Not only did the Chicago Sun-Times not back down, they’ve responded with vigor.
Not even two days after the University of Kentucky sent a letter to the S-T jumping on the paper’s accusation of them having given stud recruit Anthony Davis $200,000 to sign with the school, Michael O’Brien, the author of the original controversial article, stepped back up with another piece that claims:
“Sources from three separate universities told the Sun-Times that Davis, Sr. asked for money in return for his son’s commitment, with the amounts ranging from $125,000 to $150,000.”
There’s been no response from Lexington…yet. The question is — should there be one?
Davis finds himself in the middle of a media maelstrom.
Just about every media outlet slammed O’Brien and the Sun-Times for publishing the original accusation based on what appeared to be a single-sourced “rumor,” burying it deep within the story, then revising the original article and not mentioning that they did a re-write. O’Brien, asked by numerous outlets for a comment (including us), didn’t give one, but it’s safe to say that this story serves as his his response.
Let’s take a closer look at that new statement by O’Brien and the Sun-Times, though. As you can see above, today’s article states that Anthony Davis’ father asked for money in the aforementioned amounts. It does not say that Kentucky gave him anything, which is a bit of a comedown from the first article which was removed. The dollar amount is different, too. Are these three sources that the Sun-Times is holding up today different from the source that led to the first story? If the original source is included, then why has the amount gone down from $200,000 to a maximum of $150,000? And if these are indeed three different sources, then why weren’t they included in the original write-up on Wednesday? Did he go out and find three new ones in the last 36 hours, and would they happen to have anything to do with the three schools said to be competing with Kentucky for Davis’ services? Finally, why is the mention of three new sources backing O’Brien’s original version buried ten paragraphs down the page and not leading off the article?
The University of Kentucky is now in a strange position. If they don’t come back with something stronger than a letter to the paper, they’ll look bad, and — right or wrong — people will wonder if they’re too busy covering their tracks to respond. If they make good on the threat implied in that letter they sent on Wednesday night and actually get into this legally, then everything will come to light. And we don’t just mean everything involved in the recruitment of Davis. Once lawsuits get filed, subpoenas start flying and all the details emerge as part of the discovery process (just ask Rick Pitino). Assuming everything John Calipari’s ever done in terms of recruiting is spotless, would he and UK want everything about his recruiting techniques and methods out there in the public for everyone to see? That’s the best-case scenario for UK if this gets into the legal system. Most people don’t want their trade secrets revealed, forcibly or otherwise. Is there a chance the Sun-Times knows Kentucky would prefer to stay out of this legally, and is calling their bluff? That’d be quite a gambit, but the paper has a lot less to lose here than UK. No offense to Mr. O’Brien, but if he’s wrong about this, then he probably loses his job and the Sun-Times apologizes. If he’s ends up being right, then Kentucky’s looking at NCAA penalties and John Calipari is looking at an even more tarnished reputation, not to mention the wrath of Kentucky fans. You’d have to wonder if any program at any level would ever touch him again.
With this article today, the Sun-Times has directly challenged the University of Kentucky, and the fact that the paper actually quoted the letter sent to them by the school’s attorneys shows that they’re confident they’ve got the horses to back up their story, or they’re willing to go to the mat with UK on this because they have a lot less to lose. And because of that, they’re winning this chess match right now. It’s Kentucky’s move.
UPDATE: Minutes after this story was published, the University of Kentucky issued this a press release, again denying the Sun-Times‘ assertions and — this is the most important part of the statement — saying it supports “any action” that Anthony Davis and his family (the school is not allowed to mention him by name, per NCAA rules) would take against O’Brien and the paper, but in terms of its own legal actions, the release states it is “evaluating all available rights and remedies it may have” against O’Brien and the newspaper. Read the statement here.