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Curry Kirkpatrick
May 29, 1989
Kentucky could have received the death penalty for basketball misdeeds; by cooperating, the Wildcats stayed their execution
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May 29, 1989

Dodging A Bullet

Kentucky could have received the death penalty for basketball misdeeds; by cooperating, the Wildcats stayed their execution

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Here's how much the NCAA sanctions against Kentucky could cost the Wildcats, who have been banished from live television for one year and postseason play for two.

Share of 1989-90 SEC television package


Share of national TV revenue


Share of local TV revenue


Share of proceeds from 1988 NCAA tournament


Share of proceeds from NCAA and SEC tournaments in 1989-90 and '90-91*


Internal investigation and legal fees**




*Estimated by SI.
**Does not include salaries of university investigators and secretaries.

"Waiting for the other shoe to drop."

The University of Kentucky didn't invent this particular way to mark time. But then the Kentucky basketball program didn't invent cheating, either; the Wildcats merely perfected it. Last Friday morning at 10 o'clock the waiting was finally over. Proud, elegant Kentucky stood threadbare, stripped of its medals and conceits, dispossessed of image and reputation, exposed as a common NCAA felon.

Other shoe? This was a humongous clodhopper that not only thumped the dishonorable heads of the Wildcats but also booted Kentucky off television, out of the NCAA tournament and just about completely through the seamy cracks of a game the school had helped turn into a statewide religion. The magnitude of Wildcat basketball in the commonwealth was perhaps never so evident as at the moment of its latest humiliation, when the state all but closed down to watch and listen as the NCAA announced it had slapped a Kentucky program that once seemed untouchable with three years of probation. The sanctions will

1) prohibit the school from postseason play for the next two years;

2) bar its games from live TV during the 1989-90 season;

3) restrict the program to one more scholarship for next season—two have already been committed, to beings who obviously have been living on Mars—and three more for 1990-91 (Kentucky normally would have been allowed to grant six basketball scholarships for next season);

4) order the school to return its share of receipts from the 1988 NCAA tournament, among other severe financial penalties (see box on page 31), and strike its two victories in the tournament from the record for deliberately using an ineligible player, forward Eric Manuel of Macon, Ga., who was then a freshman.

Of Kentucky's many sins, the two gravest were academic fraud and sending money, in effect, to a recruit. But the seriousness of the violations and the scope of Kentucky's blatant disregard of the rules do not show up so much in what the NCAA did to Kentucky as in what it didn't do, as cited in paragraph 15 of the report on infractions.

"Because of the nature of the violations," reads the report, "...the committee seriously considered whether the regular-season schedule for the men's basketball program should be curtailed in whole or in part for one or two seasons of competition. In the judgment of the committee...the violations found would justify such a penalty."

Translation: curtains. Or: the so-called death penalty, which SMU football has just finished serving. As Kentucky's new athletic director, CM. Newton, said last week, "We could have been shut down.... The way you get shut down is where you can't recruit.... We are not shut down."

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