Perfect Final Four Set – Plenty to Root for in Wisconsin and Florida; Plenty to Root Against in Calipari and Kentucky

by Kent Sterling

Whatever the results at Cowboys Stadium, the drama will be thick.

Whatever the results at Cowboys Stadium, the drama will be thick.

Once your favorite team or alma mater is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, all you can really hope for is context so you have someone to root for and/or against as the Saturday semifinals tip off.  There is plenty of both heading to Cowboys Stadium.

The only team about which their is no passion – at least outside of Storrs, Connecticut – is UConn.  They are the mediocre seven-seed that found their mojo and went on a roll, but arouse no national angst or love.  Shabazz Napier has become a great college basketball player as a senior, but whether Kevin Ollie’s Huskies win or lose is of little interest to non-gamblers.  The other three teams all provide plenty of reason to watch and cheer.

Wisconsin is headed to the Final Four for the first time under Bo Ryan, who has long been the best coach in the Big Ten not to reach a Final Four.  Ryan’s career is a little different from the typical marquee coach.  He started as a junior high coach, and worked his way up through Sun Valley High School in Pennsyvania to be an assistant at Wisconsin to head coach at Wisconsin-Platteville – where he won four NCAA DIII national championships – and Wisconsin-Milwaukee before getting the gig with the Badgers in 2001 at the age of 53.

Since then, Ryan has never finished outside the top four in the Big Ten, and has qualified for the NCAA Tournament every year.  If you can’t find a reason to pull for Ryan, you aren’t looking very hard.  He works exceptionally hard, has no interest in the spotlight, and builds consistent winners without a hint of impropriety.

Ryan and the Badgers represent all that is good about college basketball.  They win the right way, and they win consistently.  A national championship would be a wonderful valedictory moment for an under-the-radar great coach.

Incredibly, this is 48-year old Billy Donovan’s 18th season at Florida.  Even more odd, when conversations about the top five or ten coaches in college basketball are had in bars outside of Gainesville, his name is rarely mentioned until later when someone digs deep and the rest of the guys at the table say, “Oh yeah, how’d we miss him?”

Donovan draws very little attention to himself in the media, preferring to invest his energy in the kids who play for him.  The Gators have played in seven elite eights, qualified for their fourth final four this year, and have a chance to win their third national championship under his leadership.

Among the top seven Gators in minutes are four seniors – Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, and Will Yeguete.  Nine of the players on the roster are from Florida.

If Florida can lay claim to a team of players that was built not bought, Kentucky is what they always are under John Calipari – a collection of highly touted freshmen who would likely have been drafted into the NBA if not for the draft ineligibility of those not yet one year removed from high school.  Sometimes that scheme works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Last season, the mismatched parts of the Wildcats roster were eliminated in the first round of the NIT by Robert Morris.  This year, the recipe clicked late, and Kentucky found their collective heart.  Winners of three straight games against teams who played in last year’s Final Four, Kentucky has a mix of athleticism, size, and execution that has proven a very difficult match-up.

Sure, it would be nice to watch college basketball played by college students hoping to earn their degree while playing, but Big Blue Nation doesn’t worry themselves about such trivialities.  Status in the Blue Grass is measured by banners, not degrees.  That makes Kentucky my villain in this tournament – or any tournament.

As long as Florida beats the seventh-seeded UConn Huskies, the championship game a week from tonight should be great TV.  With only three teams qualifying for the tournament, the SEC was a longshot to place both teams in the championship when 68-teams began the quest to crown a champ.  Now, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all.

I would love to see Florida play Wisconsin in the final, with Ryan cutting down the nets.  A lifetime of hard work by the coach from Chester, PA – a hardscrabble paper mill town – resulting in a trip to the mountaintop of his profession at the age of 66 would be a great story.

Donovan’s team winning it all would be my second choice.

A bunch of freshmen awaiting entry into the NBA Draft from which they were forbidden last year – not such a great story.  But it would beat UConn winning it, the only team about whom I am apathetic.  At least with a Kentucky win, I would have something to gripe about until November.

37 thoughts on “Perfect Final Four Set – Plenty to Root for in Wisconsin and Florida; Plenty to Root Against in Calipari and Kentucky

  1. ArnoP

    Another fine example to Gonzo journalism Kent.

