First, it was Forbes, then the Wall Street Journal, and the New Yorker. Now, Bloomberg is talking about how Cal has changed the sport of college basketball and how it has made him a target for the NCAA. Bloomberg’s sports editor Jonathan Mahler describes how the success of Cal’s “players-first” approach is making him enemy #1 in Indianapolis:
Rather than rethinking the collegiate model, the NCAA prefers to try to prevent Calipari from continuing to exploit an exploitative system. The organization has been after Coach Cal for years, and has almost got him on more than one occasion. Two of his four Final Four appearances have been erased from the record books: once when one of his players was found to have taken money from an agent, another time when one was discovered to have submitted fraudulent SAT scores. In both cases, Calipari himself was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The centerpiece of the organization’s latest rulebook overhaul, intended to make coaches more accountable for their players’ behavior, seems to have been written with him in mind. It’s hard to believe there aren’t pictures of Coach Cal and his top recruits thumbtacked to a large bulletin board inside a conference room at the NCAA’s Indianapolis headquarters.
Calipari knows he has a target on his back, as do his nominal superiors, who take every precaution they can to protect him. Kentucky’s assistant athletic director for compliance doles out tickets to the team’s games, vetting designated recipients to make sure they have no connections to prospective recruits or their coaches. Meanwhile, whatever classes Calipari’s players are taking, they’re passing them. Kentucky’s basketball program continues to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements.
Mahler, who recently authored a book about Joe Paterno’s tragic legacy in Happy Valley, called Cal’s approach a realistic “grand experiment” that is the total opposite of Paterno’s “school-first, sports second” view of college athletics. The comparison rings a bit odd after the Paterno scandal, and the piece has some serious sarcastic undertones about Cal’s methods (“Whatever classes Calipari’s players are taking, they’re passing them.”), but it does bring to light the NCAA’s hypocrisy and the need for change. Give it a click.