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Al Hunt Compares Pitino/Calipari to Penn St/Syracuse

Al Hunt

For once, UK and UL fans can unite in their sense of outrage. Political commentator Al Hunt has penned an odd editorial in the New York Times in which he takes on the issue of corruption in college athletics. Nothing Hunt says is particularly new…he is upset about the Penn State and Syracuse scandals (who isn’t?) and correctly says that money drives the college athletics system. He makes the rather obvious point that when money gets in the way of protecting our children and causes the lack of oversight that we have seen in places like Penn State and Syracuse, we have a problem. While those points could be made (and have been made) as articulately by fifth graders writing their opinion papers before recess, they are certainly without controversy. But then he writes these two paragraphs:

Two cherished college basketball programs in Kentucky offer other examples of a lack of accountability. Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville, one of the game’s more successful coaches, stresses family values, travels with a priest and, in a past job, once featured the pope in a basketball guide. In 2009, he admitted that he had sex with a woman in a local bar and later gave her $3,000, either for, in his account, health insurance or, by her account, an abortion. The woman was later convicted of extortion. He was depicted as the victim, and she went to jail. Mr. Pitino is still highly compensated and celebrated by the university.

In Lexington, the University of Kentucky coach, John Calipari, is treated like a god. Before coming to Kentucky, he took two other teams to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Final Four Men’s Championship. Both successes were later vacated because of rules violations. Kentucky is now a basketball factory, bringing in great high school players who stay for a year, win games and turn professional. The president of this academic institution showers praise on the coach.

Whatever one thinks of Pitino’s actions a few years ago or Calipari’s reputation as a coach prior to Kentucky, the idea that either action is in the ballpark of what has happened with Sandusky and Fine is disgusting. The allegations at those two universities involve actions that are as morally repulsive as any behavior imaginable. To compare them to silly public sexual activity and the hiring of an agent by Marcus Camby suggests at best a hurried, incomplete comparison by a lazy intellect behind on a deadline and at worst, a dishonest portrayal for which Hunt should be ashamed. Criticism of a person who has embarrassed his family with poor behavior choices or was the head of a program that was accused of violating administrative rules is understandable. But to lump that criticism into an argument about sexual crimes against children is bizarre and unfair. Whether Jim Tressel knew about free tattoos or the BCS should allow Boise State to compete for the national championship (other topics thrown in by Hunt in his catch-all argument) are all fine topics for discussion. But they aren’t in the same ballpark as the issues at Penn State and Syracuse, a fact that Hunt surely knows.

I must admit that when I read this column, my outrage was a bit muted by the fact that I met Hunt nearly a decade ago at Duke and found him to be extremely likable. He was part of the old CNN show “The Capital Gang” with Robert Novak and I often watched their show in the days before television political debates were simply excuses for loud screaming contests. We kept in email contact for a couple of years and I always found him engaging and full of insight. So I won’t take this column as some sort of proof that he is an awful human being who sits in the corner with Pete Thamel plotting the downfall of the Commonwealth. But it is a quite disappointing read. It is one thing for sports reporters, whose world view is generally limited to whatever game and corresponding media buffet they have been assigned to on a particular weekend. But for someone who allegedly cares and comments on large world events involving the most important issues of the day to make the same mistake in perspective…well that’s just sad.

Article written by Matt Jones

48 Comments for Al Hunt Compares Pitino/Calipari to Penn St/Syracuse

  1. string music
    2:33 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink


  2. Bubba Earl
    2:36 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Well stated

  3. Scoreboard
    2:37 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Dan Dakich 1, dot com guy 0

  4. What?
    2:38 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    What erks me when people make judgments about Cal is that they conflate those alleged basketball transgressions with morality. Sure, maybe blurrin the rules of bball has some moral content, but very little. Look at his actions off the court & the moral content they possess. He’s been nothing but an exemplar spokesperson for the program and state. Shady recruiting means nothing in terms of morality.

  5. markp
    2:40 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Al Hunts political comments are stupid and his sports comments are even worse.

    2:40 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    He never needs to come to KY…..EVER!!!!

  7. nolablue
    2:41 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Actually, the comparison to Pitino is more fair. Both involve a clear inability and unwillingness
    to control ones’ sexual impulses. Throwing Calipari into that for alleged NCAA rule violations
    which HE HIMSELF DID NOT COMMIT is grotesquely, albeit typically for the NYT, misguided.

  8. Charlie Horse
    2:51 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    If his children or grandchildren were raped I wonder if he would compare the two. The no good S.O.B.

  9. Wildcat Kyle
    2:52 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    All humans should have a filter, or a 7 sec delay when they speak out loud.

