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Sprints Finds Little News in Kiffin-Gate and Defends John Calipari (Sort of) // 08.09.10

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It's Alabama Week
We're talking Coachbot, two returning defensive starters and 357 national titles and counting!


This was probably inevitable
One some level there's not a ton of news in the story that Tennessee thinks it's going to get a letter of inquiry in relation to the hostess matter during the Lane Kiffin Quasi-Era. But that's not all that ESPN's story said -- it also said the investigation appears to be broader than we originally thought.

Since then, sources said investigators have looked into whether assistants under former coach Lane Kiffin had improper contacts with high school players at an all-star game and whether coaches improperly interacted on players' Facebook pages.

A source close to the investigation said such actions could be considered secondary in nature "but if you look at it all together, [it] looks like there was not a sense of adhering to all the rules all of the time," which could result in a "major violation" classification.

Tennessee has acknowledged it committed at least six secondary violations during Kiffin's tumultuous tenure.

This is an interesting step, and one that Kiffin and many Tennessee fans never seemed to think the NCAA would actually take. After all, secondary violations are supposed to be oversights or misunderstandings, which is why they don't warrant the kind of sanctions that programs face for major issues. But Kiffin was quite clear during his time at Tennessee that as long as it wasn't a major violation, it was fair game. Secondaries were part of his strategy. There were less a series of missteps than a policy.

GVX: 'A possibility'
Mike Hamilton downplayed the story a little bit -- at least the part about a letter of inquiry.

"We’ve not had one yet, and as I acknowledged earlier, we’ve publicly acknowledged that the NCAA has been looking into some potential allegations during Coach (Lane) Kiffin’s time here. Obviously at this point there hasn’t been a conclusion to that. We’ll see, but I think that is a possibility."

This is not a small difference. There's a possibility I'll open the door tomorrow morning and Jessica Alba will be waiting for me. That's not a very strong possibility, mind you, but it's a possibility. Of course, Hamilton would presumably have a reason to say as little as he could while still being honest. So perhaps this is parsing things a bit too finely here.

Kiffin: 'No wrongdoing'
Ah, now he's saying there was no wrongdoing.

"I have great confidence in what we did there, that we didn’t do anything wrong," said Kiffin. "That’s (the NCAA’s) job, to make sure there isn’t any wrongdoing. Just because they’re looking into something doesn’t mean we did anything wrong."

Except Tennessee admitted during Kiffin's tenure that he did things wrong -- at least six things wrong. That, again, is the difference between Kiffin's secondaries and the sometimes more plentiful secondaries at other schools. Kiffin seemed to see nothing wrong with committing them and as much as said so. He didn't care if he was breaking the rules as long as he wasn't breaking the "major" rules.

Yes, but -- oh, never mind
Conquest Chronicles makes a solid point about Tennessee fans:

They were more than willing to support Kiffin when the issue of the hostesses came up while he was in Knoxville, but now that Kiffin has moved on to greener pastures they can't wait to see him get nailed...even if it is at the cost of the UT program.

Of course, some of the rest of the post shows the same mistakes that Tennessee fans made while Kiffin was in Knoxville -- support the coach or shut up -- but it's also the same mistake that many of us would make in the same situation. Which is why we're all probably hypocrites on this count.


I'm actually not sure John Calipari did anything wrong here
Stop the presses. There's a negative story about Kentucky -- and I think John Calipari might be in the clear. Even if the story is true, and everyone except the Chicago Sun-Times' sources are denying it, there's not any reason to believe he was personally involved in whatever happened. There were enough questions about the first Anthony Davis recruiting story (which simply cited "rumors") that I left it alone. With the second story -- things changed slightly.

Only if they are stupid
Kentucky is apparently thinking about filing a lawsuit, which would be a bad idea immediately eligible for the Hall of Fame of Epically Bad Ideas.

In denying the allegation, attorney Stephen Barker sent a letter to the reporter, Michael O'Brien, that said the school might take legal action because of "unbelievably unsubstantiated" stories. ...

When asked about UK taking legal action, Barker said, "We have put the newspaper Web site, whatever you want to call it, on notice that that's being considered. And it is."

I say this not because I'm convinced that the story is true; in fact, I think there are some issues with it that keep even a Calipari skeptic like myself from saying I believe it right now. But when you take a look at what the rest of the article says -- that cheating in college basketball recruiting is probably widespread -- you have to wonder if discovery would be worth it, for some of the reasons that Clay and John Templon highlight. Because once depositions start getting taken, you never know what questions are going to be asked and what the consequences might be. Ask Bill Clinton.

This would be much smarter
There's a better way.

