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Under UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari, the pipeline from Rupp Arena to the NBA has been flowing at its greatest pace ever.
The flowing budget of UK Athletics plus the wide-ranging popularity of the basketball program has helped the Cats be successful as a team, a program and as individuals.
But it does not seem as though the budget has been a big help in preparing the young men in UK’s most popular student group for life after basketball.
John Wall, Brandon Knight and Anthony Davis have represented the Cats professionally on the court as well as off the court, but are sadly among the few who have done so.
Recently, a second pipeline has been unearthed leading away from Rupp, and it leads directly into jail.
In the last month, former players, such as Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins, have been arrested for violent crimes.
Jones was charged with harassment after police allegedly witnessed him stomp a sleeping homeless man on the streets of Portland.
Liggins was charged with seven felony counts in a domestic-violence case, where his girlfriend told police Liggins assaulted her in front of their two-year-old son.
Unlike the first, this dirty pipeline is not of Cal’s design. It was around before he even came to Lexington.
Michael Porter, the former point guard who separated himself from the program when Calipari replaced Billy Gillispie, is currently serving up to two years in prison after being found guilty of third-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse charges with 14 and 15-year-old girls he met in a church camp.
Richie Farmer, he of “Unforgettables” fame, is now facing possible jail time after pleading guilty to ethics charges while he served as the state of Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner.
Players such as Jones, Liggins, Farmer and Porter have given the statue of Joe B. Hall a Big Blue and Black eye.
The UK Athletics budget of $104.4 million was announced in June. Recent plans of renovations and new buildings around campus detail funding for those projects from surplus money from the athletic department.
The money is flowing through the basketball program – funding other sports, building reconstruction, and fueling marketability within the university, while also fueling enrollment. But it is the infamous players of the famed basketball program who leave their mark on the university.
Knowing the style of Calipari’s program, where players are leaving after one or two years, the university and the athletic program should prepare themselves in a better way so that they can better prepare these players for life in the real world, whether it be the NBA or in a less-publicized lifestyle.
Out of those who have been arrested, only Farmer played out his entire four-year eligibility.
The program typically has more than one player leave before their eligibility after each season.
Thus, the athletics department should force the players to take classes or counseling sessions on how to live life in the spotlight properly at the age of 20, or younger.
The tentacles of the basketball program are too far-reaching and too important to the heart and soul of our university for the most well-known representatives of the Kentucky promise to have a Mount Rushmore — of mugshots.
With the large budget and sizeable surplus, the athletics department has a fundamental right and ability to prepare these student athletes immediately for the next level of life, if only because “one-and-done” applies to things other than college basketball.