    Your continued hope for Kentucky to loose comes to late. They’ve already had a great year and some fantastic games with some really fine teams. College Basketball at its best 😉

    Before I read a few of your blogs I thought another championship would be nice but not expected. Now I think it would be wonderful. If it were to happen just add a red nose to that blue face of yours and you’ll be ready for your next profession. Barnum and Bailey is waiting.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Why not just thank me and get it over with. By the way, thanks for the “gonzo journalism” reference. If I ever write with half the passion and 10% of the skill of Hunter Thompson, I will be as happy as you are with the Wildcats.

      1. ArnoP

        Thank you Kent. . . Your lack of censorship is appreciated.

        By the way the Kentucky Derby’s coming up soon. You should stop by. You’re sure to have a great time since they have plenty of what you’ve been shoveling.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          I love the Derby. Louisville is a great place during the Festival. I’ll stop by and say hello!

  2. Warren in TN

    I hope you read my response on your other article. I tried hard to think of a constructive way for you to put your journalistic skills into helping you to find a different take on Coach Cal (I know that’s HIGHLY unlikely) But maybe it might allow you reconsider your heavily anti-Calipari feelings. Personally, I’m flattered you gave me a shout out. I enjoy your site and thanks so much (once again!) for the kind words.

    I think there are positive stories GALORE with this Final Four. Florida and Billy Donovan, man whatta’ coach! Experienced, veteran team, those seniors have worked their tails off, and are deserving to the Nth degree. Very happy for them! UConn, I really have come to like Coach Kevin Ollie. Love his attitude and the way he handles their team. They seem to have a ton of class up there in Storrs, and I think he has them on the same trajectory Coach Calhoun had that program on.

    Then we have Wisconsin, everything to like about that team, especially for Coach Ryan. I was almost moved to tears after they won the regional finals and he was talking about his mom and dad. Moving, and i mean, VERY moving stuff there. I’ve got nothing but love for the Badgers, even though I gotta’ root against them.

    Last, but certainly not least, Kentucky. I know you can’t stand Coach Cal, but I have to say I’ve never, in almost 40 years of watching college hoops, NEVER seen a coach turn around a team so dramatically in such a short period of time. On top of that, he did it all in the month of March, the perfect time. Say what you will about the man, but he can coach and motivate and recruit, and he is absolutely one of the game’s best.

    I also have to say, beating 3 of the 4 previous seasons’ Final Four participants just to make the Final Four? That’s an INSANE accomplishment. One worthy to be a first for a Kentucky program to add to the list. Not sure If I’ll live to see that equaled, too.

    As an added bonus, making the Final Four, coming out of the “Region of Doom” (as an 8 seed, no less!) well, all I can say is, I’ve never seen a more difficult region put together and a team so unlikely to come out of it after playing such phenomenal games. It’s been a magically delicious ride!

    Then you have the players for UK. They asked Julius Randle what was best about making the Final Four… He said “I get to go home and see my mother.” WOW. How can you not like a kid like that? Then you got Marcus Lee. Marcus Lee? Pinch me, I must be dreaming. But it wasn’t like he isn’t capable of playing great. He was the 6th McDonald’s All American Cal recruited this season. If Coach Cal can work wonders with the rest of them, why not make Lee a quick star in a supernova-like explosion?

    I know that win or lose, I’ll enjoy the games and the competition, and I’m sure all of them will be highly competitive contests we will remember for a long time. I’d be disappointed to see UK lose at this point, of course, but it’s all gravy for this old cat’.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Glad you are thrilled. You should be. What the hell. Live is too short not to take the opportunity to enjoy every sandwich. My take on Calipari is markedly different, as you might guess. UK underperformed early, and then found its stride. Instead of applauding Calipari for their March, I choose to chastise him for his February-January. The talent was always there, and he was unable to get them to coalesce. That sounds like it came from someone who will never see the good in Calipari, and as long as the guys he systemically invites to Lexington are not even compensated with a decent education – although one is available to them – while he cashes checks of rough $200 grand every two weeks, I will continue to reject his character a sub worthy of his position regardless of banners.

