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Is John Calipari truly the villain against Bill Self?

Apr 1, 2012, 3:20 PM EDT

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks before his television interview with Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self before their men's NCAA Final Four college basketball game in New Orleans

Over the coming two days, one of the story lines that will be the most intriguing to follow is that of John Calipari and his quest to win his first national title.

Calipari is a polarizing figure in the sense that Kentucky fans worship him while most everyone else, with or without a rooting interest, either hates him or is accused of hating him by those same Kentucky fans. And regardless of what percentage of the college basketball watching nation feels the same as Drew Sharp does about Calipari, the bottom-line is that Calipari is quite clearly the villain in this narrative.

It’s not difficult to see why. Two of his four trips to the Final Four have been vacated by the NCAA. All you have to do is spend an afternoon at a high-level AAU tournament and you’ll hear ten stories about Calipari on the same level as the one involving $200,000 that made its way into Anthony Davis’ pocket.

The irony in all of this?

The villain has a record that is just as clean as the good guy’s, Bill Self. Those two Final Fours that were vacated? One was because Marcus Camby was commiserating with an agent. The other was because Derrick Rose cheated on his SATs. It Calipari blameless? No, but he’s about as guilty as the parents of a teenager that is busted smoking pot.

In fact, I think there is an argument to make that there is just as much smoke around the Kansas program as there is around the Kentucky program. Think about it:

- Darrell Arthur may never have been eligible to play college basketball due to grade changes he may have received in high school. Nothing came out of the investigation, but the school did vacate a state title a year after Arthur left due to grade tampering.

- Arthur’s classmate Mario Chalmers came to Kansas as a package deal, as his father received a spot on the Jayhawk’s staff as the Director of Basketball Operations.

- Josh Selby was suspended for the first nine games of his freshman season due to improper benefits he received while he was in high school.

- Three members of this year’s recruiting class were ruled ineligible for the 2011-2012 season.

None of that has been put on Self, the same way that Calipari is still without a record, according to the NCAA.

More intriguing is the fact that the coach of last season’s national title team, Jim Calhoun, actually has gotten himself into trouble with the NCAA. He was, essentially, caught with knowledge of the fact that an alum and an NBA agent was supplying a recruit (Nate Miles) with illicit benefits. But the vitriol sent his way was more or less limited to this column from Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com.

The point here is not to defend Calipari. I’m not trying to drag Self or Calhoun through the mud, either. These are all facts, and it will be interesting to see how they are portrayed over the next 30 hours.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. vinkeith - Apr 1, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Mr Dauster, your writing is Sophomoric at best and written with an agenda at worst. If you are not defending Calipari, then why write this article at all? If you are really not trying to drag Bill Self in the mud with Calipari then you are certainly doing a poor job of that also. BTW how many times has Bill Self had a Final Four game vacated for cheating? Answer zero!

    • cordae - Apr 1, 2012 at 7:22 PM

      “BTW how many times has Bill Self had a Final Four game vacated for cheating? Answer zero!”

      ……….thats the EXACT point of this article. He specifically pointed out violations his players/program committed and not ONE punishment. Genius.

      • vinkeith - Apr 1, 2012 at 7:46 PM

        Oh, I get it now, if OSU had made it to the Championship game, this article would have been written with Thad Matta as the “angel” and Self would not have been targeted? Give me a break!

  2. eagles512 - Apr 1, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    Good read

  3. ktfulmer - Apr 1, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    I guess that Bill Self left right before the NCAA committee arrived with the hammer when he left Tulsa and Illinois? No? Oh, that was John Calipari.
    I guess that Bill Self stole Memphis’s entire recruiting class the day he left the program in ruins? Nope, John Calipari again.
    Oh, I guess he claims to have taken three different teams to the final four, however, those schools don’t get to hang banners about it, and the players on his Memphis team don’t get to declare themselves as having the most career NCAA wins of any class of players? Nope, John Calipari also.
    I have no idea if Self is any better, but as a Memphis fan, I can not say enough about what a creep John Calipari is, and how satisfying it will be to see Kentucky fans turn on him when the NCAA brings down the hammer.

  4. 1historian - Apr 1, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Big time college sports stinks, but it is hugely profitable for all involved and it’s fun to watch.

    Might as well be honest about it.

  5. jhawkfan - Apr 6, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Since everyone is slinging mud, how about the Kentucky booster giving Anthony Davis’ father $200,000 to play at the University of Kentucky as the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. The NCAA knows of this and maybe someday will investigate these allegations.

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