One night recently, while preparing for my radio show, I came across an article written by Bill Mayer of KUSports.com that’s laugh out loud funny. If you’re a college basketball fan and you’re looking for some levity in your life then you must read his piece called Kentucky Basketball Victories Tainted.
In the article, Mayer states, “Kentucky with its tainted history has registered 2,011 victories to sit atop the college basketball heap. Now North Carolina (1,997) and Kansas (1,993) are neck and neck in an exciting race to the 2,000 level. Kentucky may have hit 2,000 first but KU and UNC will do so more honorably.”
Now, I may be from Kentucky and I may have attended the University of Kentucky but I’m not really here to defend Kentucky. Some points do need to be disputed, but when you have multiple probations in one sport, then being viewed as a dirty program is the price you pay. The Cats have conducted themselves dishonorably at times by showing disregard for compliance. That cannot be denied but how do you, with a straight face, claim Kansas HAS been honorable in the race to 2000?
Are we talking about the same Kansas Program? The Kansas program that won the 2008 national title while ON probation? The Kansas program that was prevented from defending its previous National Championship in 1988 because of probation? The same Kansas program that’s been cited by the NCAA, per the NCAA’s major violations database, for violations on five separate occasions (57, 60, 72, 88, 06)? For comparisons sake, Kentucky has been cited four times (53, 76, 88, 89). 1988 and 1989 were part of the same investigation.
Two of Kansas’ three national championships have been tainted by compliance issues yet their success, according to Mr. Mayer, is honorable. How can a journalist write this and maintain any credibility at all? Even Kansas fans have to be wondering how it’s possible to leap to that conclusion.
By now, Jayhawk fans probably are cursing my name and claiming that I’m a hater. Hardly, I have great appreciation for Kansas basketball. Their place in the pantheon of great NCAA programs is secure. They are the cradle of college coaching. When you have names like Phog Allen, Dean Smith, and James Naismith attached to your program then you are legendary. You also have the name of Adolph Rupp attached to your program as well. That should be celebrated not scorned as suggested by Mr. Mayer.
Rupp’s reputation has taken a beating since his death. Everyone has heard about his supposed bigotry because UK didn’t integrate as quickly as others. However, there is a mountain of evidence that suggests that people’s perception of Rupp is flawed.
He did many great things on the integration front that never seems to get reported. Things like integrating high school basketball in Freeport, Illinois in the 1920’s when it was really unpopular.
Like giving coaching seminars and donating uniforms and equipment to traditional black high schools in the 40’s and 50’s.
Like helping black athletes like Jim Tucker land scholarships at northern schools like Duquesne.
Like petitioning the SEC twice to integrate, but was denied.
Like helping integrate the 1948 Olympic team with the addition of Don Barksdale, an African American, on the team that Rupp helped coach. An interesting note, Barksdale later claimed that Rupp was his best friend on the team. How is possible for an African American and a bigot be such good friends?
Those are all facts that are convientantly left out of the Adolph Rupp story today.
He also was the driving force behind the establishment of the Shriners Hospital for Children. A facility that has helped thousands of children have normal lives, including my daughter Kate.
Now, I don’t know what was in Rupp’s heart. Nobody does. You can only judge a man by his actions and Rupp had plenty of actions to dispute this long held notion that he was a mean uncaring man of prejudice. He is a man to be proud of, even by Kansas fans.
As far as NCAA violations and Rupp are concerned. Adolph was never accused of cheating in his 42 years at UK. The only sanctions brought against the Cats with Rupp at the helm was the embarrassing point shaving scandal in the fifties, something Rupp clearly had no involvement in. In fact those closest to Adolph say that he never got over it.
Mayer speculates that Kentucky was likely a dirty program under Rupp yet he doesn’t support it with facts, only opinions. I could do the same to the great Phog Allen but won’t. I have no knowledge of what kind program Mr. Allen ran but neither does Mayer when it comes to Rupp.
Not surprisingly, Mayer also takes a stab at the new Kentucky coach John Calipari. He points out that Kentucky’s rogue ways continue with the hiring of a coach with two final fours vacated because of the use of ineligible players (it should be pointed out that the second came after the hire).
Never mind the fact that any school would have used Derrick Rose because the NCAA clearinghouse cleared him to play only to rule him ineligible after the season was complete. Never mind that no coach in his right mind would approve and assist a player in getting money from an agent in the midst of a potential championship season.
Still, the facts are true and cannot be denied and the head coach has to be held accountable and everyone is holding Cal responsible.
What also cannot be denied is that Kansas also hired a coach with a vacated final four in his past. They hired Larry Brown, whose 1980 UCLA team was stripped of their runner-up finish. Brown also won a national championship at Kansas and landed the Jayhawks on probation. How honorable.
For all of the perceptions of Calipari, he has never been cited for a single NCAA violation. Something that former Kansas coach Roy Williams and current Kansas coach Bill Self can’t claim.
Again, Kansas fans are probably furious at me because they’ll see what I’ve written as an argument that UK is better than KU. Wrong, I’m only arguing that KU is no better than UK, at least when it comes to honor. When it comes to wins, that’s a different story…that’s where UK is better than KU.