  3. Kevin Pittsnogle

    My name is Kent Sterling. I don’t like John Calipari because he signs multiple players that have the potential to go to the NBA draft after one year. My favorite college team, Indiana, also recruits one and dones, and has had early NBA departures for two consecutive years. In fact, IU has signed James Blackmon, Jr., who said it is one of his “main goals” to be a one and done. I tend to ignore these issues as they are wildly inconsistent with the position Ive taken as to Calipari and Kentucky.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      As is typical from Kentucky fans, that is a massive simplification. My attendance at IU from 1981-1986 has nothing to do with my opinions of the one-and-done issue – and how it is corrupted at UK by John Calipari. The first one-and-done to the NBA in the history of Indiana is Noah Vonleh. Duke has had three since 2000, and Bill Self at Kansas has suffered three such losses since getting the gig in 2003. Calipari has cycled 11 such players through his program since 2010.

      The others find an occasional kid with the pedigree and talent to bounce. Calipari targets all of them, which reduces the program to a educationally bereft (for the one-and-dones) purgatory where kids do their time before being where they should have been in the first place.

      Cody Zeller is one semester from his degree, and Victor Oladipo earned his before leaving. That is entirely different from the systemic recruiting of those who are only interested in basketball and not college because the NBA’s rules neglect to acknowledge the desire for young adults to enter the workforce when both the employee and employer believe he is ready and able.

      You can rationalize all you like, but Kentucky is much more a semi-pro team than a college basketball team.

      1. JC22

        Cal has stated numerous times that he doesn’t like the one and done rule either. If he could have these guys for 3 or 4 years, he obviously would. Don’t blame him for using a system the NBA has created for college basketball. I would wager a guess that if Williams, Self, or Crean, or any other D1 coach could recruit like Calipari, they would be stacking their rosters with one and dones, but they aren’t the caliber recruiter (or coach) that Cal is. I don’t like it, Cal doesn’t like it, the world doesn’t like it, but until the NBA changes the rule, thems the breaks, and Cal will continue to utilize them.
        And if getting a young man in relative poverty to his dreams in the NBA and a massive million dollar or more paycheck is considered higher than a ton of debt and maybe 1 to 200,000 dollar a year grind, I don’t know what is right. there are plenty of students and student athletes whose dreams are fufilled at the great University of Kentucky, and players like Wall, Davis, and Randle are having their dreams fulfilled all the same, why don’t you go over to Anthony Davis’ mansion, pull up next to his lambo and tell him he did wrong by not getting his degree.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          You make two assumptions that are spurious – that a recruit has any reason to expect Calipari will do more than most in prepping him when he would have been drafted out of high school anyway, and that Calipari is telling the truth when he says he doesn’t like the one-and-done rule. If not for the rule, he wouldn’t have attracted the NBA players in waiting that he has. If the rule evolved into two-and-done, Calipari would miss out of roughly half of the kids he has gotten.

          The dreams of Randle, Wall, and Davis would have been fulfilled if they went to Valparaiso.

          And in no way am I saying that Davis needs a degree to live a full life, but that Kentucky got max mileage and bucks out of him, and in return Davis got what? The system is completely out of whack, and Kentucky’s predilection with one-and-done is even more egregious.

          1. Pissed is Sophia

            I’m having a hard time following your logic here. You say that Calipari has reduced the program to an educationally bereft purgatory where kids “do their time” by recruiting kids who would otherwise be drafted directly into the NBA. Are you arguing that the kids would be better served educationally by directly entering into the draft? That doesn’t make sense and perhaps that is the reason you have chosen to call it purgatory. The purgatory,id est, the one year removed rule, however, is the mandate of the NBA, not Calipari and why that should draw your ire is testament to your bias rather than a logical conclusion.

            Are you arguing that by filling the basketball scholarships with fly by night student athletes Calipari is disenfranchising would be degree earning student athletes? If so, this does not jibe with your position that when done in moderation, you find no fault. The rosters will be filled with those ones and done regardless. The disenfranchisement is a wash regardless of which school recruits whom.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            Good questions. Let me try to make this clearer. My ire is against the entire system. The talent of the players is used by the university without any compensation – other than the (mostly) pass through expense of the scholarship. That is wrong. For those who stay for only one year, the compensation is of zero value at all because everyone knows when a guy like Julius Randle sets foot on campus that his education will be filled with freshman level dreck.

            Calipari is the poster boy for this inequity because he systemically utilizes it to reap his own $5+-million salary and bonuses.

            While it’s true the NBA is responsible for the one year delay for draft eligibility, it serves their profit-centric agenda, which is entirely appropriate as they run businesses designed specifically for that purpose.

            If Calipari – and other coaches – were paid on the same scale as tenured professors, I would have no problem with him. But as long as he makes roughly that much money every 10-12 days for funneling one-and-dones through his program, I find his agenda objectionable.

