The sullied state of college basketball is evident in this year’s men’s Final Four. The feel-good stories about Cinderella teams Butler and Virginia Commonwealth can’t mask the odoriferous presence of Kentucky and Connecticut.
At $4 million a year, Kentucky’s John Calipari is the most highly rewarded college coach, despite two vacated Final Four appearances at UMass and Memphis for violations of NCAA ethics rules. Connecticut, meanwhile, is a prime example of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s toothlessness. The NCAA found that UConn coach Jim Calhoun committed several recruiting violations, but he doesn’t have to serve a three-game suspension until next season, allowing him to coach in the wildly lucrative NCAA tournament.
This follows the debacle this past football season at Ohio State, where head coach Jim Tressel and several players were suspended for ethics violations, but the penalties were postponed until next season so the Buckeyes could compete at full strength in the Sugar Bowl.
The NCAA’s latest self-defanging also sets up a nightmare scenario for the nation’s basketball-fan-in-chief, President Obama. Kentucky and Connecticut have been graduating only one out of every five black players. If either school wins the championship, it will be awkward to see the White House welcome from the nation’s first African-American president, who says about the country’s K-12 dropout factories, “You can’t defend a status quo . . . where more than half of the kids are dropping out.’’