FOXSports.com Alleges Impermissible Calls From Former Calipari AidePosted by jstevrtc on April 2nd, 2011
On Friday evening, FOXSports.com writers Jeff Goodman and Thayer Evans released a story alleging that Bilal Batley, a former staff member at both Memphis and Kentucky, made what the NCAA would consider impermissible contact in the form of cell phone calls to recruits while employed by John Calipari at both programs. The FOX story specifically names former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins and class of 2012 recruit L. J. Rose, as well as numerous current and former players who ended up attending various schools, as having been contacted by Batley, going back as far as Batley’s time as a graduate manager under Kelvin Sampson at Indiana. As the story explains, only a program’s head coach or three “countable” coaches are allowed to make phone calls to recruits. Batley was not so designated at Indiana, Memphis, or during his six months at Kentucky.
Before last season began, we posted a story about how Batley left his position of Director of Basketball Operations/Manager at Kentucky (the same position he held at Memphis) when it was revealed that he had been involved in a minor rules violation a few months into his job. Batley shagged some rebounds for a player during a brief stop in the practice gym, and his job description did not permit such an interaction. Kentucky self-reported the violation. Nothing came of it, and nothing should have. What we considered odd, though, was that Batley soon afterward announced he was leaving his job in Lexington. He cited an ill family member back in Houston as the reason for his departure, even though his post at Kentucky — a rather plum gig, to be sure — would have been protected by law in the event that it was a first-degree relative who was ill, meaning Batley could have come back to that job if he chose to do so after the family member’s illness had resolved. We assumed that Batley’s reasons were his own and that his hand was not forced, because no link was ever found between Batley’s leaving and the incredibly minor violation. Like the rest of the world, we let the matter rest, and simply hoped everything worked out for the best regarding the illness in Batley’s family.
The Goodman/Evans story would understandably cause one to wonder whether these phone calls had anything to do with Batley’s departure. The FOXSports.com story released on Friday states:
Batley’s job did not allow him to have on-court interaction with players. When he resigned, a team spokesman said he did so to return home because of an illness in his family.
But a nearly two-year FOXSports.com investigation revealed that Batley also broke NCAA rules by making repeated impermissible telephone calls while at both Memphis and Kentucky to recruits such as DeMarcus Cousins and their parents.
Given the timing of Batley’s leaving Kentucky, it’s a legitimate question to ask. Correlation, though, does not imply causation, and the FOXSports.com report still provides no link between Batley’s departure and the alleged impermissible calls. After “a nearly two-year investigation,” if FOXSports.com did not find one, it is reasonable to conclude that no link exists, even though the text of that report seems to present you with a couple of dots and asks that you connect them.
The FOXSports.com article was released on the Friday before the Final Four — that is, just slightly more than 24 hours before John Calipari sends his team out against Connecticut, inarguably the nation’s hottest team — for one reason, and that was to maximize its impact. The headline of the story is “Former Kentucky staffer broke NCAA rules.” Batley was also on staff at Indiana and Memphis, but those teams are not playing this weekend, and therefore aren’t mentioned in the headline. Because Batley worked for Calipari in the past, FOX broke the story on the eve of Calipari’s biggest game at the biggest program at which he’s ever coached. Everyone knows that’s not a coincidence, but it is the nature of the business.
Back when we published the earlier article about Batley’s resignation from his job at UK, we mentioned that people — fans, writers, bloggers, etc — would always take shots at John Calipari because of the penalties that followed his tenures at Massachusetts and Memphis. His acceptance of the Kentucky job made him a polarizing head coach at a polarizing program, and therefore a juicy target for anyone who felt like stepping up to the dunking booth with their money. Batley was hired by Calipari at Memphis in the summer of 2008 and left Kentucky in September of 2009, meaning Batley worked for Calipari for about 14 months over two programs, six of those months at Kentucky (Calipari was hired in Lexington on March 31, 2009). The FOXSports.com article states that their investigators conducted a two year investigation, meaning their studies lasted almost twice as long as Batley worked on Calipari’s staff. But all they found, according to the information presented in the article, was a low-level aide who made phone calls to several recruits, only one of whom enrolled at UK and is now gone.
If this is the kind of thing that is unearthed after two years of investigating by journalists as reputable as the authors of this FOXSports.com piece, then fans of John Calipari and Kentucky can rest easy. It’s likely that the NCAA would have little to say about it, and, even if they decided to pursue the matter further, would levy only the smallest of penalties, and certainly nothing like vacation of wins from the games in which Cousins played. The only way this latest volley at John Calipari ever amounts to anything is if FOXSports.com — that is to say, Messrs. Goodman and Thayer and their editors — have cards under the table that they’ve yet to reveal, further softballs to throw at the dunking booth in which Calipari will always reside as long as he coaches college basketball.