LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari had fielded six questions to start Kentucky’s media day on Thursday, five of which were related to the FBI’s pay-for-play investigation that is rocking college basketball, and the Wildcats’ coach was getting agitated.
He’d first said that “what’s out there now is a black eye,” referring to a scandal that has already implicated Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Southern California and rival Louisville — and which is almost certain to ensnare others. “But here is the thing for everybody here: I don’t want to come across as uneducated or dumb. None of us know where this thing is going [and] at this point I don’t think me commenting without knowing all the facts is the right thing to do.”
The assembled media did not stop asking, however. Calipari got a more general question about corruption in college basketball.
“For me to spend my time today on all this stuff, I just don’t want to do that,” he said. “Let’s talk about this team.”
Another related inquiry came, this time offering a possible solution: So should college athletes be paid?
Calipari gave a meandering non-answer that covered race and graduation rates and the idea that all players should be treated fairly — but not equally, depending on talent level and individual situations. Then came a question about Louisville coach Rick Pitino, the biggest name to fall so far as a result of the FBI investigation, and whether Calipari will miss that rivalry.
“Jesus,” he said, huffing. “Look, it’s unfortunate, all the stuff that’s come down. But let’s talk about my team, please. Does anyone here have a question about my team? Please?”
That’s when longtime Kentucky beat writer Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader took the microphone and pushed Calipari’s buttons — a sentence that could have been written a hundred times over the last eight years.
“One more question about the FBI,” Tipton said. Calipari tried to ignore him, asking if anyone else had a question.
“Wait a minute,” Tipton fired back. “This is a Media Day, not Coach Day. I am entitled to ask a question.”
Jerry Tipton just checked John Calipari.
"This is a media day, not coach day." pic.twitter.com/R6Pf718dbn
— Clayton Abernathy (@ClaySTV1) October 12, 2017
Calipari seemed somewhat stunned by the audacity of that admonishment, but he relented, allowing the question.
“The FBI reportedly has expanded into looking at Nike [Adidas is the only shoe company so far named in the investigation]. Kentucky is a Nike school. What reassurance would you give your fan base, the Big Blue Nation, if they’re anxious about what this could mean?” Tipton asked.
“You’re asking like you know something that I don’t know,” said a defensive Calipari. “We don’t know what you’re saying, if it’s true. Do we know if it’s true?”
Tipton said it has been reported.
“Oh, that makes it true. I have no comment to it,” Calipari said, but then he did give a fairly significant comment: “We haven’t been contacted. The NCAA hasn’t contacted us. We’re going about our business of coaching this team.”
And that was the last of the FBI questions for Calipari on Thursday. A few minutes after the coach finished his Q&A with reporters, the players faced their own set of inquiries on the topic and offered their thoughts on the elephant in the room: Why would 5-star recruits come to Kentucky for free if other programs are paying for the top prospects?
After media day was over, the official Kentucky basketball Twitter account had some fun with the interaction:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) October 12, 2017
Previewing the 2017-18 Wildcats
- P.J. Washington has ‘ridiculous’ length, ‘relentless’ style
- How football got 5-star Kevin Knox to Kentucky
- Freshman PG Quade Green already leading young Cats
- Teammates: Hamidou Diallo can dominate … if he wants to
- Wenyen Gabriel is a fighter, and UK needs him to be
- What the Wildcats will miss while Jarred Vanderbilt is out
- John Calipari sees 2014 Cats, good and bad, in this team
- Full 6,500-word Calipari preseason Q&A
- Players vote on Cats’ best dunker and best shooter