Todd says he knew of inquiry, is certain Calipari is clean

ralessi@herald-leader.comjtipton@herald-leader.comMay 29, 2009 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari

University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. said that during basketball coach John Calipari's job interview, Calipari told him about the NCAA investigation of allegations of major rule violations at the University of Memphis.

"Yes. We knew about this," Todd said from Destin, Fla., where he is attending the Southeastern Conference spring meetings.

Todd said university officials were confident that Calipari, who isn't named in the NCAA investigation report, did not do anything wrong while leading the University of Memphis team.

"We still are," he said.

Todd repeatedly referred to a statement that the UK Athletics Department released late Wednesday after the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported the NCAA investigation.

The statement said, "Coach Calipari was forthcoming with the University of Kentucky during the hiring process about any issues under investigation at the University of Memphis at that time."

However, the statement didn't specify whether Calipari told Todd about the NCAA investigation into allegations of academic fraud and improper spending of more than $2,000 on travel expenses for an associate of a Memphis player.

The NCAA informed Memphis of its investigation on Jan. 16.

Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson issued a statement Thursday. "We are currently preparing our final presentation to the NCAA Committee and will deliver those findings in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 6," he said.

Johnson indicated that the university will have no further statement on the matter until after the hearing process, including the receipt of the final decision from the NCAA.

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart issued a statement Thursday night in which he said UK was thorough in its preparation to hire Calipari.

"We talked with several people and thoroughly exercised due diligence during the process of hiring Coach Calipari," Barnhart said. "We asked the right questions. We support him fully as he participates in the NCAA hearing and we have encouraged him not to comment. And I also will not comment any further."

Johnson, the Memphis athletics director, told the Commercial Appeal newspaper Thursday that he could not recall having a conversation with Barnhart about the NCAA's investigation before UK hired Calipari.

Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said that the NCAA did not reveal details of the Memphis investigation to Kentucky officials.

"Contrary to what may be portrayed in statements in the media from others, NCAA vice president of enforcement David Price followed standard procedures when Kentucky officials requested information regarding any potential violations regarding John Calipari," Osburn wrote in an e-mail message. "Price did not discuss any investigations, but instead urged the university to follow up with Coach Calipari directly."

As for past cases involving a coach, the NCAA staff would refer member schools to the organization's major infractions database, which houses public reports, Osburn said.

Calipari's Massachusetts team had to vacate a 1996 Final Four appearance after star center Marcus Camby acknowledged receiving money from an agent while playing for the team.

Calipari was not named in the notice of allegations the NCAA sent Memphis. That means any penalties imposed on Memphis would not include a sanction on UK's new coach, Osburn said.

Todd confirmed that he and Barnhart questioned Calipari about the ongoing investigation into the Memphis program. "We certainly asked him if there was anything the NCAA was looking into," Todd said. "He was open about what he was aware of at the time."

At least two UK Board of Trustees members told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday night that they didn't know about the NCAA investigation before being told by a reporter.

When asked why he didn't inform the trustees about the inquiry, Todd said university officials have to be careful about what they release about another school's program.

"I'm not sure what I can say about another university," he said. "I'm going to let this one go and leave this one as it is. These NCAA investigations are ones that are taking place now."

Lexington businesswoman Mira Ball, chairwoman of the UK Board of Trustees, said Thursday she was glad to learn UK officials "did their due diligence on the matter" but declined to say more.

Steve Branscum, another trustee and a Russell Springs contractor, said administration officials provided the appropriate information about Calipari to the board.

"From the big picture, we wanted to know the contracts were done and executed and all the due diligence was done and there was nothing of major issue and concern," he said.

He said he's satisfied that Todd and administration officials fully weighed the matter. In addition, the NCAA investigation could find no wrongdoing, he said.

It's been widely reported that the NCAA allegations involve Derrick Rose, a star point guard recruited out of Chicago who played one season for Memphis.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday that Luther Topps, who coached Rose's club basketball team with Derrick's brother Reggie, had been aware of the NCAA investigation for three weeks.

The NCAA suspected that a student at Rose's high school, Simeon, took the SAT for the star player, Topps said.

Topps said he and Rose's club team coach, Robert Smith, were unaware of the circumstances surrounding the team.

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