Could Kentucky be the cleanest major program in today’s college basketball?

Posted: March 6, 2015 by jmklee in Uncategorized

images-34When someone says Kentucky basketball what first comes to mind?  Gold standard?  Corrupt?  One and Done?  Well your answer usually depends on where you are from and who you root for.  In the storied history of Kentucky basketball all three answers have been correct depending on the coach and season.

In my 30 some years of rooting for and following the Cats I have seen a lot.  Championships and great teams by four coaches,  major scandals, two coaches that could not stay sober enough to keep the job and enough team wins to keep them the winningest program in the history of the NCAA.Unknown-77 Through all of the years I have always had to defend the program from those haters that say all Kentucky does is cheat.  I admit, growing up I had heard the stories and lived through “Kentucky’s Shame” and had always wondered if the basketball program I love so much was really dirty or not.  Well they did get caught and hammered with sanctions during the late 80’s proving that they were dirty at that time and who is to say that things didn’t happen under Pitino and Tubby.

Today it seems like almost every major college program is dealing with something.  Syracuse and UConn has been hit with sanctions.  UNC is under investigation for academic fraud.  Duke and Louisville is having to defend itself and their coaching staff about how much they knew and hid about sexual assault cases.  Kansas is reported to be under investigation of improper benefits and Indiana is having to deal with player behavior and culture issues.  That leads me to this question.  Is Kentucky the cleanest major program in today’s college basketball landscape?  I think so and this is why.

  1. When Kentucky hired Cal they didn’t stick their heads in the sand.  They knew Cal’s history and the scrutinization that would come with the hire and put in place one of the strongest compliance departments any NCAA basketball program has ever seen led by former NCAA Compliance Director, Sandy Bell.  Stories of how involved and in control Sandy is of the day-to-day operations of Kentucky basketball have because as fun to follow as the team itself.  Most recently Matt Jones of KSR told a story of how Sandy Bell chased him out of an area in the Kentucky locker room that was off-limits to the media while he was just attempting to take a picture of UK players in the NBA mural.  She said that it was not allowed and she was right.  Nothing gets by this women  and she is there every step of the way to make sure even the smallest of rules are followed.
  2. Pat Forde and so many members of the press want nothing more than to write the story that brings down Cal and Kentucky.  If Cal was doing wrong at Kentucky there would be stories and a lot of them.  Hell, the local Lexington writers would love to bring it down just so they could win their Pulitzer.  You have had reporters tracking down players high school transcripts and asking around hometowns in hope of digging up anything against Cal.  You have reporters making up stories without any factual backing to the point they are told by their employers to not write about Kentucky since they can’t do it without bias.
  3. The fishbowl these Kentucky players live in leaves nowhere to hide.  Cal has said that he can not hide you at Kentucky.  He has also been very upfront with kids in saying that Kentucky is not for everyone.  This year he even said if you want to smoke, drink and chase then UK was not the place for you and he is right.  What does that mean?  It means he is able to pick and choose not only the best basketball players but also the best kids in the country.  He sets the bar high in regards to what will be expected from the players when they step on campus and holds them to that standard.  If you act like you should and do the right things then you will reap the rewards.  That initial group Cal brought in, Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe was so important in setting this expectation and other than Boogie’s temper on the court they all have met expectations and are now max players in the league.  The list of great players and better people Cal has had go through Kentucky is a long one.

Frankly one of the reasons this Kentucky team is chasing history and giving any thought of a 40-0 season is because they are a team of solid kids. There are no distractions, they hold each other accountable and keep each other in line.  They are not the most talented team in Kentucky’s history in my mind but they might be the best team with the best kids.  There is not one stinker on this team and that is due to the culture Kentucky and Cal has built over the past six-years.

I know many of you out there will never change your blinded ways but I ask you again.  Is Kentucky the cleanest major program in today’s college basketball landscape?

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