I admit I am a day late and a dollar short in weighing in on the latest UK drama but sometimes real life takes me away from my blog and I don’t really get a chance to weigh in as much as I can. Also, recall that I have been doing this for 3.5 years and I am always attempting to grow as a writer and get away from constant knee jerk reactions to stories. Yes, I am attempting to sometimes become fair and balanced as a writer(except when it comes to Louisville). I know that is scary for those that have followed this site from the beginning as I was always quick to step into the fray but I am trying to evolve. However in the hours since the story has broken, I have uncovered an angle that could be as troubling in the way the media covers these stories.
But first, let’s recap.
Yesterday afternoon, Pete Thamel from Sports Illustrated released a story called NCAA Expanding Inquiry into top Kentucky recruit Nerlens Noel and immediately the BBN Twitterverse and Social Media Warriors went on attack mode blasting Thamel for his story. And to be honest, Thamel has drawn the wrath of the BBN before as he was the one that broke the Eric Bledsoe investigation and the one that was heavily involved in reporting the Enes Kanter story. So in the eyes of several Kentucky fans, Thamel is the great villain in all of this and seems to be obsessed with Kentucky.
The purpose of this story however, is not to jump on Thamel, blast his reporting, or call him obsessed with Kentucky as many of my UK blogging contemporaries are today. I do realize that most of you are angry with these reports and are tired of the constant “Calipari is a cheater” accusations without any proof. I am as well, but to be honest, all the name calling and putting a national reporter on blast is not going to help the UK cause. CBS Sports recently ran a series of polls in which Calipari was loosely implicated in cheating and it got a lot of attention from UK fans, who flocked to Twitter, Facebook, and social media to blast CBS. I am sure they will not admit it publicly, but I bet CBS is very pleased with the attention it got and hits generated. So don’t expect that type of story to stop.
Look, I am about as liberal as the next guy and I believe in freedom of speech as much as anyone. If the national writers want to throw out accusations, it is their right. If UK fans want to blast back, that is their right. And any blogger can write what they want about Thamel, Goodman, and the others. As for me, I am attempting to get away from that and offer something a bit different from the other UK sites. So this is not an “attack piece” but attempting to look beyond the emotions of the story.
To be honest, I was kind of expecting this story to hit since April and it really was not a shock to me. Players like Noel are always going to get extra attention from the NCAA and I was careful to note that Noel was “academically cleared” when it was announced earlier. Like Shabazz Muhammad, the fact that the NCAA had questions for Noel should not shock anyone. I would say the top 5-10 players get a little extra attention when it comes to the NCAA and Andy Katz pretty much said the same thing, especially when a player reclassifies:
Memo to any high school player: If you change schools multiple times and/or reclassify to enter school a year early then you can fully expect a thorough NCAA eligibility check. The era of trying to fool the NCAA enforcement staff into thinking that you won’t get at least an extended examination is in the past. Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel was going to get checked, regardless of any questions about how he visited schools. But no one should be surprised, either. The NCAA enforcement arm has had its antenna up to look into all high-profile incoming freshmen, no matter what school the player decided to attend.
That said, there was one line in Thamel’s story that I have not really seen anyone address and not to single Thamel out, we see this a lot when it comes to national types reporting on Kentucky players:
Noel did not return a call to his cellphone seeking comment.
Now Thamel is not the first reporter to use this line in this type of story, and he certainly will not be the last. But apparently, this is a clear violation of the UK Media Policy and of pretty much every University across the country.