  10. UKGrad04
    2:52 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    He must be really smart. Instead of NCAA he wrote National Collegiate Athletic Association. That’s so brainy. #pretentious #thisisntthegreatgatsby #douche

  11. John B.
    2:56 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

  12. mores
    2:57 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    “Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity.”

    The piece isn’t very good and I think you’re on to something by saying it came off as hurried and the product of a lazy intellect. The article is the usual complaint of “college athletics corrupt, we better change em!” without offering any new insight. It could pass as just another shovel piece from if not for the use of exotic words like “palliative” (ooh!).

    But nothing in the article suggests the kind of comparison you’re so upset about. The UK and UL mention is part of the author’s list of highly publicized corruption in big school athletics. It bolsters his point by providing evidence that the corruption is not only substantial and widespread, but it also comes in many forms. You complain that he’s “lumping” it in with criticism against Penn State and Syracuse–well, if his point is that corruption takes many forms, why can’t he?

    Your argument is the inverse of the internet strategy of invoking Hitler: someone says something you disagree with? Find a way to relate that statement to Hitler and you win!!!!111!!1! Your strategy is “if someone mentioned Hitler, then said anything else, he’s saying they’re exactly the same!!!!111!!1!

    The author’s point is that there is rampant corruption in college athletics. He didn’t do a good job articulating it, but that’s what it is, and like you said, it’s probably the product of lazy think. But to the extent you’re flipping out about the juxtaposition when his use is really pretty bland, you’re being just as intellectually lazy.

  13. cards
    3:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Pitino having an affair with a consenting adult, is the same as molesting kids nolablue? You my friend, are a moron.

  14. hawaiibillT
    3:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    thanks #4

  15. Computer Blue
    3:10 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    An institution of higher learning is turning out millionaires in only one year!!! How tragic!!

  16. SexnDaycares
    3:14 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    12 – Completely agree with your analysis of the article. but like I said in #4, people too often conflate ethics and morality with strictly basketball related issues. Maybe if we divorced that language from basketball related matters we’d be able to take a more reasonable, detached approach to issues of corruption in the moral sense. Maybe if we stopped arriving at conclusions about the morality of john Calipari b/c of trivial matters like vacated final fours, the true areas of moral concern would be illuminated, rather than hidden by the shadow of the game of basketball.

  17. Mr Schwump
    3:15 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Can we fire Barnhart now?

  18. NCcat
    3:16 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    It’s the New York Slimes…………what do you expect??

  19. mores
    3:17 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Good lord folks (including Matt). This is not a difficult logical problem.

    Hypothetical: I write a list of things that are blue. My shirt is blue, I put it on the list. My Kentucky hat is blue, it goes in the list. These hyperlinks are blue, my pen is blue, my Powerade is blue. They all go on the list.

    Did I say Powerade is the same thing is a hat? Am I “comparing” my shirt to my pen? No. It’s just a list that stuff that’s blue. If you’re reading that I’m saying t-shirts can write and hats are flavorful sugary drinks packed with carbs and electrolytes, you’re reading too much into it. It’s just a list of things with a common characteristic.

    Instead of a list of things that are blue, the author is providing a list of scandals and failures of institutional control in college athletics. He’s not “comparing” any of the events in the list to each other, and he’s certainly not suggesting they’re the same in terms of moral culpability, blameworthiness, or anything of that nature. If he wanted to do that, he would’ve said so. But he didn’t. The only people claiming he did are you. Quit reading between the lines for monsters that aren’t there. It’s insulting and disingenuous to belittle an author for saying something he never said.

  20. David from San Diego
    3:21 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    I guess when one hears of this article, it just feels like a writer has crossed a line. Journalism will always come with its degree of favoritism and we we all accept that even though we all get irritated and sometimes treated unfairly as CATS fans with guys like Thamel, Forde, etc…. who really have it out for KY. Yet, nothing they have ever done or written compares to this. This I think is one of the most malicious pieces I have ever heard of. It makes me wonder what type of accountability like this journalistic thug is held to. New York Times is terrible but really in all facets…. I think if they were to give this proper review and a large group forces enough attention drawn to be drawn to it….. this guy could and should be forced to write a retraction and issue an apology. I think this definitely falls under crossing the line. I think both Universities at the AD and President level should ask for an explanation on how this got past a lead editor and for a public apology and retraction to the article. I am going to find out how to write the editor and ask but the Universities should take this as a personal attack. The way to beat this guy is not with anger but professional rebuttal and a steady demand for something to be done.

  21. I had to
    3:25 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Maybe he should consider a pen name… Perhaps Mike, Mike Hunt.

  22. RP_McMurphy
    3:26 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Yeah UK is a basketball factory and probably the only factory working at full production right now in America.

