I turned my phone off to go to a movie, and then all heck breaks loose. If you missed it, earlier tonight the New York Times released a story suggesting that the eligibility of Eric Bledsoe was being investigated by the NCAA. The story deals with two major issues, the first being the “improbable” (the word used by the NY Times) likelihood that Bledsoe could have gotten eligible based on transcripts procured by the NY Times of Eric Bledsoe’s high school records. The second is the allegation that $1,200 of rent was paid by Bledsoe’s high school coach to a landlord during Eric’s Senior year. We will deal with these more later this weekend, but a couple of thoughts:
— The NY Times Has been investigating this piece for some time. For months, the rumor of a Times investigation on Bledsoe has been circulating around the Kentucky area. I will talk more about the source of a lot of these rumors, but that is more “blame the messenger” than dealing with the allegations. The reality is that the Times spent a great deal of time investigating Bledsoe and going to Birmingham to go after this story. It has been months in the making and if you dont think that is about trying to nail Calipari, you need to get your head out of the sand. That doesnt mean that the final story shouldnt be taken seriously and that the allegations are incorrect, but dont kid yourselves…this is the culmination of a long-running attempt by Pete Thamel and the Times to dig up something on Calipari.
— According to a source at the University, the NCAA hasnt contacted UK about any investigation. This is an important point. The Times says that the NCAA investigated the issue in Alabama but has no idea “the scope of the investigation”…i.e. whether its ongoing or found wrongdoing. If UK hasnt heard anything yet, one would assume they would be early to know in the process.
— On the grades issue, qualification for Bledsoe was always known to be difficult. His grades in school early were not great, but they obviously improved. I will freely admit to not knowing how that happened or if it included any improprities. If the NCAA finds that something crooked happened, then punishment should be handed out. On that, I remain consistent. However I also know that Bledsoe spent a great deal of time in his Senior year working to get eligible and the UK compliance people (according to a source of mine) “spent more time on double-checking Bledsoe’s record than anyone in recent years.” If that is true, and with my knowledge of the Bulldog in Sandy Bell at the head of the Compliance office at UK, I would need a lot more than unnamed sources and “improbable” beliefs before I convicted Eric on the issue.
— If I were Eric Bledsoe, I might sue whoever gave up his transcripts to the media. For months, various media members have claimed to me that they had seen the Bledsoe transcripts. The New York Times admits to having the transcripts in the story. Those are supposed to be private records by law and someone did Bledsoe a disservice and may have broken the law in handing them out to the press.
— No matter what happens, you will not see me get worked up about the rent money issue. Even if it means that the benefits were improper and Eric is ruled ineligible, I will not get upset about someone as poor as Bledsoe getting rent money. Assuming there was nothing else there (and admittedly if that changes, my mind would change), taking a player as poor as Bledsoe and having rent being paid by his high school coach is not going to get me worked up. His coach says he never paid the money anyway and I of course have no idea. But I do know that Eric Bledsoe comes from one of the poorer backgrounds of any player in UK in recent memory. I was told by one coach of another team that Eric’s ability to overcome that background was a “miracle” and that he “rooted for him more than any other kid I have met in recent years” because of it. Sorry if I dont get angry that someone kept the kid from being kicked out of his $400 apartment.
With all that said, if something is found that UK did wrong or Bledsoe was academically ineligible, then punishment should be given. The precedent was set with Memphis (and I think it is a bad one) that when you take a risky qualifier, you suffer if they are later shown to be ineligible. Everyone knew Bledsoe was a risk, so however it plays out, it plays out. But all the events that allegedly took place here took place before Calipari was even the coach at Kentucky and before he had ever recruited Eric Bledsoe. Without more information than we have here, to somehow act as if they are his fault is ridiculous. If UK or Calipari in particular is shown to have done something wrong, I will change my mind. But as for now, even assuming the story is true, the guilt by association doesnt work for me.
We will have more on this tomorrow.