|Camby @ UMass in 1996|
As most of my readers already know, I was a student at UMass-Amherst from Fall 2005 through Spring 2009. I love the athletic department and attended many games from the major sports when I was there. Mostly I enjoyed hockey games and basketball games at the Mullins Center, when I wasn't working as an Event Staff employee. Currently I support all Umass teams, in fact I know a couple people now working in these programs and wish nothing but success for them (Vogel.)
Anyway this Saturday night UMass is honoring former player basketball star Marcus Camby by retiring his number before the game vs George Washington. They are going to raise his #21 to the rafters alongside Dr J, Trigger Burke, Lou Roe, and Al Skinner. Camby played on the team from 1994-96.
In 1996, Camby's senior year, Umass lost to Kentucky in the Final 4. Camby was a monster that year... like, the best player in the country. He was named National Player of the Year and ended being the #2 overall pick in the NBA draft. My Umass professors used to talk to our classes about how in 1996 we were #1 in the country and the entire campus was basketball-crazy 24/7. It's all anyone talked about all year. It was a magical time at Umass and easily the most success the program has ever had.
However, all of this was done illegally. Camby was accepting gifts from multiple agents, who were essentially bribing him for the right to represent him once he left Umass and was ready to go pro. This, of course, is highly illegal and strictly forbidden in the NCAA. When a NCAA athlete accepts gifts it removes their "amateur" status and they are no longer eligible to play.
Camby accepted cash (somewhere around $60,000), cars, stereos and other expensive gifts from a few different agents, all hoping to sign him once he left school. He would meet with these guys in and around the Amherst area, and straight up ask for cash. There is one guy who actually faced prostitution charges because he had one of his female tenants sleep with Camby in exchange for lowering her monthly rent. Camby, of course, led these guys on, leading them to believe he would sign with them once his college career was over. Turns out Camby ended up completely screwing over both guys (they deserved it) by choosing to go with a high-profile agency that had never illegally contacted him.
Camby was well aware what he was doing was illegal and against the rules, but did it anyway. The coach at the time, John Calipari, recently released a statement on Camby's number being retired and was of his main points was "what a great teammate" he was. I guess Calipari, who is a complete scumbag himself, must have forgotten that Camby's selfish actions caused the NCAA to vacate the tournament wins and all of his personal stats. Actually, I wanted to look some of those stats up from the 1996 tourny, and in my Sports Almanac it literally doesn't even say "Umass" under the 3rd place team. It simply says "Vacated."
|Camby and Calipari|
Calipari himself, I'm sure, was fully aware of what was going on with his star during that season, and I have no doubt he chose to turn the other way while it was happening. After the mess he left at Umass, Calipari escaped to the NBA, and failed miserably. He sucked. After 3 seasons with the Nets that produced 0 playoff wins, Calipari tucked his tail between his legs and returned to the college ranks to coach Memphis. He had immediate success, and in 2007 set a NCAA record for wins in a season. However, all of those wins were again vacated due to the fact that Derrick Rose, the best player, was academically ineligible and Calipari covered it up. As soon as the recruiting sanctions came down, Calipari ditched the program and left for Kentucky so he didn't have to deal with it. I think you get the picture about this guy: he a cheating, lying piece of shit scumbag who has no regard for the game and the NCAA. When the going gets tough- he gets going. Bob Knight, who coached 40+ years with no violations, doesn't think Calipari should be coaching anymore and neither do I.
Anyway, back to Camby. There is just no way in hell he should be honored at Umass with a jersey retirement ceremony. Did he bring a lot of attention to the program in the mid 90s? Yes he did. Did he lead the school's team further than it had ever been before ? Yes* he did. Is he the most talented and best player ever to don a Umass uniform? You can definitely make a good case for it. Did he have a very sucessful NBA career? Sure.
Supporters of Camby will argue that regardless of the scandal, he brought UMass basketball to new heights and changed the program for the better. To that, I laugh hysterically:
Umass has been to the dance 8 times total. Below are all the results:
Someone please tell me how Camby helped the Umass program? Am I missing something? In an article published in 1997 Umass officials admitted that the Camby scandal had a negative effect on recruitment and the school was forced to return the $151,000 it received for it's final 4 appearance. What good did Camby bring to the Umass program? Seriously, I want answers in the comment section.
Listen, do I hate Marcus Camby? Not really. I think he was a young, impressionable guy who made a ton of mistakes and since has learned from them. I've always kinda resented him (and Calipari) because I truly believe his actions at Umass negatively effected my personal experience there (aka the basketball program never recovered and sucked when I was there as a student.) But I don't hate him. I blame the scum agents and the head coach more, but the idea of retiring Camby's jersey is just wrong. And it's a complete joke that the Athletic Dept itself is celebrating and honoring the very person who caused the demise of it's basketball program. Honestly, I am embarrassed to be a UMass alum this weekend.