An attorney representing Anthony Davis Sr., father of Perspectives-Calumet's Anthony Davis, said a lawsuit "will be filed next week" against the Chicago Sun-Times and reporter Michael O'Brien for stories claiming the Davises had a financial deal in place that would pay the 6-foot-10 senior's family in exchange for his commitment to play for the University of Kentucky.

Assuming for the purposes of argument that neither side has done anything wrong here, this is the way to go. After all, if nothing illegal was done in the recruiting of Davis, he can file suit and testify to his heart's content. You minimize the chances that Calipari could be deposed -- though I think that's still probably more likely than not -- but do make it more likely that any other recruiting stories on Kentucky would be ruled irrelevant to that deposition. (HT: Clay)

Kentucky is involved and Tru and I disagree. Now that's not surprising
As anyone who's kept up with this know: Introduce article on Calipari and wait for Truzenzuzex at A Sea Of Blue and I to disagree in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Actually, Tru's overall take on the Sun-Times piece -- that the sausage-making that we've all viewed was not the most appetizing process and does raise some valid questions -- is not something I can really disagree with that much. But there are a few points on which we differ.

What separates that sort of anecdotal story from a real news story is the reliability of those passing along the information. ... "Sources from three separate universities" could mean anyone from the compliance staff to a student off the street. They don't even trouble to use adjectives like "usually reliable" or "well-placed" that you so often see in anonymously-sourced news stories.

So would those adjectives have made the story more meaningful? If the Sun-Times had called the sources "well-placed," would Tru have been on the rooftop yelling for an NCAA investigation? Because I find it hard to believe that he would have been. Anonymous sources are where these stories tend to come from, and most media accounts based on them are usually at least partially true. Could this be one of the untrue ones? Sure. But just leaving out a couple of words here and there doesn't mean that it's a sure thing.

Here is what I think happened here, and this is my opinion only: The Sun-Times defamed UK and Anthony Davis on Wednesday, and got caught in that act. It knew that a lawsuit was likely, and to forestall that lawsuit, it went out and found three witnesses who would vindicate their earlier story. They don't need to be reliable sources in this case, they merely need to be facially unconnected with the newspaper and have substantially the same story. The veracity of their charges is not particularly important to the Sun-Times, they merely need to be plausible.

That doesn't make much sense. The Sun-Times is facing the possibility of a lawsuit, so instead of trying to retract the story and apologize, it decides to further the defamation. If there were ever evidence of "actual malice," then trying to find people for no other purpose than promoting a story that the Sun-Times has a reason to doubt would fit the bill. (There's also a question of whether the Davises would need to prove "actual malice," which is a complex question that would depend at least in part on which court is hearing the case.)

Well, in the first place, Kentucky does not need the commitment of Anthony Davis enough to spend $200,000 on him, even if Kentucky were the lawless brigand that the Sun-Times article portrays them as. The article, among other things, suggests that UK is using back-channel methods to "buy" players with huge amounts of money. I want each and every one of you to think back -- how many times have schools who have violated NCAA regulations been accused of offering 6 figures to a player?

I've read the story, and I don't know that it "suggests that UK is using back-channel methods to 'buy' players with huge amounts of money." It suggests that someone tied to the program -- which can be a lot of people -- might have sent some money to the Davis family to try to get Davis to play for Kentucky. Is that possible, even plausible? Yes. Boosters do crazy things all the time. If you really want Davis to go to Kentucky, and you think someone from Ohio State is willing to shell out $150,000, then it's not unreasonable to think you might send the Davises $200,000. That could have happened without Kentucky or Calipari's knowledge.

There is also the question of why UK would do that -- top talent has been throwing itself at Kentucky since Calipari got here, ostensibly without being offered $200K. Are we to believe Calipari is ponying up the $200K from his personal fortune? I suppose that could be, but what would be his motivation? Is UK any more likely to win the National Championship with the addition of one more top recruit to the stable they already have in hand?

So does Tru think that Kentucky should just let Davis go to another school? Of course not. You can never have enough good players as long as you have scholarships left to offer them (and as the grayshirting controversy shows, sometimes even if you don't have scholarships left to offer them). Are there some people out there whose lives lack enough balance that they would offer $200,000 on their own to try to get Davis to come to Kentucky if they heard through the grapevine that that's the price? We're SEC fans; do I really need to answer that question?

So I call on the Sun-Times and the alleged witnesses -- come out of the shadows.  Help us clean up college basketball.

This is a real easy request to make, because it's one that Tru and everyone else who's ever made it knows will not be answered. Indeed, to draw on one of Tru's earlier statements, it would be unprofessional for a journalist to do so. You can say whatever you want to about journalists' promising anonymity or accepting off-the-record information; I can say as a journalist that such information is often invaluable and allows me to find out something that I can use or to write more informative stories for my readers.