  23. fresh prince of adair
    3:45 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    well written matt. i dont think i’ve ever chimed in to say so little but this post was definitely worthy of praise

  24. Paul Tabor
    3:46 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Mr. Hunt
    Let ye cast the first stone.
    Are you familiar with all the charitable work Coach Pitino and Coach Cal do?It’s unfair to question someones veracity with out all the facts.Maybe you should stick to writing about all of those solid citizens in Washington.

  25. Me
    3:48 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Anybody got this douche’s email or (better yet) home address?

    People like this should be made to pay for their ridiculous-ness…

  26. P.L. Wallingford, III
    3:51 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    New York Times & “Odd Editorials”……wake me when they don’t write an odd one.

    BTW, that old bastard’s heyday was 40 years ago, I didn’t care what he thought then & I don’t care what he thinks now. He didn’t write it anyway, probably some 23 year old Duke graduate penned it & he just slapped his name on it while wiping the drool off his mouth. He needs a haircut, too……

    Get a haircut, hippie.

  27. BhamJ
    3:52 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Just another example of Cal getting it done. As long as he is here and winning games and making millionaires, idiots like this one will continue to take shots at him and his success becuase it is an easy way to bump ratings and hate mail. For him, any press is good press.

  28. BigBlueSkyDog
    3:59 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Cal, treated like a god? Ol’ Al needs to read the comment section at KSR after a loss. Al Hunt is just one of many washed-up, bitter old liberals in the mainstream media. Their logic is skewed, their political philosophy has been proven a fraud by their messiah-in-chief BHO, and now they’ve been reduced to defecating and urinating in public as part of Occupy Wall Street. Tough to be a Leftie these days.

  29. Dr. Funk
    4:02 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    In response to All Khunt’s editorial, a few clarifications are in order:

    First, Rick Pitino travels with a priest because he is a sinner; and, he can.

    In a past job, at KENTUCKY, he was treated like a god. Because he was. Today, he is trated like Benedict Arnold; because he is a traitor and an adulterer.

    In 2009, Ricky 3-stacks admitted he had sex with ‘a’ woman @ Porcini’s. He gave her $3,000, for health insurance; she being a whore asked for $3K (assumption being he realizes a D&C costs $500.00).

    The HO was later convicted of extortion. Lucky for Kentucky RP got caught cheating on his ‘wife’, and his deceased brother-in-law, while coaching @Louisville (& not Kentucky).

    Calipari, is treated like a god; because he is, and he coaches @KENTUCKY. Previously, at UMASS and MEMPHIS, he successfully guided the programs to final four championships.

    Both successes were later vacated because of rules violations, not on behalf of Calipari, but by the student athlete(s), and or others – Calipari was never found in violation.

    Kentucky is, was, always will be a basketball factory, bringing in great high school players who stay for 1, 2, 3, 4 year(s), perhaps more.

    KENTUCKY’s program wins games & championships; he is the reason we are hasppy. Some student athlete’s turn professional; others function successfully in the business world. The president(s) of this academic institution shower praise on the coach; as well it should be.

  30. Lovely
    4:11 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    10- It’s the NYT stylebook; it has rules that make everything they write sound condescending.

    Well, this is reason 142 on why I don’t read the NYT.

  31. Vince Guaraldi
    4:24 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    I’m Dreaming of a Jack White Christmas.

  32. Kenny Power's Agent
    4:25 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Well said Matt. The comparisons drawn from the article are obviously skewed and just like a poster above said, as long as Cal is getting it done, expect more of these.

  33. SexnDaycares
    4:55 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    30 – I’m sure you’re also the type of person that finds it condescending when someone uses facts to dismiss your argument.

  34. UKGoBigBlue
    5:08 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Not that I’m taking up for Al because he’s a crazy liberal; his comments are being taken out of context. He’s not comparing Pitino & Cal to what happened at Penn St & Syracuse, he’s comparing the moralities & hypocrites of sports figures & the money involved. When big money,championships, and egos are involved morals are usually thrown out the window to keep the winning, championships, and especially money keeps flowing. Pitino is beyond a hypocrite & his morals are beyond skewed. His comparison of Cal may have been factually true but at the same time Cal had nothing to do with either infraction, Al not saying anything about Cal that all of us didn’t think about Cal before he came to UK.

  35. fiddlestix
    5:22 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    It’s people like Al who keep people from the coasts thinking Kentucky is a bad place to live and I personally thank him. Stay there with all your A+ moral cronies, traffic jams, $50 a day parking places. I want people from the coasts to think KY is an awful place to live. Look down on us, laugh at us and Kentuckians will be able to buy a decent house for $150K that would cost a million there. While they’re stepping over dead bodies in the street, they can tell us how awful we are. I traveled 150K miles a year for fifteen years, all over the country and some international. The only reason I go to NY now is because my wife likes to visit there. Wish we Kentuckians were as moral as Al.

