Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memphis allegations stand out more than most


Normally, when I hear of a scandal involving the bringing in of a "student-athlete" to a university, I keep living, pay it little attention.

It happens all the time.

The whole system is flawed.

Kids should be able to go straight to the NBA.

Blah, blah, blah.

But when I saw that, allegedly, an unnamed Memphis player who we all know is Derrick Rose had someone take the SAT test for him to get into Memphis, I didn't move on with my life. At least not for 17 minutes.

For a simply reason, really.

Rose's impact.

The kid -- and, yes, he's still a kid; a very, very talented kid -- almost led Memphis to a national championship. The kid almost made the university millions and millions of dollars (in many different forms).

The kid was a huge difference-maker during his one year in Memphis, a huge winner. He helped John Calipari gain more recognition and probably helped him land the coveted Kentucky job this spring.

The list goes on...

And, if the allegations are true, he shouldn't have been at Memphis in the first place.

I'm not saying I would have felt bad for Kansas if the Tigers hadn't blown the end of that epic national-title game; I'm fairly sure the Jayhawks at least bent the rules to recruit a contributor or two from that championship squad.

Rather, I'll look at the season as a whole.

The Tigers played 40 games and won 38 of them. A solid portion of their opponents, I'll assume, were using rosters full of legitimate players. Coaching staffs of those teams spent long hours trying to figure out how to slow down the speedy freshman.

And the kid couldn't take an SAT test.

Did Rose make a bad decision? Of course he did. He should have known how illegal the whole deal was.

So he deserves some blame.

But at the same time, he had no desire to be in college for a year, or take classes. He just wanted to hoop and eat gummy bears.

If it wasn't clear until now, it's crystal clear now that kids like Rose don't belong in college for a year. They should be able to head straight to the NBA, which is where they want to be.

That's obvious and needs no further explaining.

What isn't so clear-cut is what went wrong here. Memphis, obviously, is to blame. Someone at the school, someone within Calipari's group of advisers and boosters, knew what was happening.

So the Tigers should be punished. Hopefully the current players won't feel that burden by missing a postseason. But someone needs to feel the pain of this gross error in judgment.

As for Rose, what can be done? Nothing, of course.

If it's confirmed that he is the culprit, however, I'd have to think that he'll feel something. Sure, Bulls fans and management will continue to love him -- why wouldn't they? -- but he'll be seen, at least for a time, as nothing but a basketball player, a body on the court.

If he wants a good off-court reputation, he'll have to really work at it. We'll see how his endorsements hold up (I'm guessing they'll be fine).

Whatever. He's not the one to feel sorry for.

And no one, really, deserves much sympathy here.

But I do feel a tad for the coaches who make sure to run clean programs and then have to play teams led by illegitimate players such as Rose.

The system is messed up; we all should know that.

It's like baseball and steroids, and it'll only be a matter of time before the next scandal breaks.

That doesn't mean, however, that the effects of such a situation aren't felt.

And I am glad, for the record, that the Tigers failed to win that national-title game.

Even if it's true that all but one of the team's players got into the university the right way.

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