Cordia takes a whipping for farming

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By Bob Watkins

Quite a flurry of hot rhetoric filled the air around our Commonwealth in recent days. Not so much Fancy Farm where hot air is as plentiful as St. Jerome Parish pork and mutton barbeque. More the buzz came via aftermath of Cordia High School’s run-in with reality and a KHSAA Supreme Court decision.
The governing body hammered the Knott County school: Forfeit last basketball season, shut down the boys program for a year and fined the school nearly $25,000.
Reasons: Farming. Teenage boys recruited (out of state this time) to play hoops, and allegedly had their grades manipulated for eligibility purposes.
The flap brought to mind a couple items.
First, more than 100 years ago George Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,”
Left me to wonder, “didn’t these college educated educators at Cordia, especially the ball coaches, read the same history they’re assigned to teach?”
Apparently, Rhodes and those who supervise athletics forgot or didn’t know about ...
• University Heights Academy (Hopkinsville) ran afoul of the KHSAA three decades ago for Farming In.
• Rose Hill Christian School (Ashland) in early 2000s, transported O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker from West Virginia which turned out a whistle blower that led to KHSAA attention and sanction.
Now it is Cordia’s turn.
A community with raised optimism, Sweet 16 aspirations and hopes of being the next Little Engine that Could, discovers Rhodes and his Cinderella story is less heroic than wannabe Kentucky-side-of-the-border Oak Hill Academy.
On another level little Cordia’s whuppin’ by KHSAA brings to mind an historic bit from last century college level. Documented, Jerry Tarkanian took recruiting short cuts when he coached at Long Beach State then Nevada Las Vegas and became Headache Man for NCAA investigators. Renown for Farming In and/or compensating poor students and bad actors, he would rehabilitate them on court.
In his autobiography Tarkanian claimed the NCAA looked the other way with big basketball programs, in particular Kentucky.
“I defended Western Kentucky,” he wrote (when the NCAA nullified the Hilltoppers trip to the Final Four in 1971), (I said) “Kentucky did more cheating in one day than Western Kentucky did in a year. I just thought the NCAA went after the little guy. ... doesn’t want marquee schools in trouble.
And this: “... the NCAA was so mad at Kentucky they gave Cleveland State two more years probation.”
Brings us to chapter two of the Cordia flap. Could Cordia be to Scott County High School basketball, what Cleveland State was to UK?
Via Twitter, former Kentucky Wildcat Jon Hood stuck his head up from the ether of politician correctness to suggest Scott County coach Billy Hicks has Farmed In players for years.
Hicks took exception to Hood’s allegation with hot words of his own. “Hood doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Response enough for a coach whose program resides in the penthouse of his sport, right? Wrong.
Hicks went defensive through a Georgetown Graphic sports writer: “... never picked up a phone to ask a kid to move in,” he said. “I never recruited a kid in my life. Kids have come to me. That’s the kind of program we have here. Kids want to be a part of it. I won’t apologize for that.”
Methinks he protesteth too much. With a coach history that stretches back to southeastern Kentucky decades ago, ‘Never recruited a kid in my life,’ is very a long time.
Hicks should have stopped at the old discredit-my-critic standard “... doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
For Jon Hood, with perhaps future opportunities in mind, retreated quickly from his Elephant-In-The-Room tweet.

From the John Calipari Send-Me-Money Department, a women’s clinic with University of Kentucky ball coach comes up next month at the Craft Center and Memorial Coliseum. Ladies can check UK web sites for times and parking arrangements. Allow me to provide the shakedown information.
An athletic department with a multi-million dollar bank account that purports to love the most faithful patrons in Big Blue Nation, will give the ladies a tee-shirt, lunch and three hours to swoon over Calipari. All for $100 each.
And so it goes.