          3. John

            You do know that athletic scholarships can be converted to academic scholarships and that there are NBA players who are also attending college through correspondence courses and summer school, right?

            You do realize that several of the players you call “one and done” may not be playing for UK, but are still students, right?

            You fail to mention that there were “one and done” players who Coach Cal advised to stay in school, right?

            It seems that the journalistic integrity has a slant against Kentucky. None of Kentucky’s players have declared for the 2014 draft yet. Most likely, Cauley-Stein, a Sophomore and Randle, a Freshman, will. The parents of James Young and the Harrison twins have stated that their sons may be back at UK next year.

          4. kentsterling Post author

            We’ll see how it plays out in Lexington. Historically, those projected in the lottery roll out. Smart was an exception, and sadly will serve as a cautionary tale for those tempted to declare.

            I do not realize that any of the one-and-dones from UK are currently college students. That would be interesting to know.

            Whether Calipari advised kids to stay in school or not isn’t germane to the discussion.

      2. Kevin Pittsnogle

        Does the name Eric Gordon ring any bells? How about Jared Jeffries?

        I’m not trying to rationalize, Kent. I am pointing out to your readers the glaring hypocrisy in your position on the one and done. If you truly feel signing one and dones lacks intergrity, you need to consistently apply that belief to all schools, including your own. Otherwise your constant moralizing rings hollow.

        I don’t mind you criticizing Cal and Kentucky for their use of one and done players, but criticize all the other schools that are also signing these kids, including Indiana. Otherwise, your opinion on this issue will continue to be flawed and lacking in integrity, like the one and done.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Jared Jeffries left after his sophomore year. Not a one-and-done. As explained in an earlier comment, Gordon was a part of the mass abdication of talent after the Sampson/Senderoff debacle.

          1. John

            Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb left after their Sophomore seasons. They were not Freshmen and both are still students.

            Darius Miller was a Senior and graduated from UK.

            Alex Poythress is a Sophomore and is likely coming back to UK for his Junior year. He also has a 4.0 GPA. Willie Cauley-Stein is also a Sophomore.

            The Harrison twins have stated that they are not certain that they will leave after this season as they have no financial pressure to do so.

            Patrick Patterson and DeAndre Liggins were also not one and done players. Marcus Teague, Archie Goodwin and Daniel Orton were all encouraged by Coach Cal to come back for their Sophomore season. It was not his fault they chose not to.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            That’s great. Never implied that every single player at UK is a one-and-done. Patterson is by all accounts a great young man. Jarrod Polson is also a great guy and serious student. This has nothing to do with the quality of the kids who are forced to attend college for a year before being allowed to enter the NBA Draft.

            I’ve never said or written a negative thing about a college athlete. Coaches are obviously a different matter.

      3. Kevin Pittsnogle

        It’s not an oversimplification. It’s your argument, distilled. You want so badly to draw a line in the sand between recruiting a single one-and-done and recruiting five one-and-done’s, but logically, you can’t. For instance, you are constantly comparing one-and-done’s to slaves on a plantation (which I do not agree with), so your argument is essentially “it’s okay for certain schools to have one slave, but not okay for another school to have four slaves.” Do you see how that makes zero sense?? If your position is that one and done’s are slaves, then you can’t give Indiana, Duke, and KU a pass and attack only Kentucky. You need to apply your condemnation of the one and done across the board to each of these schools, including your alma mater. Otherwise, you have ZERO journalistic integrity.

        (Again, I do not agree with the slave analogy, but am applying it to show the flaw in your logic).

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Walter Byers – the guy who invented the modern NCAA – used the term “neo-plantation mentality” to describe college athletics, so I find its use legitimate. Who would know better than Byers?

          The difference between five one-and-dones and one is that five reflects a systemic strategy, while one represents either luck or speedy development. In the Vonleh case, his jump was foreseeable as he reclassed to speed his clock. If not for his desire to get to the NBA early, why declass? I was not happy with the Vonleh signing, and said so at the time, but relaxed when I saw how skinny the kid was. My evaluation of him as a guy who would need a couple of years to bulk up for the NBA was inaccurate.

          1. Kevin Pittsnogle

            There is no difference, Kent. Owning one slave is just as deplorable as owning five. Condemn slave owners all you want, but condemn them all, even your own plantation.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            Not an apt metaphor for the one-and-dones because all players for all D-1 universities are part of the plantation. The one-and-dones are more preyed upon because the school is very aware of their short window at the university, but all are on the plantation.

