Calipari vetting clarified

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

An NCAA spokesperson said the organization did not discuss John Calipari's role in the ongoing investigation at Memphis with anyone at the University of Kentucky before the Wildcats hired Calipari earlier this spring.

UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said that, at the time, he did an "exhaustive" background check of Calipari – including speaking with NCAA director of enforcement David Price. Barnhart said Price was supportive of Calipari.

However, strict NCAA confidentiality rules prohibit staff members from discussing either pending or resolved infraction cases.

Price, according to NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, could not and did not discuss any particulars of either the current Memphis allegations or the major infraction case at Massachusetts in the 1990s, when Calipari was the head coach there.

Calipari left Memphis for Lexington in April, and one of the chief questions centered on whether Kentucky knew about the Memphis investigation when it hired him.

"Price did not discuss any investigations, but instead urged the university to follow up with Coach Calipari directly," Osburn told Yahoo! Sports.

On Wednesday, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that the NCAA sent a letter of allegation to Memphis detailing major violations in the basketball program there. They include a charge of a fixed SAT score for former Memphis player Derrick Rose and unpaid travel costs on team charters for a player's relative – whom a source close to the case said is Rose's brother, Reggie.

Neither Barnhart nor Calipari have discussed the situation, other than through a statement that notes the coach is not named in the allegations and has been assured by the NCAA he will not be charged with anything.

Before hiring Calipari, Barnhart said, he spoke with the NCAA to alleviate questions about Calipari's commitment to compliance. While he was not cited for any wrongdoing at UMass, the Minutemen were forced to vacate their 1996 Final Four appearance.

"David Price and other people at the high level at the NCAA in compliance assured us how much they enjoyed working with John in that process," Barnhart said.

NCAA statutes limit what can be discussed, however, and as such solely speaking to Price would not appear to be enough of a background check. It is unknown what other steps Kentucky took in the vetting process.

"The NCAA enforcement staff is bound by strict confidentiality requirements," Osburn said. "These policies do not allow the staff to provide any information to media or any individual, including those in the membership, about an investigation involving another school or individual.

"Contrary to what may be portrayed in statements in the media from others, Price followed standard procedures when Kentucky officials requested information regarding any potential violations regarding John Calipari."

UK president Lee T. Todd Jr. told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Thursday that Calipari was up-front about the Memphis investigation during the interview process, and that he fully supports the hire.

"We certainly asked him if there was anything the NCAA was looking into," Todd told the paper. "He was open about what he was aware of at the time."

The original allegation against Rose was made in May 2008; the official letter was sent to Memphis on Jan. 16, 2009.

A hearing in front of the NCAA infractions committee is scheduled for June 6 in Indianapolis.

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