year for the Vols:

UT only has one junior who has started a game at his current position: cornerback Art Evans.

Welcome to Knoxville, Derek Dooley! (HT: Blutarsky)

Southern Cal sanctions to be announced this week
Really. They mean it this time.