Lost in the shuffle of the Bobby Knight affair was another shot taken at UK from the folks at the Worldwide Leader on Friday. This one however may end up with more long term consequences. According to two sources close to the situation who I spoke with this weekend, ESPN personality Jemele Hill was forced to apologize to UK on Friday after she took a shot at Calipari and the UK fanbase on the awful show ESPN “First Take.” On the show, Jemele Hill said (and I am paraphrasing) that UK fans would be fine with “Charles Manson as coach”, so long as he won. Not surprisingly, the powers that be at UK were upset with the comment and the two or three fans that actually watch that show were outraged as well.
That set the ball rolling and according to the sources, ESPN forced Hill to call Mitch Barnhart and the SEC office in order to apologize. Coming on the heels of the problems with Pat Forde and the infamous Bobby Knight comments, Hill was forced to attempt to salvage a relationship (that of ESPN and UK) that has been deteriorating over the last couple of months. According to the sources, Hill called Barnhart and actually said very little, instead listening to an irate Kentucky Athletic Director go into detail as to his problems with her comments and that of other ESPN personalities in general. She was then forced to call the SEC office and apologize (or as another source put it “explain”) the comments to them as well.
I must admit that the entire chain of events surprises me a bit as I have heard little about other ESPN personalities who have taken more direct shots at Calipari (Forde, Bayless, Knight) calling and apologizing. But I do know that the folks at UK have just about had it with ESPN and with the new SEC television contract, there are issues at this point. ESPN has wanted to do some “behind-the-scenes” access with UK and it has been denied this year, likely in part because of the shots taken by those at ESPN. Jemele Hill was the latest to take a shot, and she gave it to both Calipari and the fanbase. Apparently it was the final straw, as ESPN made her fall on the sword and apologize where others have not.