  36. gottodoit
    5:27 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Can Al bring solidarity between Kentucky and Louisville?

  37. John B.
    5:30 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Bobs reply to my email:
    I have made no parallels to a pedophile. If you believe in accountability then the coach who gets credit — as calipari did at umass and memphis — can t be held harmless on other stuff. How many other final 4 teams have been vacated over past 20 years ? Have you researched that ? One and done makes a travesty of student-athlete and academic values. It has occured occasionally at the most admirable programs — Duke; at Kentucky it s a way of life.
     Always good when wealthy people give to charity: they should. Thanks for writing

  38. NotanAlHuntfan
    5:51 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    He may be a nice guy, but I used to watch him all the time on the CNN “Crossfire” show and he made political arguments all the time that were just as dubious as this one on morality in college sports. He was not a stellar representative of his liberal political point of view. He did not strike me as having much of an open mind to different points of view. He was pretty much tunnel vision all the way.

  39. Hardline Charlie
    5:58 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Like to see somebody stomp a mudhole thru his ass.

  40. NotanAlHuntfan
    6:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    As Matt discussed, I guess I saw him on “Capital Gang” on CNN rather “Crossfire”. I get those shows confused since both were on CNN. If Matt agreed with most of the political opinion that Al Hunt used to present, then Matt must be more of a true liberal believer than I thought. That of course is his right, but I think this column says volumes how elitist people like Al Hunt aren’t nearly as smart or informed as they think. This applies to both liberal and conservative elitists.

  41. Big Daddy
    6:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    He’s a liberal. Don’t expect the truth or relevant arguements.

  42. stevie
    6:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    The author’s point is that there is rampant corruption in college athletics. He didn’t do a good job articulating it,

    ——You are correct in that he did not do a good job in articulating it. However, you did not do yourself much of a favor either. Do not lump the rape of young boys in with that of bending rules–not even in jest. If the perv had actually wished to talk about corruption in college atheletics (his agenda was to slander Cal & Pitino, period) he could have chosen numerous schools and/or coaches, many with serious and widespread violations. Why didn’t the POS mention Maggette and Duke?

  43. County boy
    7:17 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Al Hunt is a left wing lib just like Matt Jones.

  44. loublue2
    10:05 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Matt deleted my comment calling him out for being a major LIBERAL…don’t hurt little Mattie’s feelings, you’ll get deleted. AMEN #43, amen brother.

  45. SweetWm
    11:33 pm December 11, 2011 Permalink

    Is this guy still around. This Has Been has not been taken seriously for 30 yrs now. He knows nothing about sports and less about politics. Matt really had to dig deep to find this guys article. Strictly a waste of time.

  46. ashland cat
    8:33 am December 12, 2011 Permalink

    these kids are 1 and dones wherever they go. Why shouldnt they all come to one school? what’s the difference?

  47. Phillipe
    8:51 am December 12, 2011 Permalink

    Hi Matt Jones, I rarely disagree with you on all things BLUE. I love the way you guys keep your journalism real without taking anything too serious.That said your piece today about the Hunt piece is keeping your perspective way too simple (and I would never want to accuse you of black/white Republican type thinking). I remember the night I first heard of the Penn St. situation and thought about Joe Paterno’s God-like status there, then as the cover-ups unfolded my mind did go to Cal’s God-like status. If we as a society did not hoist these programs to the hieghts they enjoy would cover-ups happen with there being a shorter way to fall from one’s pedistal? I think the economy is having us examine our priorities as they relate to need vs want and these scandals may be here for us to examine our priorities as they relate to sports/entertainment vs focussing on what is really important in life. In their times of disallusion and pain, I’m sure the last thing any of the victims of those 2 scandals cared about was whether or not Penn St. or Syracuse won that week. Sports, entertainment, and KSR are here to stay, and the way we as a collective mind revere them will ultimately determine how their actors act. Please forgive any bad spelling, Philip

  48. Musehobo
    1:37 pm December 12, 2011 Permalink

    For those of you who are saying that he’s not really comparing us to Cuse/Penn, think about this. He throws out 4 schools citing personal problems with all of them except us. By lumping us in with child molesters and adulterers he is underhandedly jabbing at us. It seems subtle….”oh yeah that dirty coach at UK cheating all the time.” but when you think about it, he’s just compared a completely innocent coach/school with morally bankrupt people. Don’t mention us in the same breath as those losers.