Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Bledsoe story leads crazy weekend
By Eamonn Brennan
And no, I'm not talking about your sweet day party Saturday afternoon when you iced bros for hours on end. I'm talking, of course, about the weekend in college hoops. It was four days away from the computer for yours truly, four days of fingers twitching, four days of sneaking glances at the laptop, four days of waiting for the chance to get back on Tuesday and get down to business. Because in case you hadn't noticed we just had our biggest weekend in college hoops news since April 3-5. Yeah, it was like that.
In the interest of getting back up to speed, let's take a brief bulleted look at the story we missed thanks to the holiday weekend -- the Eric Bledsoe eligibility fiasco. (For more on UConn and USC, click here and here, respectively.)
Pertinent details: "Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe’s high school coach paid her at least three months’ rent, or $1,200. ... A copy of Bledsoe’s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover — a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year — for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship. ... A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university."
Invaluable analysis: From Dana O'Neil, ESPN.com: "Revelations and allegations in a recent New York Times article that chronicle potential academic fraud and payment during Eric Bledsoe's high school career could have a ramifications for the University of Kentucky basketball program, despite the fact Bledsoe has declared for the upcoming NBA draft. A source with knowledge of NCAA rules said 'depending on the specific facts that come out,' the NCAA's options include deeming Bledsoe ineligible, which could potentially lead to forfeited games or even a vacated season."
Final takeaway: There is much more that has to shake out before any grand, sweeping conclusions can be drawn about Eric Bledsoe's time at Kentucky. Of course, that doesn't prevent said sweeping conclusions from being drawn. While waiting for finality here, it's worth mentioning that for most people, the name Eric Bledsoe won't matter. Because here's the sordid truth about John Calipari: College basketball fans have for the most part made up their minds. They think he's a cheater. Or, failing that, they think he's ethically flexible. That's the perception, whether Calipari has ever been actually guilty or not. The truth of the matter is that he's never been implicated in a scandal, and if Bledsoe EligibilityGate gathers steam, that'll be true again. But it won't matter. It'll only add to John Calipari's legacy in most fans' eyes, a legacy he's sealed with his incredible success and timely departures from UMass and Memphis before arriving at UK.
Bledsoe won't be the story here. Calipari will, whether that's fair or not. But we've got a long way to go before this story -- and interest surrounding the details of Calipari's historically jaw-dropping recruiting hauls -- is over.