Men's Basketball

Enough was finally enough

Even in sports, somebody has to draw the line.

There were three separate instances of just that this week. In all three, imaginary lines have been crossed, common sense neglected to the point where those in leadership positions were forced to question actions being taken, all for the good of the sport.

There was the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's ruling that Dakotah Euton and Chad Jackson, a pair of basketball players hoping to transfer from Rose Hill Christian to Scott County, are ineligible, pending appeal.

Then there was Congress's hearings Thursday examining drug and safety issues in horse racing.

Finally, late Thursday, the National Association of Basketball Coaches urged members to cease offering scholarships to high school prospects until mid-June after the player's sophomore season.

When it comes to the question of where the line should be drawn, the high school case might be the most difficult of the three.

For starters, these are high school athletes, not collegians or professionals. There are questions of free will involved. Why can't adults move their families to the town or school district of their choosing? Shouldn't parents be allowed to do what they believe is best for their children?

Yes, but individual rights are often trumped by the public good. Fairness, equity and a level playing field are the important points and, in high school sports these days, that's a tough line to walk.

Euton and Jackson are within their rights to transfer to Scott County as long as there was nothing improper enticing them to do so. In this case, that's at least been called into question. That's why the KHSAA has, for now, ruled the players ineligible.

As for the horse racing hearings, the U.S. government has every right to look into the practices of a public sport it allows, via the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, to practice simulcasting, which accounts for 90 percent of all the wagering on Thoroughbred racing that occurs in this country.

The encouraging sign Thursday was the testimony of many that a central governing body was best for the sport. Owners and breeders Arthur Hancock III and Jess Jackson made the most sense Thursday, decrying the use of drugs, speaking to the sport's splintered factions, calling for one clear voice of guidance.

Action might actually be on the horizon. U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky promised some sort of legislation in the near future that would address the sport's problems. That legislation can't come too soon.

Same thing for the NABC, which acted quickly to head off negative press generated recently by its coaches offering scholarships to players in or just out of middle school.

Wrote USA Today, “The finger is pointed at you, Billy Gillispie.”

That might be over the top, but the Kentucky basketball coach did spark this controversy by gaining commitments from California eighth-grader Michael Avery and Ohio ninth-grader Vinny Zollo. Never mind that Southern California and DePaul had already secured similar commitments. Kentucky is Kentucky.

In truth, UK's actions had more to do with Gillispie generating the buzz that Lexington is a desirable place for young talent to develop.

Still, the image of college coaches lurking around middle schools possessed an almost sinister connotation. It added fuel to the fire for those who see a sport where any practice is acceptable in the pursuit of victory.

To his credit, Gillispie promised he will whole-heartedly abide by the NABC guidelines, that he will do what's best for the sport.

“We have a great belief in what we're doing,” Gillispie told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. “But believe me, whatever rules or recommendations our leadership wants us to do, we'll do.”

Everybody wants to win.

But somebody has to draw the line.