Senior Writer

Davis suit: Potentially great theater but quite unlikely


Anthony Davis Sr., father of heralded prospect Anthony Davis, told the Chicago Tribune he plans to file a lawsuit this week against the Chicago Sun-Times and staff reporter Michael O'Brien because of multiple stories claiming the family agreed to accept an improper benefit in exchange for a commitment to play basketball at Kentucky.

Can you imagine coaches like John Calipari on the witness stand talking about recruiting? (Getty Images)  
Can you imagine coaches like John Calipari on the witness stand talking about recruiting? (Getty Images)  
I, for one, am praying this happens -- not because I want to see the Davis family bring down a newspaper that mishandled a story (regardless of whether the allegations are true), and not because I'm interested in seeing Kentucky's good name cleared. If those things happen, fine, but they don't matter much to me. What matters to me is that a lawsuit could, in theory, lead to a trial with witnesses testifying under oath about possible recruiting improprieties, which would be an even bigger gift to college basketball enthusiasts than the recent extortion trial centered around Louisville's Rick Pitino.

Can you imagine?

All the head coaches of the programs recruiting Davis -- everybody from Kentucky's John Calipari to Ohio State's Thad Matta to Syracuse's Jim Boeheim to DePaul's Oliver Purnell -- could be subpoenaed along with various boosters, agents, runners, and Nike reps. Throw in a few assistant coaches, a couple of recruiting analysts, and every member of the Davis family, and we'd have a trial worth covering gavel-to-gavel.

Seriously, what would be better than coaches, agents, runners, boosters, Nike reps and recruiting analysts -- plus the man accused of negotiating a deal worth $200,000 to send his son to play for the Wildcats -- testifying under oath about how this might have gone down? Everybody who ever made a phone call to the Davis household would be asked if anybody ever so much as hinted at anything improper, then asked about how often they believe this stuff happens in general, then asked whether they've ever offered or accepted anything in violation of NCAA rules. If they lie, they risk perjuring themselves. So my guess is that most would be compelled to publicly tell the truth about recruiting for the first time, and almost nobody would exit the trial looking better than they did before they entered.

Which is why this will never happen.

Oh, it could happen, I guess, if the Davis family is foolish enough to pursue it. But the more likely scenario, once everybody calms, has the family remaining silent and out of the spotlight until Davis' final college decision is announced.

In other words, they won't sue and follow through with it.

Almost nobody ever really sues media outlets and sees it through.

"Less than one percent in the United States," attorney Pat Brown answered when I asked how many people who claim they're going to sue a media outlet actually sues said media outlet.

I contacted Brown because he once represented a high school football coach from Memphis named Lynn Lang who was accused, by me, in 2001 of negotiating a deal with Alabama booster Logan Young to send an elite prospect (Albert Means) to play for the Crimson Tide. Day before the story ran, I went to see Lang face-to-face, at his office, to tell him I planned to report he sold Means to Alabama based on, among other things, an on-the-record allegation from Lang's former assistant, Milton Kirk.

"That's a bunch of joke," Lang responded. "You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

That never happened. Rather than produce a libel suit, the story sparked NCAA and criminal investigations that led to Alabama being placed on probation, and Lang, Kirk and Young being indicted by a federal grand jury. Lang never sued me or anybody else. He instead cut a deal with a federal prosecutor, flipped on Young, and helped convict the booster of conspiracy to commit racketeering, crossing state lines to commit racketeering, and arranging bank withdrawals to cover up a crime.

It took four years, but that's how that story played out. And though I'm not predicting this one goes the same way, I am predicting Davis will, like Lang, decline to follow through on the threat of a lawsuit. Even if Davis files it, he won't pursue it to the point of trial because he'll soon learn such would only make a bad situation worse. He'll also learn that there's little chance of winning given that he would -- as the father of a high-profile prospect whose name has appeared in countless publications -- likely be considered a "public figure" for the purposes of the suit, at which point it would have to be proven that the paper knowingly published false allegations or operated with reckless disregard for the truth. That the story was wrong -- if the story was in fact wrong -- wouldn't alone be enough to win anything. Once Davis understands as much, I presume he'll drift into the background just like Eric Bledsoe.

You remember Bledsoe, right?

He's the Kentucky player who was going to sue the New York Times after it published details of his high school transcript and alleged Bledsoe accepted extra benefits. But here we are more than two months later, and nothing. There's no lawsuit, and there's never going to be one, far as I can tell, because Bledsoe must know he wouldn't win it, and that he'd probably look worse because of it.

Same goes for Anthony Davis Sr.

Which is why this will never happen.

Do I hope I'm wrong?

Of course, I hope I'm wrong.

(Please, God, let me be wrong.)

A lawsuit and trial as described would be great theater and possibly explosive for the sport, and I want it more than Tiger Woods wants his old swing back. Alas, I'm betting Davis simmers down and never seriously pursues the legal damages he's claiming he plans to seriously pursue. Again, I hope I'm wrong. But he can't possibly be dumb enough to think a lawsuit is smart.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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