Prep Rally

Did Calipari illegally comment on recruit through reporter?

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The lines between what a coach can and can't do only get more blurred with each new social media evolution. First, new restrictions had to be placed on Twitter and Facebook, rules which will allow a coach to send as many direct messages to a recruit as he wants (he can literally send 100 a day without being penalized), yet refrain from making any of those messages public.

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Findlay Prep basketball star Anthony Bennett

Findlay Prep basketball star Anthony Bennett

Yet coaches seem to be finding ways around that. In late May, Memphis coach Josh Pastner's sister, Courtney Pastner, fired off a series of public correspondences with an athlete known to be among the Tigers' priorities. The Tweets were questionable, yet evidently not illegal, though the prospect in question removed Memphis from the list of colleges he was considering shortly after Prep Rally, ESPN and other sources published Courtney Pastner's Tweets.

Now Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is no stranger to recruiting controversy, may have gone old school to try and get around the restrictions that keep him from making public comments about high school prospects. On Thursday, Calipari told a Canadian prep hoops reporter that he thought Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep star Anthony Bennett "would be a nice fit for the Wildcats," a statement which that reporter, North Pole Hoops editor Tariq Sbiet, then Tweeted out publicly.

Here's precisely how Sbiet's Tweet read:

Coach Cal of Kentucky also told me he really likes Anthony Bennett @ABennett24 and that he would be a nice fit for the wildcats

Sbiet -- whose Twitter handle is Tsbiet -- quickly deleted the Tweet, but not before a Prep Rally source captured a screen grab of it. He also couldn't pull it down before a handful of other team-specific college hoops blogs re-Tweeted it and passed comment on its questionable legality, too.

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Tariq Sbiet's Tweet about John Calipari

Tariq Sbiet's Tweet about John Calipari

Of course, the fact that Sbiet quickly pulled down the post would seem to lead one to believe that he realized his Tweet could land Kentucky in some trouble, or at least that someone from Kentucky realized that and immediately told him to remove it.

That only adds to the gray area the incident seems to inhabit. Did Calipari expect Sbiet to remain quiet about the comment? Was it told to the reporter in confidence, under the agreement that he not tell the ever-rapt recruiting audience?

Or, in a more sinister possibility, did Calipari know that Sbiet would shoot off some social media link about Kentucky's interest in Bennett, thereby stroking the rising senior's ego and potentially help sway him toward a future in Lexington?

It's an incredibly hard motivation to determine, both for the general public and the NCAA. Unfortunately, all that does is provide more proof of why the existing NCAA regulations may not provide specific enough guideline when it comes to handling social media. Until a more tried and true protocol emerges, more similarly twitchy incidents are almost sure to follow.

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