  4. Your mother

    I’m curious as to how you choose to justify the over simplifications of your argument. It is my understanding that numerous UK players under Cal have maintained strong GPAs and continue to work towards degrees. Please correct me if I am wrong if you have done the research. I am not a professional writer so I don’t have time to do so, but I know Brandon Knight was an excellent student, and currently Alex Poythress is as well. I assume they are not the only ones and only toss their names out as specific examples. I also assume that since you are paid to write and do the necessary research, you would have no problem providing actual GPAs and stats on guys working towards their degrees that have come through Calipari’s program at UK.

    My real question for you is what your beef is with John Calipari? It is blatantly obvious your perspective is personal. Honestly, it also seems rather short-sighted when taking in the hypocricy of the NCAA and the college sports environment in general. Funny how easily Roy Williams gets off any “institutional control” (or lack there of) hammering by sportswriters with these last two guys that got in trouble. It is an easy recent example but not the only one so I am sure you get the point.

    I understand that sports media would be lame if everyone agreed, and your job is to drive traffic to your articles. That’s the world we live in. However, the world we live in does not insist that you write like a hack or can’t give credit where it is due. Despite your position on Calipari or his players, what actually happened this weekend for Kentucky basketball is a bunch of 18-22 year old young men came together and played very solid basketball. They are basically still children, and they deserve a little credit for their efforts.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I have never discounted the excellence of kids playing at Kentucky. One of my favorite all-time teams to watch was the Wall, Bledsoe, Cousins, Peterson, Miller, etc… They were incredibly fast. Harrison hitting that shot was an enormous moment.

      As for Roy Williams, I’ve written quite a bit about North Carolina’s pathetic indifference about the education of those who come to UNC hoping for better. If they reports from Mary Willingham are accurate, UNC’s athletic department should be axed en masse.

      The issue is that Kentucky fans wander through here periodically and become outraged at what they read about Calipari. They behave as though it’s all I write about. Not sure how many posts I’ve written about Calipari over the past year, but I would be surprised if I wrote more than ten out of the 1,000+ published here.

      My real beef with Calipari is that the way he operates reduces to negligible the value of the compensation (education) players receive for their services. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was guaranteed millions of dollars after my freshman year regardless of academic performance, the vagaries of sociology, finite math, and east asian studies would have been diminished to near zero. That doesn’t mean the same is true for all one-and-done players.

      As for GPAs, the information I have is the same you have, and that is what is released by the university, but as is always the case the GPAs cannot always be trusted to reflect the value of the education. We never know the specific classes being taken by players – other than their majors – so I don’t lend great weight to the grade reports.

      That doesn’t dismiss the work being done by the players, and I hope they are all taking advantage of the slight bit of comp they take from UK while giving so much as they await their names being called in the NBA Draft.

      1. John

        The NBA offers the 19 and 20 year old kids those salaries. I agree to a point. The problem however is no Calipari. In baseball, a player starts in the minor leagues and is paid around $25,000 to $50,000. He has to make it to the major leagues before he receives more than $100,000. As you stated, if someone threw $2,000,000 at you for simply signing a piece of paper, you’d take it. What you’ve failed to research as a journalist is that most of the student athletes from UK do indeed continue their education and do earn degrees. Most UK fans and Coach Cal himself would love to see these kids stick around longer. However, it is their choice to stay or go.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          The point is that the system is exploitive against the kids, and Calipari uses it to his overwhelming financial advantage. In baseball high school kids drafted in the first round receive significant bonuses for signing.

          It does not matter whether the kids forced to spend a year at Kentucky (or in much smaller numbers at Duke, Kansas, Indiana, UConn, etc…). Hell, I hope they all return to school and learn what will make their lives fuller.

          I’m not campaigning for kids to stick around longer. I want them to have the freedom to monetize their talents and images at their whim. In no way am I endorsing a longer period for athletes destined to play professionally. The baseball model is only preferable because HS grad can roll straight to the NBA.

      2. Your mother

        “I have never discounted the excellence of kids playing at Kentucky.” Actually you did in your article. This comment “If Florida can lay claim to a team of players that was built not bought” implies that UK is doing something unsavory to gain the recruits they do, which can also lead to negative implications on the morality of the kids. Also with this, “played by college students hoping to earn their degree while playing” you are in general, making a negative statement towards the kids. It may not be overly harsh, but I dare say it is not intended to be positive commentary.

