NCAA's letter to UK opens can of worms

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
1:30
PM ET
If you thought last week was the merciful end to the debate over John Calipari's 500th win -- which the NCAA essentially "won" when Kentucky agreed to change Calipari's record to include his vacated wins at Memphis and UMass -- oh, how wrong you would be.

It's not that Kentucky and the NCAA are still arguing. After a couple of months of strongly worded letters and mutual rhetorical posturing, which ended with Kentucky's admission that it had honored Calipari's 500th win in error, the two appear to have reached an uneasy détente. But Kentucky fans are far from sated. Already no fans of the NCAA (or any organization or media member that they believe is hostile to Calipari or UK basketball), the denizens of Big Blue Nation are out to ensure Kentucky is treated like every other program in the country.

You know what that means? Look out, Morgan State.

Yes, as Rush The Court wrote early Friday, there are other examples of programs across the country -- namely Morgan State, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic -- whose current coaches have had wins vacated by the NCAA. In all three cases, the program's media guides and statistical information include or make reference to wins that the NCAA says never happened. As RTC writes, this is a can o' worms with the NCAA's name on it:
These are just three examples that we looked up. By our count, there are 38 coaches in the history of NCAA basketball who have had wins vacated. Whether active coaches or not, do all of the media guides (or websites, or any other published material) at their respective institutions properly document the vacated seasons and wins? The NCAA now has to clean up as many “infractions” of this nature as it can and follow every lead it will get from rival fans of various schools, lest it look like it has it out only for Kentucky and, more likely, John Calipari.

Naturally, Kentucky fans have gotten in on the act; here's just one example of a letter a UK fan sent to the NCAA on Friday. It reads like an eloquent but angry blog comment: sarcastic, snarky, funny, and just a little bit mean. I'd imagine the NCAA got plenty more where that came from.

So, yes, the NCAA almost certainly has to begin policing these things, if only to avoid the probably-inevitable-anyway appearance of unfair focus on Kentucky and Calipari. It shouldn't take long to find these inconsistencies, get the appropriate letters out, and end the practice entirely.

There is one more important distinction here: Kentucky actually gave its dude a milestone ball for its incorrect number. The examples RTC cites are relatively innocuous records in media guides few people actually look at. Everyone's numbers should be right, yes, but in terms of processing information as it comes in, Calipari's 500th win is going to draw more attention than the SDSU media guide. This is life. (Correction: I'm being told on Twitter that San Diego State did indeed have a ceremony that featured Fisher's incorrect win totals. My apologies for the omission.)

Anyway, the funniest thing about all this (at least to me) is how unimportant it truly is. The NCAA probably shouldn't care that much whether Calipari was given a meaningless ball by his school 42 wins earlier than it should have. At the same time, Kentucky shouldn't care so much about a) awarding its coach said meaningless ball 42 games before the NCAA approves it and b) intentionally tweaking the NCAA once the organization responded as predicted.

This was a dumb argument from jump street, about as dumb as debating the nature of vacation penalties in the first place. The wins happened. Then they were vacated. The NCAA maintains the official statistics of its member institutions. It gets the final say. Agree or disagree, it's not going to change, so everyone probably just needs to get over it. Calipari will get his 500th win sooner rather than later, and the real celebration can take place at the time, and everyone can forget this whimsical nonsense happened in the first place. Deal? Deal.

In the meantime, the NCAA staff can weed through some more media guides to find scurrilous and dastardly inconsistencies. The fun never ends, huh?

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