Rick Pitino still has a job today. He should be thankful. Don’t whine about some NCAA miscarriage of justice against Louisville, or that he’s being picked on and this is some unwarranted grease stain on his resume.
Not many college coaches can oversee a program that not only is found guilty of NCAA violations, but prompts this paragraph in the official statement on sanctions: “Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus.”
That clears that up. We’ll now hear debate on upgrading meal plans.
Pitino and Louisville deserved to get hit hard, just like Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss football program deserve to get hit hard. It’s not just that both are examples of powerful sports programs found to have operated well outside the rules. When things go sideways, when a “madam” writes her tell-all book on prospects and prostitutes, and a former football star spills the I-was-paid beans — the first thing the school does is form a protective circle around the revenue-generating head coach and throw less significant others under the bus.
Ole Miss has been charged with 13 “Level I” NCAA violations and 21 overall, including a lack of institutional control and providing improper benefits to prospective recruits (cash payments totaling $13,000 to $15,600 to a recruit, free clothing, a hunting trip and lodging). They’ve agreed to some of the violations, self-imposing a bowl ban last year, but deny the lack of control by the university and/or Freeze, who said in February: “I have demonstrated throughout this process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff.”
I’ve never bought the whole “rogue employee” thing.
It’s like the, “Go get that player, but don’t tell me how you did it” defense.
Is it possible Pitino didn’t know Andre McGee, his former director of basketball operations, had expanded his recruiting techniques to include providing strippers and prostitutes to 15 prospective recruits (seven to 10 of whom were underage), three enrolled student-athletes, a friend of a prospect and two non-scholastic coaches?
OK, let’s go with that narrative. It doesn’t absolve Pitino of responsibility. If he oversees every aspect of his program, don’t the actions of rogue employees — and over a period of 44 months — suggest the relative CEO was not in control after all?
Ignorance is not a defense. Ignorance is an indictment.
The NCAA’s failure-to-monitor charge against Pitino is more than just. The organizational body has been criticized deservedly for past actions or inactions, but it was accurate when it blamed Pitino for not monitoring McGee, seemingly anything going on in the athletes’ residence or at least assigning an assistant coach to do so.
Suspending Pitino for only the first five games of the ACC season – less than the nine-game suspension given to Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim – actually was kind. If Louisville is forced to officially vacate records and take down their banners from their 2013 NCAA title and 2012 and ’13 Big East titles – given that the school is appealing, that’s the safe guess — it’s deserving punishment..
Pitino is a great basketball coach. He took three schools (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) to Final Fours. But he’s also a disingenuous fool. Last January, he alluded to the NCAA investigation and McGee, saying, “Did one person (McGee) do some scurrilous things? I believe so. I just, for the life of me, can’t figure it out. He was taught better, by his parents and by me.”
When it comes to the moral high ground, I choose not to take my lead from Rick Pitino, husband and father of five, who in 2009 admitted to having an affair and then paying for the woman to have an abortion.
Louisville isn’t innocent. Louisville is just rich and wants to stay that way. The most recent data from the Department of Education shows the Cardinals’ basketball program generates $45.633 million annually. Compare that with other tops programs such as Duke ($31.034 million) and Kentucky ($27.239 million).
Ole Miss similarly is protecting Freeze. In 2012, he took over a football program that went 6-18 the previous two seasons, but built it into a contender in the rugged SEC West. The Rebels were ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in 2014 and 2015 and one year defeated Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M.
Ole Miss, like Louisville, doesn’t dispute violations took place. But it’s trying to protect Freeze amid impending NCAA sanctions and putting the blame on a former administrator, assistant athletic director Barney Farrar, whose name showed up in Laremy Tunsil‘s hacked text messages.
But they need to protect the golden goose. Annual Ole Miss football revenue: $56.823 million. That’s nearly 58 percent of the total revenue for all athletic programs ($98.378 million).
It’s more important to protect the brand and the revenue stream than to have a clear conscience.
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