        “As for Roy Williams, I’ve written quite a bit about North Carolina’s pathetic indifference about the education of those who come to UNC hoping for better. If they reports from Mary Willingham are accurate, UNC’s athletic department should be axed en masse.” That’s awesome, but I think even you should be able to admit there is a massive disparity between how some coaches are barnstormed against and others aren’t and in large part is simply due to personal biased, often times based on the coach’s personality.

        “The issue is that Kentucky fans wander through here periodically and become outraged at what they read about Calipari. They behave as though it’s all I write about. Not sure how many posts I’ve written about Calipari over the past year, but I would be surprised if I wrote more than ten out of the 1,000+ published here.” Uhm…this means nothing. If you have written 10 articles and they are all incendiary, then that is still 100% negative. UK fans may take acception for lines like this, “but Big Blue Nation doesn’t worry themselves about such trivialities. Status in the Blue Grass is measured by banners, not degrees.” That is a broad generalization and those aren’t often accepted in our culture anymore. Sort of like racism to use an almost inappropriate analogy. By the way, there are a lot of UK fans that don’t prefer the roster turnover and have voiced their opinions about it this year. On a local level you hear it a lot more. However, does that mean they are supposed to stop supporting the program that literally gets instilled upon them to love since the day they were born?

        “My real beef with Calipari is that the way he operates reduces to negligible the value of the compensation (education) players receive for their services.” There is a massive debate about the value of that compensation in regards to the value of the student athlete’s services to the universities I am sure you are aware of. When I was a child I saw Jerry Tarkanian as everything that was evil with college athletics. Now I view him more as a Robin Hood figure. Have you seen the documentary on the Fab 5? The NCAA making millions off those kids while they were receiving racist hate mail and death threats? You may not like Calipari’s lip service, or his approach, but the true issue is a broken system. You are going after a symptom rather than the disease.

        “As for GPAs, the information I have is the same you have, and that is what is released by the university…” Fair enough, but you still conveniently ignore your ability to do a little research on how many of Cal’s former players continue to work towards their degrees after they have left campus. The truth is, I could be opening myself up to an easy argument for you if those numbers are low. However, you don’t bother to do the research and also choose to make inflammatory remarks which is why I called you a hack.

        “That doesn’t dismiss the work being done by the players…” Actually, you do dismiss it, because you purposefully leave it out of your original article and as noted above make several statements with negative implications.

        So here is something for you to consider. If you choose to take the moral high ground about the way Calipari does things, then perhaps you should make a better attempt at a fair and balanced discussion with a little more research provided as well, lest you dive head first into the seas of hypocrisy.

        One last little nugget for you referenced from Don Walker of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinal. I hope it is okay to repost here with the reference listed. It is almost a non sequitur if you will, although I think you will understand why I am including this. “The University of Wisconsin has been able to graduate only half of its men’s basketball players over a four-year period, according to Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figures released Tuesday by the NCAA. UW’s 50% rate – for players arriving from 2001-’04, and allowing them six years to graduate – is tied for fourth lowest in the Big Ten Conference. Minnesota has the lowest rate at 43%, followed by Michigan (45%), Indiana (47%) and Wisconsin and Purdue (both at 50%).”

        Any interest in paying me $50,000 a year to do research for you?

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Graduation rates as calculated by the NCAA are not reliable as they penalize schools for a variety of student travails. Roughly one-third of all college basketball players transfer, and they are listed as non-grads in statistical data. This percentages wind up being completely out of whack. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Wisconsin is off the hook, but a deeper look into the Wisconsin group during that period is warranted. For that reason, I don’t write or talk about graduation rates. Virtually the entire Indiana team rolled over from Spring, 2008 to Fall, 2009. Of course, graduation rates would be pathetic. Your eagerness to accept numbers gathered through a flawed statistical prism disqualifies you as a candidate for my research position.

          I am not in the business of calling university registrars to determine graduates or current student status. If the players who left Kentucky for the NBA are taking correspondence courses, that’s wonderful. What purpose that would serve is anyone’s guess.

          Am I going after the symptom instead of the disease? No, I’m singling out Calipari as Typhoid Mary for this disease, relentlessly infecting his program through his greed.

