In August, Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne’s name was mentioned in documents controversial attorney Michael Avenatti submitted to federal court to support his claims Nike paid players to attend schools it sponsors. According to the exhibits, Payne had a conversation with Nike EYBL director Carlton DeBose, who told the Kentucky assistant which EYBL coaches he supplied money to in order to help families of players on the popular shoe circuit.
This morning at a preseason roundtable with reporters, Kentucky head coach John Calipari was asked about Payne’s name coming up in connection to the claims. Is he concerned?
“No, no,” Calipari said. “How we’re set up here, you guys know. It is what it is and we go about our business.”
Calipari did say that it didn’t come as a surprise that Payne’s — and in turn, Kentucky’s — name being mentioned drew plenty of attention even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing on his or the program’s part.
“It probably proved that — [Reporter: “Did it bother you at all?”] No, but here’s what it is, what I found out. You put Kentucky in a headline, or you put me in a headline? Oh, you’re getting eyeballs. So, the minute they see a K, ‘BOOM! Which K was it? Is that Kentucky — ah, it’s not Kentucky.’ I mean, it’s what it is, but then somebody called me and said Kenny was in it and I said, ‘What?’. They said, ‘It said his name.’ No, I said, ‘Yeah, it didn’t say his name because they wanted it to be me, so they left his name out and thought it would be me,’ and I was like, I got tents in the front of my house. The media, they set up tent city. Why are you laughing? Because you know it’s true. So, when it became Kenny and you read what it was, something to the effect of, make sure you don’t get — basically, he wanted him to do right, which would have been good, but because it’s us, it’s eyeballs.”
Calipari said it will be interesting to see how the NCAA treats Avenatti’s claims and the FBI’s findings because the organization doesn’t govern by precedent.
“I didn’t read it all but it was kind of amazing. This guy went for two years and was fine. Now all of a sudden he’s in jail and facing 198 years. What the hell happened in two years? All this stuff — I said it before, you’re not going to legislate morality. You’re not. And whatever happens from this, all I want to see is fair decisions. That whatever you did for this school, you do the same thing to this school. And if this school got nothing, then that school should get nothing with the same. What the NCAA, if any of you do your homework, they will not allow precedent. So, it’s the only law, maybe in the world, that doesn’t allow precedent. Do you know what I mean by that? If you ask, ‘Can I see that case because they kind of did exactly what we did,’ and ‘Can I read what they did,’ you know what your answer is? You can’t, and every case is different. No, they’re not. No, they’re not. Your decisions are different. We don’t know why yet, but they are. Is it to embarrass some and leave others alone? I don’t know but until we get a fair system, where precedent is used, I just — I think we all go about our business in your own silo and better make sure you’re doing right or you’re going to get fired. I hope.
“You can’t legislate morality. It just, it doesn’t — What are the penalties? Do they deter what’s going on? Well, not if the penalty here is one, and the penalty here is — I don’t know. If you have money to go get lawyers and say we’re going to spend $10 million on lawyers, you’re good. What if you’re at a smaller school that has a budget of $25,000 to spend on lawyers and that’s it? Guess what, you’re accepting whatever they say. You’re going down and you’re getting buried. So, that’s — you know. Let me say this: all the stuff hasn’t gone down yet. Let’s see. Let’s see what happens.”
We’ll have more from Calipari’s roundtable next Sunday.