Readers of this site will probably assume that we’ve turned to coverage exclusively about the University of Kentucky basketball program, what with all the news that’s come out of the Bluegrass State this summer/off-season — the firing of Billy Gillispie, the hiring of John Calipari, the recruitment and signing of John Wall and the accumulation of other big-time prepsters, the Rick Pitino/Karen Sypher fiasco, the eventual further misadventures of Gillispie, and so on. And now, there’s this:
From the Sporting News…
In early July, [Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager] Bilal Batley visited the UK practice gym to speak with a player regarding an academic matter…While there, [Batley] was seen gathering rebounds for one of the players. The university determined it should be turned into the NCAA as a secondary violation.
Batley held the same post at Calipari’s Memphis program last year before accompanying him to Kentucky. Before that he was a graduate manager at Indiana for a season. The Kentucky job didn’t last long, though. A few days ago, it was announced that Batley was no longer on the UK staff, evidently choosing to leave to go back to Houston because of an illness in his family.
Though no connection has so far been discovered or reported, a person cannot be faulted for asking the question regarding the possibility of a connection between Batley’s departure and what really does look like a minor violation. It would be normal to ask that question if such an occurrence happened at ANY program. When John Calipari is your head coach, though, it’s going to draw even more of a critical eye. We know, nothing’s ever been actually pinned on him, but when you’re the only coach ever to have Final Fours vacated at the two schools you coached and when you associate with people named World Wide Wes, you can’t be surprised when you’re looked at a tad more closely.
Did Calipari hear about the possibility of some kind of (even miniscule) violation perpetrated by this man, and order him out in the spirit of running a totally clean and pristine program at UK? Or, if a bigger investigation is forthcoming, did the coaches convene and decide to oust Batley preemptively because some other things might be discovered? Is there more news to follow from Lexington? Nobody can say right now, and the possibilities mentioned above are total speculation and conjecture on the part of this blogger, as of right now. There’s always the chance that — and you might want to hold onto something, here — the violation really is just a tiny thing that UK is playing it very safe (and understandably so) by reporting, and Batley really is going back to Houston for the aforementioned family illness. If that is indeed the case, of course we hope everything turns out well for the Batley family.
I have one question, though. Given what’s happened, the “minor-ness” of the violation becomes more compelling. I mean, the guy grabbed a few rebounds for somebody while on his way to take care of something else; the NCAA is one bizarre organization when it comes to evaluating crimes and doling out punishment, but it would have to be utterly insane to attach any penalty to that. People take leaves-of-absence from jobs all the time when family members get sick, and they’re often allowed to come back. In fact, as most of you know, depending on who the family member is, your job is protected by law if you choose to take leave. Jobs at programs like Kentucky don’t just grow on trees. Maybe I’m misinformed on the whole thing, but a job like “Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager” sounds like one that another person in the department could handle for a short time while Batley tends to the family issues, so that he could return when those matters are resolved (happily, we hope). No matter whose decision it was, why is Batley now totally unassociated with the program? Why would he seemingly remove himself or let himself be removed from such a plum position at a Leviathan program like Kentucky so quickly and so soon after taking the job in the first place, and over so minor an incident?
Who knows — right now, it looks like there’s no fire associated with this smoke. But we’re going to stay tuned.