Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite staffer and an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.
Billy Gillispie, the gruff, divisive dictator in charge of Texas Tech’s basketball program, suddenly finds himself as helpless and powerless as ever. Stuck in a hospital in Lubbock, current and former Red Raider players have turned on him publicly, telling CBS Sports he violated NCAA rules, punished them in practice and made their lives a living hell for an entire season. They’re saying nasty things — things that could all but end Gillispie’s coaching career, which already needed saving on one occasion after that messy divorce with Kentucky. They’re saying he forced a player with a stress fracture to practice despite needing serious medical attention, and they’re saying he routinely held practices for hours and hours at a time during the season, much longer than the 20 hours per week allotted by the NCAA. After Jeff Goodman’s investigative work blew the door off the situation, CBS colleague Gary Parrish then penned his own piece.
If the allegations against Gillispie are true — and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t — then he’s a man who didn’t learn from his downfall at Kentucky and probably shouldn’t be coaching college basketball anyway.
Goodman and Parrish cite several sources, one of which confirmed a tale of Kader Tapsoba running stairs with a stress fracture as he sobbed from the pain. We’re hearing about Bear Bryant kind of shenanigans, outdated tactics used by tyrants in the 1952, not 2012. Put it all together, and Parrish, quite matter-of-factly, says the following: “Gillispie must go.” ESPN’s Andy Katz and Jason King spoke to several unnamed current players, and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal managed to actually speak to Gillispie and get a no comment: “There will be an appropriate time to talk about that,” Gillispie told reporter Nick Kosmider. “Right now I’m trying to get better.”
Problem is, his superiors may not wait until his health recovers to make a decision on his employment. With the public now united against him, there’s almost no way Gillispie can overcome this sort of PR hit. It’s a shame we’ve come to this conclusion so early. It’s a shame we’re essentially ending his career before he even gets out of the hospital. Like Parrish alluded to, it’s hard to believe that all of these players would simply fabricate stories about Gillispie out of thin air, but that’s not the point here. The man at the center of this whole fiasco needs to have the opportunity to defend himself. It doesn’t matter how many sources CBS Sports cites or how many times it tries to text him. He’s in the freaking hospital. That’d be like Woodward and Bernstein taking information from Deep Throat and then texting Richard Nixon’s staffers, only to give up and still write the Watergate story for The Washington Post when they did not respond. Ridiculous, right? Billy Gillispie may not be Richard Nixon, and his alleged transgressions may not be a matter of national security, but the consequences are serious nonetheless.