CRAWFORD: U of L, UK should avoid the Tony Woods mess | The Courier-Journal
I don’t know whether former Wake Forest basketball player Tony Woods beat up his girlfriend. Something happened that day last September when they were arguing and he pushed her off the bed. We know they had an altercation over their 8-month old son.
The girlfriend says her fractured spine had nothing to do with any of that, and I don’t know what is or isn’t true of that incident, and nobody really does.
I can tell you this, though. Tony Woods is in the process of giving the University of Louisville a black eye. Woods, who had committed to U of L, now has re-opened his recruitment and last week visited the University of Kentucky. It’s a fascinating turn.
The public relations machine wasn’t working in Woods’ favor when he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and asked for his release after being suspended from Wake Forest’s team last September.
Nobody was talking about how Woods was misunderstood when he arrived in Louisville just over a month later, apparently bound for U of L. Yahoo! Sports wasn’t describing how he had to “fight back tears” (in a phone interview, no less), as it did this past weekend.
U of L coach Rick Pitino started talking to people – Woods’ old coaches, his family, the girlfriend with whom he had the altercation. And he started taking heat.
My colleague Rick Bozich suggested that Pitino’s willingness to consider a player with such baggage smacked of “desperation.” I wrote, “I don’t know which group should be angrier, victims of domestic violence or Louisville supporters tired of their program being linked to unsavory stories.”
This isn’t to pile on Woods. He came to Louisville to live with his uncle and father, got a job at UPS, went to community college. He completed his community service – at the Daniel Pitino Shelter in Owensboro, Ky. All of that is to his credit.
The complaint of his supporters now that he’s being unfairly portrayed, however, is not.
Woods told Yahoo! Sports that “it sucks” that the first thing people associate with his name is the assault. His girlfriend, Courtney Barbour, told the same website: “People think Tony’s some sort of monster. It’s frustrating to everyone around him because we know that’s not the case.”
I’ll tell you what is the case. Pitino, by offering Woods a scholarship, essentially ran interference for any program that now takes Woods, and that program might very well be UK, where Woods says he met with athletic director Mitch Barnhart and outgoing president Lee Todd – as if either one could block John Calipari from taking a player he wanted.
Barnhart and Todd were sitting on the stage the day Calipari was introduced as UK coach when he mentioned Jeremy Hunt, a player of his from Memphis who beat up his girlfriend, then chased her down and threw her down in the street.
Calipari said before taking the UK job that he talked to Todd about Hunt specifically. He wanted an assurance that they wouldn’t “throw guys under the bus.”
If Calipari wants Woods on the bus, he’ll be on it.
Regardless of what bus Woods winds up on, I don’t need to hear about how he’s misunderstood. I understand perfectly. He’s a former 5-star prospect. That earns you multiple chances. And Woods is going to take advantage of those chances – even of a coach who stuck his own neck out to offer one.
In the end, Woods can and should be able to go wherever they will take him.
I thought Pitino was taking on unnecessary baggage (and drama) with Woods. I think the same with Calipari. I’m not saying Woods doesn’t deserve a second chance. I’m saying neither of these programs needs the hassle.