William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley is best known of late by his uncanny ability to influence John Calipari’s recruiting classes at both Memphis and now at Kentucky. The New York Times has repeatedly reported interesting stories about “Worldwide Wes” or “Uncle Wes”…or, as he’s known on internet sports message boards, simply as “WWW”. In fact, GQ Magazine recently dubbed WWW “the most powerful man in sports.” (click here.)
Yes, this guy has been deemed by some to be even more powerful than Nike’s Phil Knight – WWW was there the night Ron Artest went berserk on the fan; he’s often seen lurking in the background of Memphis and Kentucky games and press conferences; he’s been in professional locker rooms throughout the country; and, it all started when roamed the sidelines at University of Miami football games in the 1980s.
The New York Times posted this story about WWW where they connected Wes to Derrek Rose who played one year for Cal at Memphis. Yes. That’s the same Derrek Rose who caused Memphis to have to vacate a Final Four because…get this…someone allegedly took his SAT for him.
Interestingly enough, the University of Memphis conducted its own, internal investigation and cleared Rose of any wrong doing. They allowed him to play. The NCAA later conducted their own investigation and dropped the hammer on Memphis long after Coach Cal had slipped on to Lexington.
Does any of this sound oddly familiar?
Memphis contended that it had learned of the allegations about Rose’s SAT score shortly after he enrolled at the school. It conducted its own investigation, in which Rose was questioned by four school officials. Ultimately, Memphis was unable to find any evidence that Rose had cheated based on what was available at the time, and cleared him to play.
Rose released a statement through his lawyer Daniel E. Reidy: “Mr. Rose is aware of the allegations reported in the press. Mr. Rose cooperated fully with the University of Memphis’ athletic and legal departments’ investigation of this issue when he was a student, and that investigation uncovered no wrongdoing on his part.”
On August 20, the NCAA vacated Memphis’ 2007–08 season. It took the line that even though Rose’s score hadn’t been thrown out until after the season, strict liability required that he be declared ineligible. It also determined that even without the questions about his test score, Rose would have lost his eligibility in December 2007 due to Reggie being allowed to travel for free.
With all of this background on World Wide Wes, what on earth would you supposed that engine of the John-Calipari-recruiting-train could have in common with Butch Davis, defender and champion of the “Carolina Way”? (shhh! Don’t ask, Don’t tell)
The pictures above of North Carolina Head Football Coach Butch Davis and William “WWW” Wesley were taken at a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game this year. You know, the Charlotte Bobcats that are owned by former UNC-CH basketball player, Michael Jordan?
Worldwide Wes is known mostly for his involvement and influence in both college and pro basketball, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that Butch and WWW might be lucky enough to randomly sit together at a game. However with the way the UNC/Butch Davis scandal has developed, there is good reason to look into whether Butch and World Wide Wes just happened to have tickets beside one another at a Bobcats’ game, the same Bobcats owned by the one and only Tarheel Extraordinaire Michael Jordan.
Wesley attended Brandywine College, now known as Widener, for a year.
He was better known in the area for his job at a local shoe store, Pro Shoes, where he sold the hottest sneakers to local athletes. He mingled with coaches, college players and professional athletes.
“It wasn’t just a sneaker store,” said Billy Thompson, who starred at Camden High and the University of Louisville, and later played in the N.B.A. “It was the sneaker store.”
As the local stars he met through high school and Pro Shoes went off to college, he would visit them. Two incubators of Wesley’s connections were the University of Miami football program and the Louisville basketball program.Wesley met Jimmy Johnson, Miami’s coach at the time, when Johnson traveled to Pennsauken to recruit Greg Mark and Jason Hicks.Johnson said Wesley tipped him off about Mark, who was the only white player on the floor during a basketball game. Mark played the game of his life, and Johnson said Wesley offered him help in recruiting Mark in exchange for some sideline passes. When Wesley would visit Miami, Johnson said, he brought Nike gear for the players.
“He is such a good person,” Johnson said. “He is extremely friendly, and you can trust him right away.”
As the years went on, Wesley’s involvement with the Hurricanes increased. Irvin recalled how Wesley traveled with the team and stayed up all night gambling and playing cards. Irvin said he once won the Nikes off Wesley’s feet the night before a game.
