Media day isn’t always liked by athletes or coaches, who are forced to field questions they might not like from reporters. Such was the case Thursday when Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari tried to avoid questions pertaining to the ongoing federal investigation into bribery and other untoward activity in college basketball.
Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Jerry Tipton, who has been reporting on Kentucky basketball for almost 40 years, wasn’t about to let Calipari sweep his question aside. After Calipari interrupted Tipton, who dared mention the investigation, which has not touched Kentucky, Tipton interrupted him.
“Now wait a minute, wait a minute,” Tipton said. “This is media day, not coach day. I am entitled to ask a question; you can then deny or not answer, fine.”
With a stunned look on his face, Calipari acquiesced, allowing Tipton to ask what Calipari is doing to ease any anxiety fans might be feeling as the FBI reportedly has expanded its investigation to include Nike, which sponsors Kentucky. Previously, Adidas had been implicated, which resulted in the suspension of Adidas-sponsored Louisville Coach Rick Pitino.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Calipari didn’t entirely ignore the inquiry. Instead, he offered a bristly response before underlining that Kentucky has not been approached by the FBI and has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
“You’re acting like you know something that I don’t know,” he said. “There’s no one — we haven’t been contacted, the NCAA hasn’t contacted us, we’re going about our business of coaching this team.”
“How about a basketball question since it isn’t my day?” he added.
Calipari is not the only college basketball coach who finds himself fielding these types of questions. North Carolina’s Roy Williams said he was “stunned” by the investigation, which resulted in charges of bribery and more for 10 people, including four assistant basketball coaches at Division I schools and a top Adidas executive.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski relayed similar thoughts, calling the news “bad” for college basketball but refusing to believe the investigation will stretch much further.
“It . . . doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the tip of some iceberg,” he said last week. “I think the iceberg is really good.”
The investigation, which never resulted in charges for Pitino, has uprooted Louisville’s famous program and has scarred others, including Auburn, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Southern California. Assistant coaches from those schools were among the 10 who were charged. Those four individuals allegedly accepted bribes to direct student-athletes to specific financial advisers, business managers and agents.
“The picture painted by the charges brought today is not a pretty one,” said Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, on Sept. 26. “Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes. Managers and financial advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes. And employees of one of the world’s largest sportswear companies secretly funneling cash to the families of high school recruits.”
More dominoes might fall, as well, according to ESPN, which reported last month that federal investigators had served subpoenas to Nike in connection to activity surrounding its Elite Youth Basketball League. Nike has denied there are any allegations against the company.
The college basketball season is set to get underway Nov. 10.
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