In recent years, Kentucky can't say that they've been there. They last reached the final four in 1998. To put that into perspective, 2009 super-recruit John Wall was eight years old. Bill Clinton was President and even I was only a year removed from high school.
Kentucky has come close a couple times. In 2003 Tubby Smith's Keith Bogansless Cats ran into Dwyane Wade who was on a hot streak and led Marquette to the final four. In 2005, Smith's team couldn't grab a rebound against the Michigan State Spartans. One rebound late in the game would have given the Wildcats another final four.
When Smith left, many blamed Wildcat fans for being too hard on him. National pundits mentioned how he was such a great man and how the Wildcats couldn't have asked for a better ambassador. But it was clear that Kentucky's talent level had slipped and they weren't on the level that they had been on historically. The rest of the SEC had caught up with these present-day Wildcats.
Kentucky turned to a coach who was considered a hardworking up-and-comer. Billy Gillispie had done a magnificent job in turning around programs at both UTEP and Texas A&M. With his efforts and Kentucky's resources, many thought it would be a match made in heaven. Unfortunately Gillispie's personality didn't mesh with the people in charge at Kentucky. His on the court prowess also came into question after two below average seasons. A first-round NCAA tournament exit and a NIT berth weren't up to UK standards and Gillispie was fired.
Kentucky fans and administration were made out to be the bad guys. There was constant talk that expectations were too high. Some say they got what they deserved after the way they treated Tubby Smith. However the same people who praised Smith's efforts and his ethics also failed to mention his failure to keep Kentucky competing with the North Carolinas and Connecticuts. Kentucky was even slipping to a second tier team in a conference that it has dominated from its inception.
Why is it unreasonable for Wildcat fans to demand excellence when other programs of similar historic stature can do so? North Carolina, UCLA, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Connecticut, Michigan State and many other top quality programs wouldn't stand for a stretch that Kentucky has endured. There would be a lot of hand-wringing and complaining from any of those fans bases if recruiting had become virtually non-existent and if the quality wins became more and more rare.
In becoming a mid-level program, the Wildcats became a program that people aside from Kentucky fans "liked". Well, odds are if opponents "like" you then you aren't doing as well as you should. Non-fans of Duke and North Carolina don't "like" them. They probably respect them, but they don't like them. Nobody liked UCLA during their stretch of dominance. Nobody liked Kentucky during the Pitino years. Why? It's because nobody likes the king of the mountain.
Now that it appears Kentucky could be on their way back to the top with coach Calipari at the helm, the noise has begun again. There have been questions about his recruiting tactics and whether or not he is breaking unwritten rules among coaches. The unwritten rule is recruiting commitments to other schools from within your own conference and to a lesser extent; other conferences.
However this has been a practice that has been used in the recent past by other SEC coaches against each other. Cal isn't the first to go against this implied rule and he certainly won't be the last.
There are questions surrounding his tenure at Memphis and the alleged academic problems for certain basketball players. The NCAA cleared him of any wrong-doing surrounding this situation.
According to the NCAA, Kentucky and Calipari are clean. Until something happens to change that (God forbid), then it's time to drop that subject.
Kentucky is no different from any other top program in the country. There is a desire to be the best and if the people in charge refuse to make that happen, then there has to be a change at the top. President Lee Todd and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart decided to make that change to John Calipari. Calipari is a proven commodity and looks to be driving Kentucky back to its rightful place among the elite in college basketball.
If people don't like it - good. That probably means UK and Calipari are on the road to success.