I got to know World Wide Wes¬† back in the day when I was playing with the Eagles and the Cowboys.¬† I knew him when he was selling sneakers at Pro Shoes across from the Cherry Hill Mall.I spent time with him when used to go to the Sixers games with Jerome Brown and other players.¬† Wes was tight with Jimmy Johnson, Michael Irvin and the Dallas Cowboys during their Super Bowl runs in the 90′s.He had developed those relationships when they were in Miami.¬† Wes was on the sidelines of their Super Bowl wins.¬† He would be in the locker room so much, you would think he was on the team.
I’ve jumped in the limo with Wes, some friends and Michael Jordan during the 90′s when the Bulls were running the NBA and Wes was Jordan’s right hand man.
Once he became Jordan’s right hand man, he gained legitimacy with every basketball player on the planet.¬† We could be talking for a minute and the next thing you know, Wes was on the phone with Jordan.
So…now we have WWW, the man some argue is behind Calipari’s recruiting “success”, with an obvious connection to Michael Jordan. And, you don’t really have to look much deeper to find the obvious connections to Butch Davis. Butch Davis, you see, was on Jimmy Johnson’s staff at the University of Miami and also later worked for Johnson – and later with John Blake – on the Dallas Cowboys’ staff of the 1990s. So, the same guy who assisted Johnson in recruiting the guys who played at Miami is the same guy that still holds a relationship with Butch Davis as is evidenced by the pictures above. That’s fascinating, indeed!
Further evidence of connection to the Miami football program was noted by Yahoo! Sports:
Wesley used to run in Chicago with Michael Jordan in the Bulls heydays, a 45-minute flight from his suburban Detroit home. That’s a good play for him. One Chicago source even remembers how close he was with the Miami Hurricanes football program in its run of championships and how he would end up with national championship rings. And never mind how intriguing the possibility of conquering the world with Prokhorov and his arsenal of private jets and exotic vacation locales.
And this from K sports talk :
He has been seen hanging out with Miami Hurricanes players during their run of dominance in college football during the 1990’s. During that run he was also seen going out to lunch with Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson.
Surely there is no chance WWW and Davis would interact when Wes is this intrenched in the program. No Chance!!
2. World Wide Wes. William Wesley deserves his own article. To wet your appetite, many legitimate sports publications have called him the most influential person in sports. He ahhh, helped “recruit” for Jimmy Johnson. Despite not being affiliated with the University, he was a fixture on the Miami sidelines during the 80s.
1988 – The 88 team was statically the best Miami team ever. Looking back it wasn’t their most talented team (much of their talent was in their sophomore and junior classes) but it was the last great offensive team of the Miami era. Thanks to an all-star cast of coaches, this was the last Miami team that dominated on both sides of the ball. Their coaching staff was as follows: Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wandstat, Butch Davis, Dave Campo.
As recently as August 1, 2010, the New York Times wrote this piece that addresses WWW’s influence on college sports recruiting and how it may come to an end due to his continually growing involvement with Creative Artists Agency. This story is well worth the read and it’s too long to post all the good pieces. It also has an interesting link to the agent problems arising throughout college football. But here’s a small bit to feed your interest:
“N.C.A.A. rules specifically limit the people who are allowed to recruit on behalf of our institutions,” Humphrey said. “Therefore, the use of agents in the recruiting process would violate our rules.”
Wesley declined to comment for this article. His ties to high-profile recruits like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Dajuan Wagner, who all played for Calipari at Memphis, have been well documented.
Calipari said he did not know if anything would change with Wesley’s more formal role.
“He doesn’t recruit for anyone,” Calipari said. “Who he knows and the relationships he has, they’ll be the same way they’ve been for 20 years.”
When Wesley’s position was more ambiguous, it allowed him access to more levels. Although ties to C.A.A. and Nike were always suspected, the N.C.A.A. struggled to get a handle on Wesley in part because it could not define his role. But his new role with C.A.A. could limit his effect on grass-roots basketball.
The N.C.A.A. has strict rules on how often college coaches can speak with prospects, and people affiliated with programs are not allowed to talk with recruits on behalf of those programs. Even season-ticket holders who pay a donation to the university are not permitted to talk with a potential recruit.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Just for fun… ask the average Carolina fan what he thinks about John Calipari? Or, maybe you had the forethought to do so not long after the Heels’ loss to John Wall and the Wildcats last year. I’m guessing what you’ll hear will not be the same as what they might say about UNC’s own Butch Davis.
Post Script: Click here for a link to a previous conversation & article focused on World Wide Wes from our message boards.