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Why Do Dirty Coaches Get a Free Pass?

June 21, 2009 under College Basketball

USC basketball coach, Tim Floyd, resigned last week amid allegations of alleged recruiting violations that included, but were not limited to, handing cash to a CollegeBasketball1handler of O. J. Mayo to influence the then high school star to choose USC, resulting in an NCAA investigation. As a result of the probe, several key recruits either decommitted or chose different universities.  Lucky for them, as the players currently on the Trojans’ roster, young men that committed to Floyd and thought he had committed to them, must now remain with a fractured program or sacrifice a year if they decide to transfer.  Floyd, however, is free to seek the employment of another school with no strings attached.

John Calipari, late of the University of Memphis basketball program, recently agreed to an eight year deal with Kentucky estimated to be in the range of $5 million per year.  After leading Memphis to the NCAA title game in 2008, Calipari guided the Tigers into the Sweet Sixteen last year despite a completely new starting lineup.  Armed with a bevy of recruits expected to follow the coach to his new address in the Bluegrass State, Calipari was the most attractive candidate on the market and was irresisitible to Kentucky officials.

Many reports erroneously noted Calipari’s two trips to the Final Four; one in 1996 with the University of Massachusetts in addition to his ’08 appearance.  However, a quick check of NCAA record books reveals no mention of the UMass appearance as it was vacated due to Marcus Camby’s association with an agent.  Coach Cal was nowhere to be found when the sentence came down, though, having skipped to the NBA.  Calipari may soon be a coach with no National Semi-Final appearances on his resume as the second Final Four is now in danger because of an allegation of “knowing fraudulence or misconduct” on an SAT exam by a player who competed on that team.  Be careful what you wish for, Kentucky.

Last year, the storied basketball program at the University of Indiana suffered through the worst season in its history; posting a 6-25 record that included just one Big Ten conference win.  New coach Tom Crean made do with a limited roster that included just a handful of scholarship athletes as many of those recruited by his predecessor, Kelvin Sampson, either left or were dismissed.

Sampson left the University of Oklahoma to take the Indiana job just after the OU hierarchy froze bonuses and contract negotiations for a two year period while it conducted its own investigation into illegal phone calls to recruits.  Turns out Sampson and his staff made close to six hundred such calls.  Then, a little more than a year into his tenure with the Hoosiers, IU officials discovered that Sampson had made many of the same calls while in their employ and terminated his contract.

In each of these cases, the coach left for another job while the institution and the players were left to pay the price for the violations.  As for the school. itself, there has to be a level of accountability.  But for the athletes, their only indiscretion was to commit to a dishonorable coach. Faced with the choice of sitting out a year as a result of a transfer or play for a coach that didn’t recruit them in a system for which they may not be suited.  The guiltiest party in the whole scenario, however, is free to pick up and move to the highest bidder.  Not exactly an equitable situation.

While the NCAA has never been known for the logical disposition of transgressions, this one seems easy.  Whatever sanctions are handed down to the university in question follow the coach to his new job. Simple stuff.  Let’s see how quick Kentucky is to reach for its checkbook when faced with a possible ban from the NCAA tourney.  Want some accountability from these coaches?  Hit ’em in their wallets and see how fast they fall in line.

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