Former Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton still claims innocence in 1989 scandal

There were some interesting comments made over the weekend by former Kentucky Wildcat basketball coach Eddie Sutton and his perceived role in the “Kentucky’s shame” scandal.  Lest we forget, Sutton was head coach when the infamous Emery package “came open” revealing $1000 cash that was earmarked for the father of Kentucky recruit Chris Mills. 

The NCAA determined that UK assistant Dwayne Casey sent the money and he was suspended for five years.  Sutton was forced to resign, Kentucky was sacked with probation, and eventually Rick Pitino ushered in the renaissance of Kentucky basketball.  No one is arguing that Sutton was a bad fit at Kentucky, but it is interesting that after all these years, Sutton still proclaims his innocence and claims he was set up:

“When that happened, it was a set-up,” Sutton said. “Who would send money like that? And an overnight package somehow opens up? You need a crowbar to open those things.”

I’m not trying to dig up the past and rip a scab off a dark era in Kentucky basketball, but 22 years later, the situation seems kind of fishy.  I guess it is because of the internet age and era that we all grew up in, but the fact that an overnight package and that once certain package to boot, would just “come open and show money” does not pass the smell test of the internet savvy Kentucky fan.  And when I say that if something smells fishy, it probably is.

Just think for a minute if this happened in this time and environment. First of all, a blogger somewhere would have news of “this package popping open” online hours before ESPN and the other news giants even thought about covering it and it would quickly be debunked and ridiculed through the internet juries before it was even news.  Pete Thamel of the New York Times had his story about Eric Bledsoe debunked and dismissed within hours of it being published.  By the time the real sports columnists had their chance, most people had already dissected the story ad nauseum, decided things did not match up, and were in the process of calling for Thamel’s head on twitter and Facebook.

This was within hours of his story posting.  Same thing goes for the TMZ news “report” that there was a scandal brewing at Kentucky.  That story was dismissed almost as soon as it hit the internet and it never had a chance to become credible.

Sports fans are a lot smarter and a hell of a lot more cynical than they were in 1989 and opinions are made and reputations are trashed almost instantly.  In the old days, the news of LeBron Jame’s decision to join the Miami Heat would have been on the papers for several days and Miami would be lauded as the next great dynasty by the sportswriters of old.  In today’s environment, the fans decided they were fed up with the ridiculousness and prima donna-ness of LeBron and he was skewered via the internet immediately after making his decision.  Public perception of what had been the most popular player in the NBA had changed before the printing presses of the newspapers even roared to life. 

I’m not trying to change history or even the perception of Eddie Sutton.  I just find it interesting that Sutton stands so steadfast in his denial of the incident, even as he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.  You would figure that at some point, after a long and successful career, that in looking back he may acknowledge mistakes were made.  Not so for Sutton and the Kentucky incident. 

It just makes you wonder how that infamous 1989 envelope incident would have been perceived by the internet savvy and information hungry sports fan of 2011.  Would he still be vilified?  Or would the incident pass the “smell test”?