Earlier today, Jerry Tipton published an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader in which he spoke with a private investigator that checks the background of athletes.
"Coaches at other schools know there [were questions marks]," Michael L. Buckner, an investigator and attorney based in Florida, told Tipton. "Then I would assume Kentucky knew or should have known."
John Calipari and Kentucky should have known about the questions involving Eric Bledsoe's transcript. And, to be frank, you would have to be naive to believe that they didn't. The questions that surround Bledsoe's transcript -- a jump from a 1.9 GPA to a 2.5 from his junior to senior year -- are not all that uncommon. I'd bet that there are quite a few college hoopers that didn't really care all that much about their grades until they realized that not caring could cost them a scholarship.
When it comes down to it, its really not that difficult to get a 2.5 GPA in high school if you put in the effort. If Bledsoe really did retake a couple of classes, replacing D's with A's and B's, a GPA jump like that is possible. Its also quite possible that the grades were fudged to get Bledsoe into college, I really don't know. What I do know is that the jump is questionable enough that I would want to do my due diligence if I were a coach and school recruiting Bledsoe. I would want to be certain that Bledsoe was going to be eligible.
The NCAA established that the burden of using a potentially ineligible is on the school when they punished Memphis last year. If a player is retroactively determined to be ineligible, the NCAA can go back and vacate wins, revoke postseason revenue, and levy any other sanction they deem relevant.
No one knows this better than Coach Cal. That was his 2008 Memphis team. That was his Final Four that got removed from the record books. With his history, signing a $4 million-a-year contract with the most heavily covered basketball program in the country created the perfect storm of scrutiny. Every move he makes -- recruiting or otherwise -- is going to be poured over.
He knew that.
I find it unlikely Calipari didn't know about the question marks in Bledsoe's past, and there's no way that he didn't know about the ramifications of using a player with questionable eligibility.
And he still brought Bledsoe into the program.
Because the NCAA cleared him.
Which brings us back to the exact same argument we had at this time last year. Why, if the NCAA's eligibility center clears an athlete, can they go back and retroactively punish the school?
Well, the NCAA's eligibility center is swamped. According to Tipton, they make a ruling on upwards of 90,000 athletes each year. 90,000 thousand! With that workload, its nearly impossible for the NCAA to do extensive background checks on every questionable transcript they see.
So they put the burden on the schools. Its on the university to determine if there are any skeletons hiding in a player's closet. If there are, and they come to light at a later date, the NCAA reserves the right to drop the proverbial hammer after the fact.
What Calipari does is the bare minimum. If a risky prospect is cleared by the NCAA, that's enough for Cal. If there were any improprieties involved with the recruitment or the process of getting that recruit eligible, he stays far enough away to keep from being linked. Its the same thing for a drug kingpin, never getting in the same room as the product. Or a mob boss, who has someone else pulling the trigger.
He mastered the art of plausible deniability, preventing anything from coming back on him. He is far from the only coach that does this -- in fact, many would argue that it is the norm. He just happens to be the best at it.
Kentucky and Coach Cal knew exactly what they were doing during the recruitment of Eric Bledsoe.
But it isn't necessarily different from what any other program does.