[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Photo courtesy of LEX-18
Let me preface what I’m about to write with a few things:
1) This is not meant to be political in any way, shape or form. I don’t like politics. I’m simply analyzing the news that came out recently about Richie Farmer, a former basketball player for UK. This is a UK blog. You can make the connection.
2) I’m not trying to put a negative light on anything related to UK, nor am I trying to sugarcoat anything. Again, this is as an objective analysis as I can give about a piece of news related to a former UK player.
3) I don’t yet have my own opinion about the question I’m about to present, nor do I have an agenda of any kind. This is simply a question that I think should be looked at after Farmer’s transgressions came to light.
Here we go:
News broke several weeks ago about an investigation by the state auditor about how Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner (and former Unforgettable) Richie Farmer had used funds that came through his department. Turns out, Farmer didn’t do such an honorable job with taxpayers’ money. A $96,000 conference funded by taxpayers, a personal basketball court for his home and taking four laptops that were intended for other staff members are just some of the actions that came to light about Farmer’s time in Frankfort. You can read all of the auditor’s findings here, but the gist is this: Farmer screwed up, and he screwed up badly.
As you’ll recall, the former player’s jersey is retired at Rupp Arena, along with the rest of the Unforgettables’. Is there any case where the University of Kentucky should consider taking someone’s jersey out of the rafters at Rupp Arena?
Point of View #1: What Farmer did was bad enough to yank his jersey from Rupp.
–Here’s the thing: Whether you think I’m being biased or not, Richie Farmer got his job as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner largely because of his name and his history with the 1992 basketball team. Granted, if he had never played for UK, could he have been elected? Absolutely. But the fact that he did play in Lexington certainly helped out his political aspirations. He earned the trust of a state, and blatantly abused that trust. He might as well have stolen money from the pockets of people who came to Rupp to watch him play; essentially, that’s what he was doing as he misused Kentucky taxpayers’ money for his own personal gain.
–Richie Farmer’s jersey is up in the rafters with some of the most respected names in Kentucky basketball history: Wah Wah Jones, Cotton Nash, Joe B. Hall, Bill Keightley, Cawood Ledford, and the rest of the Unforgettables in Sean Woods, Deron Feldhaus and John Pelphrey. After what he’s done to disrespect not only Kentucky fans but also the entire commonwealth, does he deserve to have his name in such a hallowed space, accompanying some of the most respected people in the history of UK sports? Does that somehow lower the university’s standards when it comes to retiring players’ jerseys? Is this the way UK wants to represent itself and its basketball tradition? There are many questions brought up by Richie’s transgressions, and all the answers are troubling at least to some degree.
Point of View #2: The decision to retire (or remove) a jersey at Rupp should come strictly from what someone did on the basketball court (other standards being used for non-players and coaches such as Cawood and Mr. Wildcat).
–Rupp Arena is a basketball arena, where fans come to watch a game. They don’t come there to talk about the taxes they pay, politics, or any off-the-court transgressions of players. If UK decided to yank Farmer’s jersey from the rafters, does that leave a slippery slope for the future? Who is to determine something as subjective as what is “bad” enough to take someone’s retired jersey down? Everyone has very different standards when it comes to what is right and wrong, and many probably would not think what Farmer did was wrong enough to deserve such a disgrace in terms of his basketball history.
–Farmer’s judgment in the court of public opinion will likely be enough to punish him for what he’s done. Furthermore, there has been mention of possible jail-time, although all of that is up in the air at this point. The university shouldn’t pile onto Farmer, when he is already being punished in the public’s eye, and could possibly be criminally charged for his actions.
As a UK fan, I’m unbelievably disappointed in what Farmer has done, along with the degree to which he has disrespected and abused the trust of the commonwealth’s people. While just a few years ago, Richie Farmer would have still been considered an “Unforgettable” in the eyes of Kentucky fans, now he will be “unforgettable” for something entirely different. A very sad story, all in all, and one that brings up several questions about how the University of Kentucky should handle retired jerseys after a scandal such as this one.
Follow me on Twitter @AshleyScobyKSR because I don’t use taxpayers’ money and public labor to chauffer my dog around town.
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