The biggest story to come out of Chicago this week concerning college basketball only tangentially relates to any of the teams in the city. Perspectives-Calumet's Anthony Davis is viewed as the top prospect in the class of 2011 by a number of recruiting services. His recruitment has already become a hot topic in the college basketball world and could lead to some interesting revelations about the world of recruiting.
Davis is down to four schools: Kentucky, DePaul, Syracuse and Ohio State. The Blue Demons were added very recently and are still considered a long shot, so while it's nice that they've been involved in such a high-profile recruit, it's the allegations about Davis' recruiting that are making waves.
Last week the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael O'Brien published an article
on the website that suggested the Wildcats were going to be Davis' choice and the reason was a $200,000 payment. Of course the Wildcats and Davis' family have vehemently argued against this accusation. Eventually the Sun-Times
retracted the paragraph, but later they fired back and published an article
claiming that sources at three schools had claimed the Davises asked for payments between $125,000 to $150,000 for their son's services.
If true that would still be pretty damaging to Davis' NCAA eligibility. Thus the family told The Tribune
that they are going to sue
O'Brien and the Sun-Times
next week for defamation. And that's where things get really interesting.
First of all, the Davises have put themselves in quite the spot. They now have to come forward with the lawsuit, one that could be potentially damaging to their son's eligibility if the Sun-Times is able to come forward with the evidence their reports suggest they have. Also, Kentucky has also put itself in quite a spot by saying that it will support the Davises as they fight the lawsuit.
Running with a story once with one source, as O'Brien did with the first article he published and the $200,000 figure, is one thing, but having three sources that independently corroborate reports of requests for payments is a whole different matter. If in the course of discovery for the trial the information comes out, it's going to give us a whole new view about what really happens during a college recruitment.
I'm pretty sure no one is naive enough to think that it's just coaches in student-athlete's living rooms anymore. There is an incredible game of politics and money being played to get the top athletes in each class. The problem though is that the penalties for getting caught aren't severe enough to do anything to curb the activity.
If the penalties mattered then John Calipari wouldn't be the head coach at Kentucky, and certainly wouldn't have been considered a savior when he was hired by the Wildcats prior to last season. Calipari has had two Final Four appearances vacated because of recruiting scandals, but he has never been personally implicated. Nobody cares when a season is vacated, because the fans, students and alumni still got to have the experience of being there. Who really cares if there is one less banner in the rafters?
But the timetable in the Davis case is different. This is happening before he's even played his senior year of high school. The 6'10" power forward hasn't even officially signed with Kentucky and the rumors and scandals are already popping up. It's going to give everything that's revealed a different lens to look through.
Maybe this case will be good for college basketball. Maybe it is the tipping point that the NCAA needs to step up it's enforcement of its policies. Maybe it'll change the way we think about student-athletes. Or maybe it'll come to nothing. But one can hope.