OK, so some time has passed since the initial shock of seeing the ESPN headline “UK’s Wall battling eligibility”. I think it’s deep breath time. Let’s look at the facts.
First of all, Mike Slive confirmed that Wall is not yet eligible, not that he is ineligible. The issues that stand in the way of him being cleared to play for UK have to do with John Wall’s AAU coach, Brian Clifton.
Clifton, as you’ll remember, was a prominent figure in John Wall’s recruitment, and actually would have preferred for Wall to attend Miami instead of Kentucky. Clifton was a registered agent with FIBA for a year, so any expenses paid for by Clifton on Wall’s behalf during that time could be considered improper benefits. John Wall would be responsible for refunding Clifton for any such expense and potentially serving a suspension of “at least 10%” of UK’s games.
During the time period that Clifton was an agent, Wall took two unofficial visits to Kentucky while Billy Gillispie was coach. If Clifton paid for his travel or any other expenses, that would be exactly the kind of thing Wall would have to repay.
I think we all know what the worst case scenario is here, and I don’t even want to think about it. John Wall is a player that I am more excited to watch than any I could ever imagine. Losing him would deflate a bunch of the excitement that has been built up over the past few months.
However, John Calipari is a savvy guy. He knows that these issues exist and he and UK have known about them for at least a few weeks. I cannot envision a situation where Calipari touts Wall’s talent like he is and makes him as public a part of this year’s team and its aspirations if he thought there was a chance that he would not be a part of it in the long term.
In an effort to assauge the concerns of our faithful readers, let’s take a look at the opinions of three people with much better access to information than I on the John Wall issue:
Larry Vaught – Vaught makes the same point as I just did: that Calipari would not be talking as much about Wall as he is if he thought his career at Kentucky were in danger.
John Clay – Clay opens things by saying “I don’t think this is a huge deal” and reminds us that this doens’t entirely come as a surprise. He also says that he expects a suspension of a few games, but does say that the NCAA could choose to go after Wall to set an example. Finally, he astutely points out that this is a Wall/Clifton issue, not a Wall/Calipari. Whatever school landed Wall would be dealing with this situation, including Billy Gillispie if he were still at UK (what a ridiculous thought that is, by the way, that Billy G could have gotten Wall).
Matt Jones – As much fun as it is making fun of Jones and Marc Maggard for their mudslinging and as little as I want to say good things about a competitor, Matt Jones has good information a lot of the time. Jones does not see this as a major problem. He says he doesn’t expect anything more than for Wall to have to repay Clifton.
The bottom line is that this is not good, but it’s also not nearly as bad as it seems at first glance. When most who do not follow these kinds of things closely hear the highlights (highly touted recruit, eligibility questions, AAU coach, agent), people will jump to some pretty ugly conclusions.
The official statement from UK is this: “The University of Kentucky will not comment on the academic or eligibility status of any UK student-athlete. We will continue to respect the privacy of all our student-athletes in regards to personal information. All University of Kentucky student-athletes are considered eligible unless it is noted otherwise.”
UK’s compliance officer, Sandy Bell, is all over this, and I think that Wall is in good hands. I wouldn’t rule out anything with the NCAA involved, but I believe that the worst case scenario is that Wall will be suspended for a few games to begin the season and that Wall will have to pay a sum of money.
-In another bit of bad news, Kyrie Irving officially announced on ESPNU that he would attend Duke. It wasn’t surprising, but I think we were all hoping for a last minute shocker. Nonetheless, Irving seems like a great kid and I wish him the best, even though I would have loved to see him wearing blue. Let’s hope we get a chance to play and beat him sometime during his career!
-In a piece of good news today, Rich Brooks called running back Derrick Locke “probable” against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. This is really a pleasant surprise. Locke came down with a sprained MCL toward the end of the Auburn win and was reported to be out on Monday, then doubtful on Tuesday, questionable on Wednesday, and probable today.
After his stellar performance last weekend, I’m very happy to know he will have a chance to build on that momentum. It’s also a good sign that he is likely to play, because Brooks would not be playing him if he weren’t close to 100%.
-Finally, UK football picked up a commitment today from Alvin Davis, a 6-4 225 pound defensive end from Wayne County, Georgia. Davis sported offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Valdosta State and Western Kentucky and said that Georgia, Florida, and LSU had also expressed interest. There’s not much info out there on the kid, but this is UK’s 13th commit in the class of 2010.