Should Memphis Recruits Be Allowed to Follow Calipari?

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The story is the same year after year in the virtual free agency system of college coaching.  Successful college basketball coach leaves university for a more prestigious job.  A press conference is held.  Equal measures of excitement and disappointment develop at the coach’s new and former schools.  Incoming freshmen, recruited by the departing coach, are full of uncertainty.  Who will the new coach be?  What system will he run?  Will he keep the promises made by the outgoing coach?  Can I transfer to another school?

John Calipari’s acceptance of the position of head coach at Kentucky includes all of these elements.  And one of the major issues is what will happen to the players that Calipari recruited to attend Memphis in the fall.  All indications are that the players are free to find another school, remain at Memphis, or follow Calipari to Kentucky.  Two of the players claim to have signed National Letters of Intent (NLIs) that contain an escape clause allowing them to be released from their committments should Calipari leave Memphis.  A third player never signed a NLI.  If a standard NLI had been signed, as is often the case, the players would have no choice but to attend Memphis or transfer to another DI school and sit out a year.  (For more on NLIs, click here).

john-calipariBasketball legend Dick Vitale says that the players should be allowed to go to any school – except Kentucky.  Vitale’s concerns are valid.  Calipari used money and resources from the University of Memphis to recruit these players.  How can he now take them to Kentucky, leaving Memphis with no return on their investment and with three major holes on next season’s roster?  Moreover, Calipari is set to become the highest paid coach in college basketball and if he were to convince three recruits from his stellar 2009 class to follow him to Kentucky, it would give the appearance that Kentucky bought the coach and the star recruits.  Not exactly the image that college basketball wants to project.

Despite Vitale’s well-founded concerns, I respectfully disagree.  The NCAA is supposed to protect amateur student-athletes.  The multi-million dollar industry known as coaching should not operate to limit the choices or opportunities for student athletes.  It is a fact that recruits typically do not commit to a university, but commit to a coach.  This might not sit well with people, but it is a reality in the business of college basketball.

The NCAA system is inherently flawed as it attempts to balance antiquated notions of amateurism with what has become big business.  Nevertheless, the core principle should be protecting student-athletes – including their opportunities and right to choose.  If there is genuine concern about players following a coach to new school, perhaps the coach should be forced to sit out a year rather than the players.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] or reject, without a meaningful opportunity to negotiate.  The NLI fits the bill.  Although Memphis and John Calipari have been willing to negotiate terms (specifically Provision No. 19 regarding the departure of a coach) most schools are unwilling to […]

  2. […] (Jagodzinski Controversy Overshadowed Plight of Recruits) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (Should Memphis Recruits Be Allowed to Follow Calipari?); in terms of whether a student athlete should sign the NLI: (National Signing Day: Beware of the […]

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  4. […] competed in men’s ice hockey and skiing. If passed, the rule appears that it will help Kentucky’s John Calipari and one of his most recent blue-chip […]

  5. […] Should Memphis Recruits Be Allowed to Follow Calipari? […]

  6. […] Should Memphis Recruits Be Allowed to Follow Calipari? […]

  7. […] reject, without a meaningful opportunity to negotiate.  The NLI fits that description.  Although Memphis and John Calipari negotiated terms (specifically Provision No. 19 regarding the departure of a coach), that loophole has been […]

  8. […] in which the maturation of Demarcus Cousins is credited to Coach K: John Calipari, the coach whose recruits signed a special non-binding letter of intent with the University of Memphis specifically so he can steal them away should he ever leave to […]

  9. […] in which the maturation of Demarcus Cousins is credited to Coach K: John Calipari, the coach whose recruits signed a special non-binding letter of intent with the University of Memphis specifically so he can steal them away should he ever leave to […]

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