John Calipari hints at Enes Kanter lawsuit

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
4:00
PM ET
We're still waiting -- yes, still! -- for the NCAA's decision on Enes Kanter. I hope you weren't holding your breath.

After his eligibility case dragged on all summer, the Kentucky forward was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA in November thanks to the $33,033 he received from a Turkish club as a teenager. Kentucky was in the process of appealing the ruling when the NCAA's decision to reinstate Cam Newton gave Wildcats brass new hope. Kentucky said it had "new information" -- which basically amounted to "Why is Newton eligibile and Cam not?" -- and asked for another hearing. The NCAA agreed.

The clearinghouse's consideration of Kentucky's new information won't take nearly as long as the first go-round; the NCAA is trying to resolve the case as quickly as possible. Thank goodness.

Because the longer this thing drags on, the sillier it seems to get. The latest exhibit came Monday night, when Kentucky coach John Calipari took to his radio show and made disconcerting noises about potential legal action against the NCAA if Kanter isn't eventually found eligible. From the Louisville Courier-Journal's Brett Dawson:
"The question is, can you make him pay it back?" Calipari said. "Can you sit him out, sit him out the year, let him come back next year? Or they can choose to say — whether his father knew (the rules) or he didn’t know or any of that stuff — we’re not letting him ever play."

Calipari said, as he has in the past, that Kanter’s father always intended for his son to remain an amateur with the intent of playing college basketball. Calipari then brought up the possibility of legal action.

"If they choose to (rule him ineligible), the only choice he’ll have is to sue," Calipari said. "I haven’t talked to him about that, whether he would try to get an injunction and play. I don’t know. It’s unfortunate, but it is where we are, and we’re just waiting to hear."

That's a strong statement. And Calipari agrees: Asked about the quote today, Calipari knowingly stepped away from the discussion, saying he was merely attempting to provide "food for thought" Monday night. From the Lexington-Herald Leader:
When asked about the lawsuit option by reporters Tuesday, Calipari feinted ignorance. "Did I say sue?" he said. When reported nodded in the affirmative, Calipari said, "Wow, strong statement."

"Obviously, that’s an option for them," Calipari said of Kanter and his family. "(Of the NCAA ruling) This isn’t fair." Of the legal action he mentioned on his call-in radio show Monday night, the UK coach said, "A lot of things I throw out (as) food for thought. I encourage thinking."

John Calipari is a pretty smart guy. If he didn't mean to say the word "sue" during his radio show, he probably wouldn't have said it. No, he meant to say it. Why? Because then people talk about it (guilty as charged), the chatter grows, the NCAA hears about it, the NCAA maybe starts to think about the threat of a high-profile lawsuit, and then Calipari controls the story from all sides. "Did I say sue?" Wink wink, nudge nudge, cough cough.

The question is whether Kanter would actually sue. The precedent for such a lawsuit seems rather limited. The closest thing -- and big thanks to John Infante for pointing me in the right direction here -- is the lawsuits waged by baseball prospects Andy Oliver and James Paxton in 2009. In the former case, the NCAA suspended Oliver, a pitcher at Oklahoma State, after Oliver admitted to having an agent present with him in prior contract discussions with the Twins, the team that owned his rights in the MLB amateur draft. Oliver sued, won an injunction and a trial on the legal issues, and an Ohio judge ruled in his favor before the NCAA eventually settled the case.

Could Kanter do the same? There are major differences between Oliver's situation and Kanter's. For one, the right to legal representation isn't what's at stake here. Kanter's case would presumably revolve around amateurism, right-to-work, and a host of other issues that may or may not be favorable to the NCAA's defense. (And no, I'm not a legal scholar, so if any of the lawyers out there want to send me an email, it'd be appreciated.)

More importantly, such a suit doesn't make any practical sense. Enes Kanter is a surefire lottery pick in next summer's NBA draft (assuming, of course, that the league isn't locked out); he'll be cashing blogger salaries on a weekly basis in less than six months. Why spend your time suing the NCAA when you have such a bright future to prepare for? To win an injunction so you can play college basketball for three months? It just seems silly.

In any case, let's hope the NCAA rules soon. Then Kentucky can move on with its season, Kanter can go on with his career, we can stop talking about hypothetical future lawsuits that probably won't ever happen, and everyone can move on with their lives.

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