In Memphis' locker room shortly after its heartbreaking overtime loss to Kansas in the 2008 national championship game, forward
Douglas-Roberts' belief was that the Tigers were an iconic team, like Michigan's 1992 and '93 squads, that wouldn't be forgotten despite their lack of title rings. He most certainly wasn't expecting that the Tigers, like the Wolverines, might eventually have to vacate their title-game appearance. The irony in that analogy is now thick.
If the allegations brought forth by the NCAA on Jan. 16 (and made public Wednesday in a letter obtained by the
Beyond the record books, though, who gets hurt by these allegations, which also state that an associate of an '07-08 Memphis player was provided with $2,260 in free travel with the team?
Not Rose. His image is unlikely to be sullied in his hometown of Chicago, where he justified being picked No. 1 overall in the '08 NBA draft by leading the Bulls into the playoffs and being named Rookie of the Year. He won't be able to go back and get his degree at Memphis -- with three-plus years to go, that was improbable anyway -- and he'll be unfit for any endorsement deals with Kaplan or the Princeton Review. He'll always have Adidas, though.
The Memphis program is the most likely to face sanctions, but it has been going out of its way to distance itself from the situation. Athletic director
The man that matters most here is
Calipari was reaching God-like status in the Commonwealth despite having been on the job for barely more than two months. He was made the highest-paid coach in college basketball, and earning it in the eyes of Wildcats fans. He convinced a top 20 draft pick,
The hard part for Calipari is that, despite all the adulation he's receiving in Kentucky, he may be forever known in the greater college hoops world for an infamous reason -- as the only coach to ever have Final Fours vacated at two different schools. Calipari was cleared of wrongdoing when UMass' '96 Final Four was voided by the NCAA (for improper benefits given to
In Lexington, whatever dampening, if any, this has done to Calipari's honeymoon period will be cured by winning, and he has one heck of a team coming in next season. A No. 1-ranked team, possibly. Besides, most Kentucky fans would rather ignore his past -- Memphis is not their team, and Rose was not their star -- and focus on the future of the Wildcats: Wall. Bledsoe. Orton. Cousins.
That crew is the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for '09-10. Calipari's first class is so good, it's been compared to the Fab Five -- on the basis of talent, of course. Wall is so good, he's been compared to Rose -- on the basis of talent, too. But given what's happened, should we be worried about the other parallels?