UK Men's Basketball

John Clay: Vacated wins not enforced equally

This season on my favorite show, Modern Family, there was a scene where young son Luke claimed that more people died hiking than in the entire Civil War.

"In what book did you read that?" asked his too-smart sister.

"Books?" replied Luke. "Wake up and the smell Internet, grandma."

A similar sentiment could be applied to Dennis Thomas, the chair of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions who wrote the letter demanding UK acknowledge it was in error recognizing John Calipari's career 500th victory and that it should not include his "vacated" victories in school media guides, Web sites, etc.

This, of course, propelled the Big Blue Nation into (a) a huff, and more importantly (b) to the Internet (grandma) to a little detective work of its own.

Wake up and smell the Internet, Mr. Thomas.

Thomas is also the commissioner of the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference. And the intrepid reporters among the UK faithful discovered that not one, not two, but three MEAC members publish athletic media guides that fail to exclude vacated victories.

Savannah State was instructed to forfeit all victories from 1993-1994 through 1995-96 in football. Yet none of that is mentioned in the school's football media guide.

Then there's MEAC member Florida A&M, which was ruled to have used ineligible members in 2000 and 2001 and instructed to classify games as "no contests." Yet in the FAMU media guide, the wins are still listed and still included in former coach Billy Joe's record.

Then there is Morgan State basketball coach Todd Bozeman. As the Web site Rush the Court points out, it was under Bozeman that his previous employer, California, was forced to vacate a combined 28 wins in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. So instead of being 63-35 at Cal, Bozeman was actually 35-35. (As another part of NCAA weirdness, schools are not required to "vacate" losses.)

Yet the Morgan State media guide states, "In four seasons as a head coach, Bozeman led Cal to a 63-35 record ... "

It's not just the MEAC.

San Diego State credits basketball coach Steve Fisher with 400-plus victories when, if you take into account the victories he had "vacated" as head coach at Michigan in the 1990s, he really has 335.

Alabama lists football coach Nick Saban with 149 career victories, which includes five wins at Alabama in 2007 which were "vacated" by the NCAA.

If this all seems nit-picky and silly, that's because it is nit-picky and silly. Most of the Kentucky/NCAA/500-win controversy last week was an exercise in silliness and hypocrisy that only served to reinforce what a basically useless punishment the NCAA doles out when it "vacates" victories.

UK looked either inept or disingenuous by waiting until nearly two hours into its basketball game with Florida on Feb. 26 — which turned out to be Calipari's career 500th win — to email the NCAA with the question about whether it counts vacated victories in career coaching totals.

Considering the current rule-breakings and integrity problems permeating college athletics — so much so that president Mark Emmert has called a "summit" with college presidents this fall — the NCAA looked to be using a sledgehammer to smash a pebble in its tortured path.

As for Thomas, he's now the man being laughed at on the Internet for writing:

"The committee does not have the manpower or the time to retroactively review all instances of vacation made during the 60-year history of the NCAA enforcement program.

"However, if the office of the COI receives any information that an institution is not complying with a penalty, such as in the instant case involving Kentucky, it will take action.

"In that light, the COI invites (UK compliance director) Ms. (Sandy) Bell to report any instances of institutions not complying with COI penalties of which she is aware."

Thanks to some Internet-savvy UK fans, I think there are such cases of which Ms. Bell is now aware.