There are recent accusations of improper recruiting activity in the Louisville basketball program, but university officials insist the claims are false. They maintain that all of the team’s current players are first and foremost interested in winning a championship. Therefore, if there is any wrongdoing by any of the players, the school will bear the consequences, not the coach.
Rumors And Actions
“We had to take action because of recent rumors that have been circulating and making statements about our basketball program and some of our players,” said Ken Lewis, the university’s vice president for communications. “This is not about who is right or wrong, but it’s simply about protecting what we have worked so hard to establish.” Although no charges have been filed yet with the Department of Education, Lewis confirmed that the investigation is on-going.
Following The Arrest Of Six Players
Two freshmen are currently being evaluated for possible eligibility following the arrest of six players on July 9. According to Courier-News, former basketball player Damontez Knight and current Kentucky guard Luke Lowe were arrested after an intoxicated driver was pulled over and identified as the car accident individuals took the life of 18-year old Louisville basketball player Rashard Lewis. Both players are still undergoing rehabilitation at a local rehabilitation center. When probation is completed, both will be able to enroll in the basketball program in the spring.
Top Recruiting Priority
Lewis was considered one of the top recruiting priorities for many schools, and the Louisville basketball program lost him to the University of Kentucky. Before the arrest, Lewis was considered a rising star in the Kentucky program, but he could not play until the NCAA ruled his eligibility. Heather Purnell was hired as the new head coach at the UK and immediately made several changes, placing Lewis and four other student-athletes on indefinite probation. Coach Billy Gillispie has already moved assistant coaches Frank Martin and Dan Craig to interim positions.
Leading The Charge
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie is leading the charge for the fired players. He said that while he was not involved in the arrests, he is responsible for the players’ current status. “I’ve made sure that all of the student-athletes in our program are doing what they need to do to put themselves in a better position to get ready for next year and long-term success with the UK,” Gillispie said. Gillispie’s willingness to let players who starred on the basketball scene go despite their off-court issues makes me wonder if Billy Gillispie doesn’t have enough on the basketball program’s coaching side to land himself a more significant job somewhere else in the NBA. Gillispie has been linked to several high-profile assistants/scouts in the past, so it would be interesting to see which assistants he uses to bring in talented Kentucky student-athletes.
The Wrong Time
The firing of Lewis and seven other players from the UK’s basketball team comes at the UK’s wrong time. This is the first roster change Billy Gillispie has had in his 18 years of coaching at the UK. In truth, it may turn out to be the worst movie he has ever made as a coach. Gillispie was a popular hire because he was familiar with the UK’s unique culture and a long history of winning. With the mass of transfers expected in the coming years and the UK’s lack of proven talent, it is too soon for Billy Gillispie to hang his hat on the UK basketball program.
Aside from the Lewis scandal involving players being recruited without proper evaluations, the Kentucky basketball program has had its fair share of off-the-court troubles. The most recent example was assistant coach Luke Lowery’s firing. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. After Lowery’s firing, Kentucky lost its second national championship in history. The NCAA later fined Kentucky $75,000 and placed Lowery on two years’ probation, eliminating him from any chance of competing in the spring NCAA tournament.
The sad part about all this is that UK officials were quick to point out their basketball program’s positives. As for Billy Gillispie, he is already saying he plans to “fix” the UK’s problems. However, one thing is for sure: There will be significant changes coming to UK basketball following the resignation of Gillispie. Will UK fix its issues by merely laying down the points and making concessions to the players and coaches? Or will the UK go the extra mile and find the wrongs in the system and institute significant changes? We’ll have to wait and see.