But whether it's justified or not, it would be dishonest and unethical to promise someone anonymity and then name them. If those who know about what the Sun-Times reported want to step forward, that's their own decision and something I think would be honorable.

Naming those sources, though, wouldn't make the Sun-Times' reporting so far any better. If you believe it's done as much wrong as Tru says, it would actually be about the only thing the paper could do that would make things worse.


The school that tried to hire Rich Rodriguez vs. the school that did
Alabama could face Michigan in Jerry Jones' Death Star in 2012. Actually, Brian at mgoblog seems very confident that it will happen.

But apparently it is happening. The contract is being signed Monday. Which is tomorrow. ...

[Note on sourcing: in this case I am going with one source, but he is a very established one.]

Brian has often been proven right when he's in reporter mode, so let's see what happens today. And I agree with him that a home-and-home would be a better choice as far as venue. But this is how college football's marquee match-ups happen now, so we'll have to go with it.

Estes: Not so fast, my friend
According to the Mobile Press-Register, "a deal between the two schools is not close to being finalized at this point." The PR cites an Alabama source, which could mean there's some gamesmanship going on, or that Alabama and Michigan have different opinions of just how close a deal is, based on the logical guess that Brian's source is from Ann Arbor.

Roll Bama Roll is skeptical
Not entirely unwarranted, particularly on this note:

From the Alabama side, we've heard plenty of rumors of a 2012 opener in Dallas (UCLA and Texas Tech being the two biggest), so it seems a little odd that such a huge match up could have been kept quiet for so long (according to Cook, the deal will be inked tomorrow).

Then again, stranger things have happened. And we should not that RBR and Brian have a -- complicated -- relationship.

Emmitt Smith did not intentionally leave Florida out of his Hall of Fame speech. Some of his college coaches, on the other hand ...
For those who heard the over-the-weekend news that Emmitt Smith "snubbed" Florida during his NFL Hall of Fame induction speech -- well, rest easy.

In an interview with Al Michaels during halftime of the preseason Dallas-Cincinnati game Sunday night, Smith was asked if he forgot anything during his induction speech. He replied, "I did. I forgot one most important ingredient -- my Gator Nation. I sincerely apologize for not recognizing the University of Florida and (football coach) Urban Meyer and (athletic director) Jeremy Foley and all of the Gator Nation. The Gator Nation put me on the platform at the collegiate level, which led to where I’m at right now -- here in Canton."

Which is interesting in that Meyer did not coach at Florida when Smith was there or for more than 15 years afterward. But as Bianchi points out, Smith and his college coaches were not always on the best of terms.

The Bowl is dead
Long live ... the Birmingham Bowl? (I mean, really; why not just call it the "Don't Go To This Game" Bowl?)

This could be good news if it means that some of the smaller bowls might begin to die off and we can thin the herd. Particularly some of the ESPN-sponsored "pick a city and a sponsor and put two mediocre teams there."

What's that you say, ESPN Regional senior vp Pete Derzis?

"That's the one thing nobody has to be concerned about: The game is secure," Derzis said. "Sponsorship is one element of the game. But the business is viable and we will continue to grow the business."

Oh hooray.

He will miss the entire season
Marlon Walls will probably not play for the Volunteers this year, but not for the reasons we all thought a few weeks ago.

Sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Walls became the second expected starter up front to suffer a likely season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday, joining senior defensive end Ben Martin, who went down with the same issue on Thursday.

No snark here -- it's never good to see anyone get injured.

'Huddle presence'
Jeremiah Masoli is in Oxford and practicing with the football team. And he's impressing the always-enthusiastic Houston Nutt.

That’s the thing that’s very impressive. He stepped right in and has huddle presence. You don’t even know the plays. You’re kind of reading them off the wristband. And then you take the snap and are very natural.

Either the Ole Miss offense is a little too basic, or Masoli is being brought along slowly, or Nutt is overstating things. Most likely, it's a bit of all three.

Maybe there's a scholarship for him now
Meanwhile, Tig Barksdale is off the team for "personal issues," though we get nothing more specific than that from Ole Miss.

Given his past medical/team rules issues, this wasn’t that surprising in the grand scheme. But the timing was a bit of shock. Barely 24 hours before, both coach Houston Nutt and athletic director Pete Boone said Barksdale was in good shape to join the team heading into fall camp.

Nutt also said nice things about him after the news broke, so who knows?

A happy ending?
They need one in Athens, where Dexter Morant has decided to return to the football team.