The most juicy sports story over the long weekend was the New York Times and ESPN peering into the background of former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe. The tale has been well chronicled by now – Bledsoe made a gargantuan grade point average leap in his senior year of high school, and the final two schools Bledsoe considered, Memphis and Kentucky, were coached by John Calipari. (Don’t read into this, UK fans.) As defensive Kentucky fans are quick to point out, Calipari has never been busted for recruiting violations (Connecticut, meanwhile, was recently nailed). At the same time, he’s also never won anything or been to a Final Four.
Which leads us to angry Kentucky fans going after the media – specifically ESPN’s Pat Forde – in defense of their savior:
(1): Why not be honest about the fact that you have a business relationship with Rick Pitino and that his success helps your financial status with book sales. Nevertheless you continued to cover the Sypher trial, often taking up for Rick as if you were his own personal Baghdad Bob.
(2) Why not be honest about the fact that your dislike of Calipari and your relationship with Pitino caused ESPN to pull you off of Kentucky stories since the fall? Why not be honest about the fact that whereas you used to come to 8-10 UK games a year, last year in the most important season UK has had in a decade, you only came to 1?
(3) Why not be honest about the fact that as you question the ethical decisions of Calipari, you have had ethical issues in your own career, causing what sources have told me are two suspensions from your old employer, the Courier Journal, one for a personal reason and one for turning over information to the NCAA about the Louisville Cardinals?
We’ve had a few posts in the past that questioned things Forde has done (see here and here). Kentucky fans will forever see Forde as a Louisville guy. He spent 10 years at the Courier-Journal and has written a book with Pitino. It just seems like a reach to go after the guy for (allegedly) doorknocking in Alabama looking into Eric Bledsoe’s transcript. Forde’s been a prominent sportswriter for many years – of course he’s going to get great tips, and many of them probably will be from his frenemies in Louisville regarding the UK program. What is ESPN to do, pull their most high-profile college writer off the Big East beat because of his connections to Louisville? And not have him talk about or write about Kentucky, which is now a perennial contender? (The book thing happens frequently, at just about every major outlet. Questions for another time: Do readers care? Should they?)
Kentucky fans can look forward to one of two things: 1) Defend Calipari until he leaves them in the dust for an NBA coaching job or 2) Defend Calipari until the media/NCAA “get” him. He took UMass and Memphis to the doorstep of a Championship and then scooted out of town in the nick of time. Why will life be different in Lexington?
Calipari gets the best recruits. He occasionally gets recruits with questionable academic backgrounds. He loves to dabble in the 1-and-done pool. Of course he’s going to face massive scrutiny. It sort of reminds us of Robert DeNiro in Heat. Everyone knows he’s up to something, but nobody can pin him down. And he leaves town right before the heat gets him. The guess here is that eventually, the NCAA or the media is going to get him. Before he gets an NCAA title.
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