By Matt Norlander
We couldn't go too, too long this offseason without a Kentucky story, you know?
The latest mini crisis in the Bluegrass State is a debate over the true total amount of wins John Calipari has collected in his career. Calipari has seen two of his seasons -- the two seasons that, coincidentally, featured Final Four appearances -- get wiped out by the NCAA. The first was with the '96 UMass team; the second was the '08 Memphis squad, which was two Derrick Rose free throws away from a championship. Those are now seasons non grata in the NCAA's record books.
This past season, Calipari won his 500th game, or so Kentucky believed and still does. The NCAA thinks otherwise. Those '96 and '08 seasons were vacated, meaning, according to the NCAA, Calipari is stuck at 467 Ws as of now. Kentucky's public acknowledgement of this faux feat has caused the NCAA to pucker its tush and demand an apology -- yes, an apology, a five-page apology, at that. How dare Kentucky make such a big stink over its head coach reaching a milestone few men and women accomplish.
Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader broke the story over the weekend.
What's fascinating about this should-be non-story: We've go the first case of a school simply refusing to oblige by the NCAA's foolish vacate rule. The NCAA likes to retroactively take away wins and championships. It's one of the weakest, most-mocked "punishments" in sports. And now there's blowback when they didn't expect it.
Earlier this month, the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions sent University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. a letter asking the school to publicly acknowledge it was wrong to recognize John Calipari's 500th coaching victory this past season. Chairman Dennis E. Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also told Todd that the wording of UK's statement "must be approved by the office of the Committee on Infractions prior to its release."
Thomas asked UK to respond to the letter no later than next Friday.
Spokesman Jay Blanton said Saturday that UK did not have a comment.
According to Tipton, if the NCAA doesn't get its apology and some timely changes in the Kentucky media guides and record books, then UK officials will eventually be called to meet with the Committee on Infractions. Yes, the same group of people currently dealing with cheaters at Tennessee and Ohio State. A meeting with the COI? What a gigantic waste of time and fuel that would be. The theater of the absurd is hosting a new act.
We're talking Calipari getting a commemorative basketball and a round of applause for winning 500 games. A quick celebration at Rupp Arena. It's hardly a huge deal. But the NCAA's taking it very seriously, making the entire thing is pretty hilarious. The NCAA can't keep Kentucky from acknowledging Calipari's accomplishment, no matter how much they insist. They can't go back in time and erase the celebration from happening, just like they can't go back and erase seasons or championships from having occurred. What are they going to do, remove Kentucky from NCAA affiliation? Remove scholarships? Of course not. Another PR disaster if they did, especially considering it's Kentucky and Calipari, and both would be looked at sympathetically in this mini drama.
Suddenly the NCAA is looking like the angry neighborhood kid who's not getting its way and wants to take its ball and go home. Two steps forward, one step back with the NCAA. Same as it ever was. I wish we could vacate this kind of birdbrained behavior.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE