Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky Off the Hook After Grade Change Review

The University of Kentucky dodged a bullet when a review of former guard Eric Bledsoe’s transcripts upheld his grades. Bledsoe was one of the five Kentucky players selected in the first round of the NBA draft in 2010, getting drafted by the Thunder and immediately traded to the Clippers. In question were his high school grades that got changed to make him eligible for the NCAA and Kentucky.

The real matter at hand involved an Algebra III class in which Bledsoe received a “C.” Bledsoe apparently did makeup work and was able to get the grade changed to an “A.” While getting a grade changed based on makeup work is a standard practice, Bledsoe conspicuously had 17 of 24 marks in the books changed to result in the A. I could understand having a test or two or a few assignments changed, but having 17 of 24 marks changed means the teacher was extremely flexible or extremely accommodating (or on the take).

There’s one part of the entire investigation that doesn’t make sense to me. Based on some excellent legwork by Al.com (make sure to check out their story), Bledsoe’s first and second term grades were changed in November and December of 2008. That does not make sense to me because the second term likely hadn’t even begun in December of 2008 (Bledsoe graduated from high school June 2009). How can you possibly have a grade changed for a course that hadn’t even started? Someone has to ‘splain me that one.

I completely understand teachers being flexible and willing to allow students a chance to make up their work. I also understand a student busting his butt to get his grades changed to become eligible. Going to night school to work things out is commendable. But there was a little too much fishiness going on for my taste and it sure seems like a few strings were pulled. Of course, with Bledsoe being associated with John Calipari and Kentucky, there’s no way it would have happened differently.

Calipari’s Boys Not Very Bright

John Calipari managed to resurrect some of the winning ways Kentucky has come to be known for when he came to the Wildcats from Memphis.  One thing he doesn’t seem to have done is stimulate his players to perform as well in the classroom as they did on the court.  According to KentuckySports.com — via Sports By Brooks live — his players posted a GPA of 2.025, the lowest of the 20 University of Kentucky athletic teams.  It is also the lowest for the Kentucky men’s team since 2002 and worst of the nine SEC schools that were willing to provide their team GPAs to the public.

When taking into account the Derrick Rose SAT cheating incident at Memphis, Calipari doesn’t exactly have a clean track record regarding academic issues and his players.  While it should be noted that freshman-phenom John Wall had all As and Bs during the fall semester — as Calipari pointed out in December — the fact that Kentucky had so many one-and-done freshmen almost certainly contributed to the low team GPA.  Four of the five Wildcats who entered the NBA draft were freshmen and two players posted GPAs below the minimum requirement for eligibility, which is 1.8.  However, that minimum requirement only comes into play at the start of an athlete’s second year, so it’s safe to assume if those two were eligible to play, they were first year players.

Considering the four freshmen who declared were probably more concerned with their NBA futures than their midterms, they were probably about as bored in the classroom as Calipari is with the press conference in the picture above.  Am I saying this is all a huge deal for the Wildcats men’s basketball program?  Hardly, as I’m sure classroom performance is an issue with plenty of major athletic programs.  However, given some of the issues Calipari has had with these things in the past, it isn’t exactly the best reflection on him as a coach.

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Calipari’s squad posts worst grades of UK teams [KentuckySports.com]

John Calipari Hiring Tony Delk, Scott Padgett to Coach at Kentucky

And that’s why Kentucky brought John Calipari in to coach them. That, and because he’s taken UMass and Memphis to the Final Four. While Billy Gillispie would have been fine job-wise if he had won a few more games and probably would have had great success at UK, I never saw him hiring the former stars of the program. That’s something Calipari’s already doing:

Saying he wanted to help them launch coaching careers, new UK coach John Calipari on Thursday said he would hire former Wildcat players Tony Delk and Scott Padgett.

“I’ve done this many times. What happens is with guys like that, they’re in positions of assistant strength coach or assistant equipment manager,” Calipari said.

“This is not a money thing,” Calipari said. “If you want to get started in this profession, I will help you.”

The new coach also said he will have 4-5 guys around every year who want to get into the coaching profession.

I’m not exactly sure how they can afford to just hire anyone and dole out all kinds of funds but this is a great way of stepping up fan relations. This guy is really smooth. I said you better have a great replacement in mind if you’re going to fire someone who’s good and Kentucky had that. Imagine how much easier it will be to recruit when all the Kentucky legends are on your side making phone calls. Coaches should take notes from Calipari on how to work alumni-relations. Are you listening, Sean Miller?

Kentucky Reporters Sure Are Considerate and Sensitive to Billy Gillispie

So Billy Gillispie got the axe from Kentucky on Friday. I’m not sure if anything can portray the friction between Gillispie and the media better than the following video. This is how desperate two TV reporters from Kentucky were to get a comment from Gillispie who clearly was pulling the “Cellphone to the ear bit” even though he wasn’t talking with anyone.

Alright, so there’s the side of Gillispie about which the folks at UK were complaining. Kentucky’s athletic director, Mitch Barnhardt, tried to say it was an irreconcilable difference in philosophy and that Kentucky needed more from a coach than just winning or losing. That’s total b.s.; Gillispie could be as big of a jerk as he wants as long as they win 25+ games, the SEC regular season, and they go far in the tournament. The “ambassador for the program” bullcrap was only a convenient excuse to can the guy for having back-to-back sub-par years. Why do you think Gillispie said his only regret was that he didn’t win more? Had he won a little more, they would have kept him around regardless of whether or not he shmoozes the alumni.

Two comparisons here: Ben Howland was 29-28 after two seasons then went to three straight Final Fours. Gillispie was 40-27. Also, Howland’s a jerk too, it’s just that people don’t talk about it because the team wins. Just wait til they have a down year — that’s when it might become a problem. Kentucky better have a darn good replacement in mind if they’re going to kick out a top notch coach like Gillispie, and I’m talking Pitino or Calipari good. This might work out better for Billy G.; he could wind up in a better situation, like Arizona or Oklahoma State (if UK hires Travis Ford). As for the reporters, that’s going a little too far, wouldn’t you say?

8th Grader Commits to Kentucky Hoops

You’ve probably asked yourself at some point what age is too young? For Karl Malone, 11 might seem to be the appropriate answer. For Roger Clemens, 14 might be the breaking point. But for Billy Gillispie, 14 seems like it might be the prime age. Sports by Brooks brings it to my attention the news that Kentucky has offered a scholarship and received a commitment from an 8th grader. As you could probably imagine, the news has turned some heads:

When news of the commitment reached a meeting of the UK Athletics Association Board of Directors on Thursday, it stunned school President Lee T. Todd Jr.

“An eighth-grader?!” he blurted out.

After noting that plenty of time remained for such an early commitment to be rescinded, Todd expressed his wish that Kentucky not regularly seek a college choice from a child who had not yet entered high school.

To put this in proper prospective, Michael Avery (the middle-schooler in question), has not yet selected a high school! The Lake Sherwood kid is thinking about going to Crespi here in Encino, or potentially to a private school in Indiana. Look, I’m not out to say that you can’t tell if a basketball player’s exceptional even at the young age of 14, but just the thought is disturbing. Honestly, pick a high school first, and then worry about a college.

Evening Linkage: Crazy Kentucky Fans

Kentucky fans sure know how to get down at games, literally [Deadspin]

Vancouver deporting homeless to clean up for Olympics [100% Injury Rate]

SI’s newest reporter looks good in a bikini [SPORTSbyBROOKS]

Megan Fox lights up the Spike TV Awards [Popoholic]

Don’t expect to see Joe Torre on FOX next year [Awful Announcing]

Houston Nutt is a real man of genius [Zoner Sports]

Wait, Keyshawn calling out Chad Johnson? Huh? [Our Book of Scrap]

Tricia Helfer with a slight nipple slip [Egotastic!]

Some inconsistencies in Paul Byrd’s story [Signal to Noise]

Is it still a surprise when the Red Sox win? [Sons of Sam Malone]

Billy Gillispie and Kentucky Is the Perfect Marriage

Even though I’m not a Kentucky fan, let me take the time to explain why UK made a brilliant move in hiring Billy Gillispie, as the current reports suggest.

To start, Billy Gillispie coaches Texas A&M in basketball. Basketball! Not football mind you, but basketball. I guarantee you most people didn’t even know A&M had a basketball program. No joke, they have as much of a reputation in basketball as I do in Wrestlemania. In fact, the year before Gillispie joined the program, they had as many wins in Big 12 play as Larry Brown Sports University did — zero.

Think about this, Billy Gillispie took a team that was 7-21 (0-16) the year before he arrived, and turned them around for the ’04-’05 season with a highly respectable 21-10 (8-8) mark, that included an 11-0 start.

Two years ago, Gillispie’s second on the job, A&M ended up 22-9 (10-6), which was good for fourth in the conference, the highest Big 12 finish in school history at that point. More notably perhaps, was the fact that Billy Gillispie had in only two seasons, led Texas A&M to the tournament for the first time in 19 years. Their outcome you ask? I only have to ask my buddy Rey, who accurately predicted that the 12th seeded Aggies would knock off the 5th seeded Syracuse Orange, who were led by Gerry McNamara, and were fresh off a Big East conference tournament victory.

Finally, this past season, Texas A&M truly burst onto the scene as an emerging power in college basketball. The Aggies went an impressive 27-7 (13-3), which allowed them to receive a three seed in the tournament. They reached the Sweet 16 before losing to Memphis in a nail-biter.

In only three seasons as head coach of Texas A&M, Billy Gillispie took a team that was a pitiful 0-16 in Big 12 play, and turned them into a force that finished 13-3 and second in the conference.

If you’re still not convinced that Billy Gillispie is an amazing coach, here’s more proof. In his first season at UTEP, ’02-’03, the Miners were a disastrous 6-24. Their next season however, ’03-’04, they went 24-8, capturing the WAC title despite finishing last the year before.

After a turn-around like that, it’s easy to see why Texas A&M pounced on Gillispie. It’s also should be pretty easy to see why Billy Gillispie is the perfect fit for one of the most high profile coaching jobs in the entire country, head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.

If Billy Gillispie could turn a horse shit program like UTEP into a winner, and a dog shit program like Texas A&M into a major player, imagine what he’ll be able to do with one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.