College Basketball is Filthy, John Calipari is Charmed, and Other Obvious Statements

A brief recap before we begin: according to the NCAA, the Memphis Tigers' basketball team used a player who had someone else take his SAT for him in the 2007-2008 season. Through an act of logical deduction so simple even a sportswriter could do it, under the parameters set by the NCAA report -- which does not name the player -- this had to be current Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose. ↵

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↵This qualifies as a major violation, and is included with a charge that Memphis allowed an associate of a player to travel with the Tigers for an illegal benefit totaling $2,260. The phrase "lack of institutional control" is not involved, and Memphis is cooperating fully, so heavy penalties are not likely, even though Memphis may have to forfeit their 38 victories from that season along with their Final Four appearance. ↵

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↵That is the case thus far against the '07-08 Tigers. Their coach, John Calipari, who took over at Kentucky and left Memphis on March 31, is not implicated in the report in any direct way. Legally he's in the clear, but reputation-wise a second major accusation in his direction -- if not specifically aimed directly at Calipari -- only reinforces the funkstink of corruption surrounding Calipari, whose 1996 Final Four team vacated its appearance after the story of Marcus Camby accepting money from an agent broke. ↵

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↵Press pause on the outrage, though, particularly on the storyline of Kentucky being shorted somehow in this. The monied portion of college athletics at its worst is a whore's scrum for recruits, something Calipari and fellow hair-gel aficionado Billy Donovan at Florida happen to excel at year to year. (The correlation between excellent and shady recruiting and gel use is an undeniable fact of college basketball, even if gel-fiend Billy Gillespie throws the whole curve off a few notches.) ↵

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↵Calipari was forthright with Kentucky about the entire process and the Wildcats still hired him, so if the Wildcats get busy whitewashing titles and Final Four appearances off the walls six or seven years from now, it's on them, not Calipari. His talents and their costs are well-established here, and any denial of this is a willful ignorance on the part of the observer. The fangs come free with the package. ↵

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↵The real gusty laughter should be reserved for the NCAA, the sloth- footed firemen who by design are forever pulling up with the firehoses and slapping their foreheads at the sight of a scorched and still smoking foundation. As with the Tim Floyd case at USC, the NCAA's role here is to play the coroner, not the sheriff. At this point, they are less of a regulatory agency than a kind of verification service for cheats, happy to confirm that rule-breaking occurred, spend a good amount of money doing so, and then shelve the report without action except in the tiniest, most kickable offenders' cases. Under Myles Brand's leadership, they remain what they've always been: the country hanging judge who'll give a small-time pot dealer 15 years but lets a banker skate when a few mil go missing at the bank. ↵

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↵Thanks to them, we'll all get a detailed report as to how it happened, lovingly documented and bound in smart, expensive binders for all to read. Then: nothing. They remain the United Nations of American sport, a toothless organization long on bloat and short on toothsome action, and dedicated to supplying one fat refugee camp with ample supplies in ↵perpetuity: its offices in Indianapolis. Getting a fake SAT score to stick for two years is a small scam, and petty in its execution and motive. Perpetuating an organization with no real defined purpose besides raking cash off the Big Dance? That, sirs and madam, is a glorious scam worthy of genuine applause. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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