Catching A Tiger By The Toe

By Geoff Calkins
Updated: August 20, 2009

MEMPHIS — Look at the bright side, Memphis basketball fans. At least your head coach hasn’t had two Final Four appearances stripped from the record books.

John Calipari is Kentucky’s problem now.

Or should it be Kentucky’s punch line?

Q: When is a Final Four appearance not a Final Four appearance?

A: When Calipari is coaching!

First, the University of Massachusetts is stripped of its Final Four.

Now, it’s Memphis’ turn.

The University of Memphis held a press conference Thursday to announce that the NCAA Committee on Infractions has ruled that Memphis must vacate 38 victories and its 2008 Final Four appearance.

It was not be a proud day for Memphis sports.

No university wants to be smacked hard by the NCAA. No fan base wants its memories sullied by scandal.

The glorious season of 2008 will forever be known as the tainted season of 2008. The banners that hang in FedExForum from that year will look a little different now.

But as much as they might like to pretend otherwise in Lexington, this is less about the basketball program at Memphis than it is about its former coach.

Just look at the penalties as they were doled out. That’s all you need to do.

Memphis won’t get banned from television or the NCAA Tournament. Memphis won’t lose any scholarships.

The Memphis basketball program under first-year coach Josh Pastner won’t be affected as it goes forward.

The Memphis basketball program under Calipari?




And, yes, I know, Calipari won’t be implicated in the report. That’s part of the genius of the man.

Calipari wasn’t implicated when UMass lost its Final Four appearance.

He wasn’t implicated when the NCAA alleged that Derrick Rose didn’t take his SAT.

He wasn’t implicated when the NCAA alleged that Reggie Rose, Derrick’s brother, made impermissible trips on the team plane, either.

Maybe Calipari should think about ditching “Refuse to Lose” for a whole new slogan.

Like: “Never implicated!”

Or: “Not personally named!”

It takes a village to take the fall for Calipari, doesn’t it?

Or at least a university.

To be sure, the university was complicit in this one. The university handed its program over to a scoundrel and let him do his thing.

Everyone wondered when the other athletic shoe would drop on Memphis. Now we know the answer to that.

But when you think about the University of Massachusetts, do you think of it as a dirty school?

No. Of course not.

You think it happened to have a dirty coach.

That is the legacy of that scandal. That will be the legacy of this one, too.

Q: Why can’t you call it a Final Four appearance when Calipari is the coach?

A: Because it’s temporary!