Jerry Tipton is the beat reporter for UK Basketball at the Lexington Herald-Leader and is a frequent source of outrage for UK basketball fans. To get a feel for how readers feel about Tipton, simply peruse the comments under most of his stories or check out the comments from John Clay's blog when he put Tipton up for an approval rating. Or you might remember the problems he had with the Patterson family, as covered here from Kentucky Sports Radio.
While I would love to dive in to the Tipton v. UK feud, and at some point I will, today I want to focus on what I see as an odd source for UK and any related NCAA problems. I want to focus on Michael Buckner, an attorney from Florida who used to work for the NCAA, but now hires himself out to schools to help them avoid NCAA problems.
In "Jerry Tipton's Notebook" from this past Sunday, he quotes Mr. Buckner extensively on the case of Enes Kanter. He also quoted Mr. Buckner back in August in regards to Eric Bledsoe. In both cases, he seemed to express the opinion that colleges need to do a more thorough background check on their recruits and then decide if the recruits are worth taking the risk. Coincidentally enough, Mr. Buckner is just the man you can hire to do this work for you.
I found it odd that Tipton would go back to Buckner, especially when it appears that he only has two things to say:
- Schools need to do a better job of background checks on recruits
- He can do that job for them.
So why do Tipton, and other reporters around the country, continue to go to Buckner? My first guess is because he will always have an opinion or quote (talking to newspapers and putting out press releases appear to be a part time job for him), but more importantly he fills the vacuum left when colleges and the NCAA won't comment.
However, my biggest issue with Buckner's use by Tipton this past Sunday is that he brought absolutely nothing new to the table. Every point he made could have easily have been made by Tipton, or if he did not want to make them himself, by interviewing anyone who has even remotely followed the Enes Kanter issue.
Buckner's opinion according to Tipton:
- Michael Buckner, a Florida-based attorney hired by schools to help them avoid
NCAA problems, advises his clients to do thorough background checks on prospects
and then make sober decisions about whether to continue recruiting the athlete.
This ounce of prevention may cause a school to pass on a prospect, and it can
save the school the headaches associated with dealing with subsequent NCAA
problems that arise. Buckner put the Enes Kanter case in this category.
- "This should have been taken care of behind the scenes between Kentucky and the young man and the NCAA and the Turkish club," Buckner said.
- As Buckner saw it, the Kanter case comes down to whether compensation Kanter received from the Fenerbahce Ulker team exceeded basic necessary expenses.
Because of the high profile players UK recruits, the NCAA history of UK and Coach Cal, and the media spotlight they live under, problems and issues with the NCAA will probably continue to arise. As Tipton digs for information and insight, I hope this is the last time we hear from Buckner. His statements bother me because they seem to imply that Sandy Bell and the UK Compliance Office is not up to the task, with which I would disagree. And while he may have expertise in the NCAA process, he does not add much to the actual story.
I understand that UK and the NCAA will usually not comment on investigations, but there are other people around the country who have a better grasp of the details. For example, Mike DeCoury of The Sporting News would have been a great source in the Katner case, as he has been following the story since April and even predicted the Turkish team's reaction.
Tipton is the main writer for UK Basketball for the main paper in Central Kentucky. For many, he is the #1 source of information. His readers deserve better than an informercial from an attorney.
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