Kentucky may have finished John Calpari's inaugural season with a sparkling 35-3 record, but the Wildcats weren't nearly as successful in the classroom.
According to records obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky had a cumulative GPA of 2.025 for fall semester, lowest among all 20 teams at the school. That was also the worst semester GPA a Kentucky men's basketball team had posted since the Wildcats had a paltry 1.68 in spring 2002.
Of the nine SEC schools who revealed their basketball team GPAs to the Herald-Leader, the other eight all outperformed Kentucky, though LSU's 2.15 wasn't much less embarrassing. Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State declined to release their team GPAs.
"It's not something we're happy with, I'll tell you that," Kentucky senior associate athletic director Sandy Bell told the Herald-Leader. "And we'll be working on it to get it up. We certainly anticipate that going up in the spring semester."
Kentucky fans have been quick to come to Calipari's defense when others question his recruiting tactics, but this report should be universally condemned. At best, it's a bad omen. At worst, it's the start of a disturbing trend.
We don't know who Kentucky's main academic culprits were because the school only releases individual GPAs rather than the names associated with them, but process of elimination helps narrow it down. Calipari frequently bragged that freshman John Wall had all As and Bs in fall semester and and that three seniors and junior Patrick Patterson were each on pace to graduate this spring, meaning the trouble appears to fall on some combination of the other players.
Since Kentucky has four freshmen who are likely to bypass their remaining three years of school to enter the NBA draft, this report will be viewed as another indictment of the flawed one-and-done system. Newly hired NCAA president Mark Emmert recently promised to address the rule with NBA commissioner David Stern amid concerns that education has become a necessary evil for players forced to go to college for one season rather than turning pro out of high school.
Bell suggested that the transition from Billy Gillispie to Calipari may have played a role in the poor grades because the new players and new staff may have needed time to adjust to one-another.
Knowing that freshmen Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and DeMarcus Cousins were probably going to get criticized for this, Bell also cautioned against assuming a single group of players was responsible.
"It's not the freshmen," she said. "It's not the seniors. It's not any one group. It's kind of across the board and for a lot of different reasons."