In virtually any other walk of life, Eric Bledsoe would be considered a success story. Bledsoe is from the inner-city of Birmingham, Alabama. He entered his senior season with a sub-par grade point average and he had no where to live at one point during this time. Now he’s only weeks away from being a millionaire, only one year removed from extreme poverty.
Unfortunately in the world of college basketball, much like politics, the people involved are like crabs in a barrel. One climbs up just high enough to get out of the mess, only to be dragged back down by another crab.
Bledsoe was clearly one of the most talented basketball players in the country coming out of high school and he led Parker High (AL.) to a state championship as a senior. The problem was that he was thought to likely be ineligible according to most people who tracked the situation.
Prior to his senior year, Bledsoe attended Hayes High school, which was a school that closed. Hayes had a poor academic reputation and Eric’s grades reflected that. Those poor grades where the driving force behind the belief that he wouldn’t be eligible.
Bledsoe didn’t let that stop him.
He took some of his older classes over again, replacing the poor grades with better grades. Taking those classes over and getting the required ACT score made him academically eligible.
I won’t go into details about how you can change a GPA with only a few classes, but if you know anything about it, you realize that his improvement wasn’t as astounding as it is made out to be.
Eric made the extra efforts that many student-athletes refuse to make. He took night classes and even took courses online. He set a goal and he reached that goal, making him academically eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Obviously, though, being cleared by the clearinghouse means little, since they can, and do, change their minds after the fact. See Derrick Rose.
The other issue with Bledsoe is that his coach, Maurice Ford, allegedly paid $1200 in rent for Eric’s family in order to keep a roof over his head. If he did, that could be considered an “extra benefit” according to the NCAA.
Now, it’s not like Eric was living in a lap of luxury there in west Birmingham. Eric wasn’t driving a Range Rover given to him by his baby’s mamma’s boss. He didn’t move from the dirty south to a left coast where he paid four grand a month for his humble abode.
Only the NCAA could find fault in giving someone somewhere to live.
In the end, it’s all a witch-hunt. It’s not completely about Bledsoe and his unexpected success. It’s really about John Calipari and his reputation that has earned him the nickname, Calamari.
Calipari left Memphis on probation and UMass had to vacate victories after he left. There have been questions about several of Cal’s players, from Marcus Camby to Derrick Rose. Now they have questions about Eric Bledsoe.
The problem is that Calipari, while never officially linked to the allegations at the other schools, still has the reputation for being dirty. And that reputation will likely stick with him for the remainder of his career, whether he ever does anything wrong or not.
Calipari is similar to former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian in that he recruits great talent and wins big, but there’s always a dark shroud over his accomplishments. The NCAA chased down Tarkanian for several years until he finally sued them and ultimately retired. Calipari’s likely out, eventually, will be the NBA.
In the meantime, Eric Bledsoe should be excited about his future and be thankful for an opportunity that most people never receive. After all of the struggle Bledsoe has endured in his 19 years of life, he’s earned this upcoming paycheck.
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