HOUSTON — University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. downplayed the importance of a FoxSports.com report Friday night that said a former UK basketball staffer broke rules by making impermissible telephone calls to recruits.
Speaking at the Final Four on Saturday, Todd also questioned the timing of the report.
"If it had merit, and I don't think it does, they can do it next week," Todd said.
Todd said he had spoken to UK's chief compliance officer, Sandy Bell, about the report.
Bilal Batley abruptly resigned as UK's assistant director of basketball operations/manager after he violated NCAA rules by rebounding for a player during a workout in July 2009. UK self-reported the secondary violation and sent Batley a letter of admonishment.
Batley's job did not allow him to have on-court interaction with players. When he resigned after barely four months on the job, a team spokesman said an illness in his family was the reason.
Batley, who worked for UK Coach John Calipari at Memphis, broke NCAA rules by making repeated impermissible telephone calls to recruits while working for Memphis and then Kentucky, FoxSports.com said.
Todd said he was hesitant to talk about the report because it came on the eve of the national semifinals.
"For some reason, people want to drag up something negative," said Todd, who is retiring as UK president at the end of June. "It's a part of journalism I'm glad I don't have to put up with much longer."
Students cheer Todd
When UK students sitting behind one of the end lines saw Todd coming down an aisle, they erupted in a standing ovation.
Todd reacted by pulling out his cellphone/camera and taking a picture of the students.
"I get standing ovations after speeches," Todd said a few minutes later. "Usually it's by adults. It was very, very moving."
After cheering Todd's arrival, the students began chanting, "Cancel classes, cancel classes."
When asked if he would grant the students' wish, Todd smiled and said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
Todd noted how he sat in front of Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones on the flight back from Newark last Sunday.
At one point, Lamb asked if the UK president would cancel classes.
"Maybe this Thursday and Friday," a poker-faced Todd replied.
Todd heard Jones tell Lamb, "He's pulling your leg. We won't be there."
Smith happy for Cats
Tubby Smith had great seats Saturday night, first row in fact, but they weren't quite as good as the last time Kentucky was in the national semifinals.
Smith led the Wildcats to their seventh national title in 1998, the only time during his decade in Lexington the school made the Final Four. He abruptly left following the 2007 season to coach at Minnesota.
Four years later, any bad feelings about his sudden departure have subsided. Smith says he could barely get inside the stadium because so many Kentucky fans were stopping him to shake hands.
He looks back at his 10 seasons in Lexington with pride, saying, "I think we did right by Kentucky, and Kentucky did right by me." Smith called the job done by current Kentucky coach John Calipari "remarkable."
Smith was joined by his wife, Donna, and son Saul — a former Kentucky player — in the front row. Asked if he ever thinks about still working the sidelines at Rupp Arena, he demurred.
"It was a matter of what was best for everyone, and I think UK found the right fit. They're back on track where they need to be," Smith said.
Smith was hardly the only coach with a national championship on his résumé watching the Final Four as a spectator. Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and former Louisville coach Denny Crum also scored prime seats inside massive Reliant Stadium.
A USA Today comparison of coaches' salaries at the Final Four last week had UK's John Calipari leading the way with annual pay of $3,917,000. UConn's Jim Calhoun was second at $2,300,000 followed by Butler's Brad Stevens at $434,382 and VCU's Shaka Smart at $424,000. ... Among those in the crowd was former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush and wife Barbara.