The e-mail keeps coming -- at least a few every other day -- from people wanting to know whether I've heard about Kentucky's plans to hold its Big Blue Madness a week earlier than normal and, if so, whether I believe it's fair or just an obvious loophole Billy Gillispie has found in the NCAA rulebook.
Some readers claim it's cheating.
Others claim it's only a controversy because it involves Kentucky.
|Billy Gillispie is opting to use his weekly two hours on Oct. 10 to put on a show instead of practice. (Getty Images)|
For those who are lost, let me explain: NCAA basketball teams aren't allowed to start official practices until Oct. 17, but they get two hours per week to work with their teams from Sept. 15 until that date. The idea is to allow coaches to begin blending newcomers and veterans on a limited basis, but there is nothing in the rulebook that states how those two hours must be used. In other words, Roy Williams can get all his players together this Friday and start teaching offensive sets or let them have a 3-point shooting contest. It's totally up to him, just like whatever UCLA does is totally up to Ben Howland and whatever Kentucky does is totally up to Billy Gillispie.
Knowing Howland, he'll use those two hours each week to teach.
But Gillispie is opting to use his two hours in the week of Oct. 10 to hold Kentucky's Big Blue Madness, where 20,000 of his closest friends will fill Rupp Arena on a Friday night and chant and cheer and predict national championships to come. I attended the event last season. It was a big spectacle. And anybody who thinks it benefits Kentucky as a basketball team is crazy because while Howland is teaching inside Pauley Pavilion, Gillispie will be holding a microphone and doing his best to entertain while hoping DeAndre Liggins doesn't injure himself in what most certainly will be a sloppy scrimmage.
In fact, it's probably not good for the Wildcats strictly in terms of basketball.
It's a total waste of valuable practice time.
But Gillispie decided he'd rather get the event out of the way before the official start of practice so that he can focus solely on teaching once Oct. 17 arrives. More to the point, he has deemed it a better recruiting weekend based upon many factors, one of which is that it might be simpler to get prospects on campus on a date when dozens of other high-level programs aren't holding a similar event simultaneously.
And good for him.
The man has found a clever way to help his program, and if he doesn't mind wasting those two hours that week then I'm not sure why anybody else should care. Furthermore, I don't know what good caring will do because once the rule is amended somebody will just find another way around it, and then all anybody is doing is wasting a bunch of time debating an issue that, at least relatively, isn't a big deal, given how this is a sport where sketchy practices and compromised morals tend to create many of the Final Four teams we celebrate in any given year.
Ban "open practices" and somebody will start holding "on-campus gatherings."
Ban "on-campus gatherings" and somebody will start holding "off-campus public appearances."
It's a never-ending battle, you see? And it's not a big deal, anyway. So I say we should let Kentucky hold its Big Blue Madness whenever it sees fit and spend our time addressing other more-important issues like agents and prep schools ... and, of course, the economy.