Did Coach Cal plan on leaving Memphis? [Updated]
The stampede of recruits heading away from Memphis has shed an unkind light on how John Calipari handles recruiting and the National Letter of Intent (NLI) process.
NLIs were designed to simplify collegiate recruiting. In 1964, the NLI program was created to provide a formalized time-frame for the recruiting process. The idea is simple, the recruit gets wooed by coaches for a specified period of time and then can declare, through an NLI, his or her intention to attend a certain college.
The NLI essentially functions as a contract – once the declaration is made, other coaches are not allowed to contact the recruit and the recruit cannot change his or her mind….unless the recruit and the school agree to include a clause which gives the recruit the opportunity to void the NLI if their is a head coaching change. While athletic departments tend to frown upon the inclusion of this clause, top recruits often demand the security of knowing that they have the freedom to leave if their coach is fired or quits.
When John Calipari decided to ditch Memphis and head to the blue pastures of Lexington, Kentucky, to coach the UK Wildcats, the stellar class of recruits he had gathered for next year were suddenly put into flux. Sure enough, even though Calipari said he hoped that recruits who had committed to Memphis would go to Memphis, his top recruits are following him.
DeMarcus Cousins, rated the #2 center in the 2009 recruiting class by Scout.com, has already decided to switch to Kentucky, and tomorrow another recruit, Xavier Henry, is set to announce whether he will follow suit.
Henry, Scout.com’s top-ranked guard, recently shed some light on Calipari’s true feelings towards Memphis. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated, reports that Henry says he “didn’t have the idea to put the [clause] in there, Coach Cal did it for us.”
Henry’s Letter of Intent was submitted long before Kentucky had a coaching vacancy, so was Calipari recruiting for Memphis or himself?
[UPDATE - 7:47] Calipari’s plan may have backfired. Several news sources are reporting that Xavier Henry has chosen to attend Kansas, his parents’ alma mater, instead of Kentucky. It should be noted that Henry’s brother, C.J., who played for Memphis this past season, will be transferring to whichever school Xavier ends up at. C.J. will not have to miss a season after transferring, because he is not under scholarship at Memphis.
The Henrys will hold a press conference to officially announce their decision at 11:15 am.
[UPDATE - 12:30] An oral agreement with Kansas has been confirmed.