One of the greatest honors a college basketball star can receive is to have his jersey raised into the arena rafters. It’s more than a trophy; it’s a permanent reminder that this player embodies the spirit of the program – that he is part and parcel of the very fabric of his university.
The University of Kentucky isn’t prone to running numbers up the flagpole willy-nilly. More than most, the Wildcats are protective of their brand, and honor only the most worthy players from their century-plus of history. Now that John Calipari has won a national title with a group of one-and-done players, let the debate begin: should the University honor a player who spent only one year on campus, even if he achieved glory?
Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story fired the first shot in the argument today, stating emphatically that Anthony Davis merits a retired jersey.
College sports is filled with complicated issues and vexing dilemmas.
This isn’t one of them.
Who makes it to the rafters?
As it stands, Davis will not be eligible to have his jersey retired for at least a decade.
Since Mitch Barnhart and Co. started the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005, there is a waiting period for such an honor. It is five years after a player (or coach) departs UK before he or she is eligible for election to the UK Hall of Fame.
To get a jersey retired, a player (or coach) must have been gone from Kentucky for 10 years and have first been elected to the UK Hall of Fame.
Story goes on to note that the university has not added any jerseys to the rafters since 2005.
A blue-ribbon committee of former letter winners and athletic luminaries votes on Hall of Fame additions, and that would be the first gate Davis would have to pass on his route to bluegrass beatification. A thornier issue is that of graduation: should the school honor a player who hasn’t earned his UK degree?
Former Wildcat coach and AD C.M. Newton removed Sean Woods’ jersey from the rafters until he earned his degree. Since then, the school has honored Tim Couch and Jamal Mashburn sans degree.
Regardless of ceremony, Davis will clearly live on in Kentucky lore. If he really values the notion of a retired jersey, he can remove all doubt by going back to school and earning his degree, sometime over the next decade. Seems fair enough.