We’re still a couple of months from the start of the season, but there is always something going on with the Kentucky basketball program. Whether it’s meaningless exhibitions, trying to figure out how to replace one group of freshmen with another group of freshmen, or Coach John Calipari walking away from his job in order to be the coach of a national team of a country he’s not even from, something is always going on. To stay apprised and educated, you’d be well-advised to follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Too Cold At Home: When Aaron Smith, a writer for the UK student newspaper The Kentucky Kernel innocently asked fellow students (and walk-ons for the basketball team) Brian Long and Sam Malone for an interview, he probably had no idea what would happen next. Frankly, you can’t blame him. What happened was that DeWayne Peevy, UK’s associate athletics director for media relations, rescinded an invitation to Smith for an upcoming interview session with the basketball team. Peevy cited a little-known policy requiring all interview requests be made through his office, as opposed to the student-athletes themselves. Understandably, this draconian move was universally panned. In an informal poll taken in the offices of the Lexington Herald-Leader, 100% of the respondents sided with the writer, and against UK. And lest anyone thinks this poll was geographically skewed, the same question was asked of employees of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Chapel Hill News, and the Thrifty Nickel. In fact, I couldn’t find one person in those offices to agree with the statement “John Calipari and UK were completely justified when they mercilessly violated the First Amendment rights of a young, defenseless UK student who was simply doing his job.” With the media unanimously opposed to the practices of the Kentucky basketball program, it will be interesting to see whether the team gets any exposure this season.
*Blame It On Texas: After weeks of speculation, it now appears to be official that Texas A&M will be joining the SEC. This can’t be good news for Cat fans, because even though A&M generally isn’t seen as a basketball powerhouse, their track record against UK is rather impressive. Consider: Kentucky hasn’t defeated Texas A&M in 65 years. Staggering, but true. The Cats haven’t been able to top the Aggies on the hardwood for the better part of a century. On top of that, Texas A&M will enter the league with confidence, knowing that the last time they played at Rupp Arena, they won. And if that weren’t enough, UK fans have to concede that in the one commonality the two programs share, A&M comes out on top. In 3 years in College Station, former coach Billy Gillispie went 70-26, with a winning percentage of 73%, while in just 2 years at UK, he finished with a 40-27 mark, which is a winning percentage of 60%. Can this discrepancy be owed to anything other than the chasm which exists between the two programs? We’ll see.
*It’s A Little Too Late: John Calipari recently caught a lot of heat when Edgar Sosa, a member of his Dominican team, suffered a gruesome leg injury in the late stages of a blowout. Why, critics asked, was Sosa — a starter — still in the game? That’s a reasonable question. So reasonable, in fact, that both UK fans and UofL fans have asked it. Kentucky supporters astutely point out that if Calipari hadn’t cruelly dismissed Eloy Vargas from the team, he could have been inserted in Sosa’s place, this ensuring that this injury never occurred. Louisville fans, on the other hand, are accusing Calipari of intentionally leaving Sosa in the game at that stage, apparently as retribution for the game-winning 30 footer Sosa hit to beat the Cats a few years ago. Whatever the case may be, it appears that in this instance, both fanbases are right. Had Vargas still been on the team, and had he been in the game instead of Sosa, the injury would not have taken place. Likewise, Card fans’ point is irrefutable. Sosa hit a shot to beat UK, and Calipari — who has made no secret of his dislike for Sosa’s alma mater — now coaches UK. Before dismissing this theory as poppycock, consider this: The population of the Dominican Republic is 9.3 million. Of those 9.3 million people, the one who breaks his leg just happens to be the same guy who beat UK a couple of years ago? Even the biggest and bluest of Big Blue backers must admit, this does seem a little suspicious.
* On this date: On this date in 2009, staffer Bilal Batley was fired by Kentucky because he cheated.