          When answering comments that all I do is bash Kentucky and Calipari, it is entirely appropriate to refute that. That explanation isn’t supposed to make eager to be annoyed Kentucky fans feel better, but given the accusation of trolling for page views, it is germane.

          As for the media isolating Calipari as a target in the mess that is college football and basketball, yeah, ESPN sure tears him apart. Nobody there extolls his virtues, do they? Good grief. You guys are like the Obama Administration yelping about Fox News while completely ignoring the relentless positive coverage on MSNBC. “The media is so mean!” Yeah, except for those you agree with. They are right – not slanted.

          As for “built, not bought,” your extrapolation of that as a negative comment about the players is erroneous. The comment was about how talent was assembled, not acquired. It was not meant to be inferred as an accusation about cash changing hands. Florida has seniors who play. Kentucky recruits over the top of everyone. Kentucky is a very nice double-wide trailer that is ready for immediate occupancy, while this Florida team was built from the ground up.

  5. Scrap Irony

    “My real beef with Calipari is that the way he operates reduces to negligible the value of the compensation (education) players receive for their services. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was guaranteed millions of dollars after my freshman year regardless of academic performance, the vagaries of sociology, finite math, and east asian studies would have been diminished to near zero. That doesn’t mean the same is true for all one-and-done players.”

    This has proven to be a false charge, though. Only one of the OAD players quit on his education after deciding to go pro. Every other one-year wonder finished his semester in good academic standing. Even the obviously uber-talented, lottery selections chose to finish the semester, even with millions staring them in the face.

    Every player Calipari has recruited to Kentucky has done one of three things:

    1) Transferred to another academic institution, thereby relieving Calipari of his duty to said student-athlete (Harrow, Dodson, Poole)

    2) Graduated with at least one degree– often, two (Vargas, Beckham, Stevenson, Harris, Miller, Patterson, Hood, Polson, Mays, Krebs)

    3) Gone on to sign NBA contracts and play at the highest level of their sport (numerous, the least of which is DeAndre Liggins, at $1.2 million in career earnings)

    A head basketball coach cannot do more than that. His players have left, earned their degree, or made millions playing the game they love.

    This Bobby Knight-level “could-have”, “should-have”, “would-have” supposition is fine… until the facts come in. However, the facts are in– you’re assumptions about the players– and Cal– are simply unwarranted.

    I realize this won’t change your opinions about the man or his approach. Shrug. Opinions are like bellybuttons, right? However, at least find some ammunition that has merit. This is a tired argument that never held water to begin with.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      My issue is not, nor has ever been the dispersal of players into real life after their time at Kentucky. It’s the massive financial wealth that is generated by the players for the coaches and school while playing basketball at Kentucky – of which they receive nothing more than free entry into classes in which they have limited to zero interest (I realize there are outliers who enjoy freshman level academics).

      Leaving Kentucky in good academic standing hardly equates to deriving benefit for that education.

      To credit the University of Kentucky of John Calipari with having any impact on the draft position of the majority of the NBA talent he has attracted to UK is spurious at best.

      1. Scrap Irony

        “My issue is not, nor has ever been the dispersal of players into real life after their time at Kentucky. It’s the massive financial wealth that is generated by the players for the coaches and school while playing basketball at Kentucky – of which they receive nothing more than free entry into classes in which they have limited to zero interest (I realize there are outliers who enjoy freshman level academics).”

        Don’t the players also receive massive amounts of money? Indeed, most of Calipari’s recruits since his arrival at Kentucky (from the class of Wall to last season’s) have enjoyed unparalleled success financially. Only those that have transferred have received neither a degree nor millions.

        And isn’t that the point of an college education– to give you a helping hand in battling through the “real world”?

        I realize that some may insist that an education is about more than money.

        Perhaps, then, an education is about making connections, both within and socially. Calipari’s student-athletes have made connections with an entire state. They’ve also faced the most difficult, pressure-packed stress many of us could imagine. And conquered.

        Perhaps an education is about making lifelong friendships. DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Eric Bledsoe would argue they are indeed just that. So, too, would many of “la familia” Calipari has brought together under the Kentucky banner.

        Perhaps an education is about experiences. Wouldn’t playing in front of 25,000 adoring fans, practicing untold hours, and traveling just about everywhere around the United States would qualify?

        Perhaps an education is simply about doing classwork and earning a solid grade. Kentucky’s 3.4 GPA since Calipari’s taken over would insist these student-athletes take that seriously as well.

