John Clay: With NCAA, wait for Kanter could be long one

jclay@herald-leader.comSeptember 9, 2010 

Duck!

Another bombshell could be coming at any minute.

Tuesday it was The New York Times talking Turkey over Enes Kanter.

Wednesday brought the surprising news that UK President Lee Todd was opting for the exit ramp.

We'll save Lee's legacy for another day and jump to the real issue that affects the very fiber and future of the University of Kentucky.

Will Enes Kanter be eligible?

Answer: I'll bet not even the NCAA knows.

First of all, Enes Kanter isn't a John Calipari scandal. It isn't even a scandal. It's one of those thorny eligibility issues that existed long before the Turkish 18-year-old shirked his Washington commitment and signed on the dotted Blue line.

Questions have lingered about Kanter's eligibility — questions illuminated by Pete Thamel of The New York Times with his Tuesday story quoting Nedim Karakas, the general manager of Kanter's Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulker, as saying that the now-Kentucky freshman was paid more than $100,000 while playing in Europe.

This is only a Calipari story if the coach attempted to keep information from the NCAA that would affect Kanter's eligibility. There is no evidence of that.

If the NCAA rules Kanter ineligible, all Calipari could be accused of doing is what plenty of coaches would have done, given the chance: sign a potential star and hope for the best.

Will this turn out for the best for Kanter and UK?

That's iffy, at best.

As the Times' story plainly states, "Karakas and Fenerbahce's basketball chief executive, Aydin Ors, both said they were unhappy with the way Kanter left the club because they had invested heavily in his development."

The article also points out that Karakas' team would be eligible for a transfer fee — cha-ching — if Kanter is forced to play with a European team this season. So clearly there could be less than pure motives behind Karakas' allegations.

The key here will be deeds, not words. Karakas claims he gave the NCAA documentation verifying his claims. He refused to show that documentation to The New York Times — red flag — but insists he gave the governing body in Indianapolis all pertinent receipts and records. Perhaps Turkey is unfamiliar with copiers.

It will be up to the NCAA to verify those records. That alone should send shudders down spines everywhere. Can the NCAA really verify or disprove the validity of those documents? Does it have a group of forensic accountants on hand? Can it hire one? Will it have to bust the travel budget for a trip to Istanbul, and abide Turkish delicacies, all in the name of finding out whether a teenager played basketball professionally?

We are also talking about an institution that operates on its own clock. Ask the football programs at North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia about the NCAA and eligibility issues.

Ask former Mississippi State Athletics Director Greg Byrne and Bulldogs basketball coach Rick Stansbury about swift justice and Renardo Sidney.

A Los Angeles prep star, Sidney signed with Mississippi State last fall. Problem was, Sidney brought with him from California baggage so thick and complicated it took the NCAA until March 5 to finally rule Sidney ineligible. Yes, Sidney was ruled ineligible for the 2009-10 season at the end of the 2009-10 regular season.

The fear is a similar scenario could play out here. Because of lingering doubts, the NCAA refuses to grant Kanter his eligibility, but it doesn't really rule him ineligible either. The Turkish star then ends up in limbo, either choosing to wait, or returning to Europe, which is what his old Turkish team wanted in the first place.

That's bad for Kanter, who obviously wants to play college basketball in the United States. And it's bad for UK, which could find itself in an NCAA no-man's land, waiting and waiting and waiting.

And, hopefully, not for the next bombshell to drop.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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