        I can understand cynically deriding the one-and-done system. However, it’s not Calipari who created the system. You decry him while ignoring other coaches who follow the same blueprint or the NBA and NCAA– who created the system in the first place. Perhaps that’s where your vitriol should be aimed.

        Calipari has taken this questionable system and created an ideal paradigm of the true student-athlete. His ballplayers have been remarkably successful professionally and educationally. That is something we should celebrate, not denigrate.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          That was a very well-written articulation of the morally convenient argument many Kentucky fans make to justify their success as something more than a simple corruption of a system designed to financially suppress players while elevating the wealth of administrators, coaches, and media.

          I prefer to be intolerant of a man like Calipari, employed by an educational institution that is supposed to be founded on the principles of imbuing young adults with knowledge and wisdom.

          Anger toward the NBA for enacting a rule that maxes out profits would be ridiculous. NBA owners are not in business for the benefit of their players. Those franchises are supposed to make money.

          Universities are supposed to teach, and athletics is a wonderful tool toward that end. Calipari is the chief exploiter of young soon-to-be professionals, so I believe my vitriol is well-targeted.

          1. Scrap Irony

            “That was a very well-written articulation of the morally convenient argument many Kentucky fans make to justify their success as something more than a simple corruption of a system designed to financially suppress players while elevating the wealth of administrators, coaches, and media.”

            Your “morally convenient argument” is a strawman. Like said strawman, it’s hollow, with no corresponding basis in fact. It’s merely an ad hominem attack on an easy target. (In this case, Calipari.)

            The exploitation and corruption that you rail against isn’t Calipari’s. This is, like it nor not, the system within which he works. Nor is it a choice of the University of Kentucky. (Or at least not exclusively that university.)

            It’s also not exclusively the choice of Kansas, Duke, UCLA, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, or UConn either, for that matter. Or their esteemed coaches. (Oddly, I see that you’ve conveniently forgotten Florida’s Bradley Beal and UConn’s Andre Drummond– other one-and-doners– when discussing just who to root for– and why– in this article.)

            Again, this supposed exploitation is on the entirety of the NCAA.

            I’d also argue that Calipari, more than most Division I coaches, teaches just the wisdom that you seem to think he ignores.

            I’m certain he would have wanted, say, Nerlens Noel, to come back this season. Or Marquis Teague or Terrence Jones the season before. Or Brandon Knight the season before that. Or even Eric Bledsoe the year before that.

            However, he knows those players can make much more money much quicker if they go pro a year earlier. They get to free agency a year faster. They get out of their rookie contracts a year faster. They get into endorsements a year faster. They spend an extra year (or two, or three, or four) making money before they are forced to retire.

            He’s not, as you claim, “financial(ly) suppressing players”. He’s empowering them to make decisions that make more money faster. (He’s also among the few coaches who are pushing for player stipends, fwiw.)

            Calipari is, then, doing what’s right for those under his charge. That’s what he’s paid for. And that’s why your argument holds no water.

            If you want to level a charge at someone, lob it at Mark Emmert and the hypocrisy of the entire NCAA, not simply at one coach who plays within the rules given to him by his governing body.

          2. kentsterling Post author

            This has been explained before, but I’ll restate for those who haven’t been to these parts before:

            There are three hierarchies of morality. The second of which is “conventional”. That is where you place Calipari. He inhabits a place where, because he exists within the rules, he is not culpable for the overarching wrong being done. That’s where cowards live.

            The third level of morality – post-conventional – is the land of the enlightened who refuse to rely upon a governing body to separate right from wrong.

            The first level, by the way, is pre-convention morality. People in that sect have no respect for right and wrong, only what brings immediate gratification. Calipari doesn’t belong there at all. He understands the rules better than most, and how to profit from them.

            I never claimed Calipari is financially suppressing players. The system does, and Calipari profits most from exploiting the system. That does not build a link between Calipari and the suppression of wealth the one-and-done rule causes. They are separate acts with separate causes caused by the actions and beliefs of different entities.

          3. Kevin Pittsnogle

            Well, you better place Crean, Donovan, Self, and all the other coaches that have had one and dones in the “conventional” along with Calipari.

            We know that none of them are occupying the “post-conventional” because none of them are refusing to rely upon a governing body to separate right from wrong. They are all signing one and dones.

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