Photo: Used Car Salesman, Rick Pitino
The Washington Post had an article on the 18-1 SMU basketball program. They were the nation’s last unbeaten team through most of December until they lost on the road at Temple. Regardless of their final record, they will not be getting an invitation to the Big Dance in March. The Mustangs are banned from postseason play for having an assistant coach take on-line exams for a high school recruit. Coach Larry Brown was caught lying, too, and the cover-up was on. Brown was suspended for the first nine games by the NCAA for a lack of institutional control. Now, they are playing, essentially, a meaningless season with a squad that could have made a run in March.
While SMU’s transgressions are serious, another team’s transgressions are much greater and threaten to make this year’s March Madness a meaningless sham.
Rick Pitino’s Louiville Cardinals.
Five former Louisville (17-4) basketball players and recruits confirmed to ESPN’s Outside the Lines that they attended parties at a campus dorm from 2010-14 that included strippers paid for by former director of basketball operations Andre McGee. The madam, Katina Powell provided two of her daughters and a host of other professionals to entertain recruits, their fathers and guardians, and players according to her book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules”. Approximately $10,000 was spent on their special services, according to Powell. There are multiple sources who have confirmed this story, including former recruits, former players, and photo evidence shows the women at Billy Minardi Hall – the basketball dorm.
According to SB Nation , one of the recruits who ultimately signed to play elsewhere: “I knew they weren’t college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club.”
The NCAA began an extensive investigation in the early fall while ESPN’s Outside the Lines, provided an in-depth feature that confirmed, at minimum, a total loss of institutional control at Louisville. Yet, the hyper-sensitive NCAA drags its feet.
A naive and shocked Rick Pitino stated, “Somebody criminally came onto our campus. I’m pissed off at (the media) for even giving a forum to that person. If there are crimes—now I didn’t read the book, you guys read the book, so I only know what people tell me—but if there are crimes being committed, why is the NCAA or (media) giving a forum to that person. If there are crimes, now I don’t know if there are crimes being committed.”
A gobsmacked Pitino is feigning innocence but you get the sense he is more upset about getting caught and losing recruits. His petulance boiled over when he recently showed Kentucky fans ‘the finger’.
So what does all this mean?
Money trumps everything. A second or third tier basketball program would already have their head coach on the golf course and have forfeited this season. But Louisville is one of the crown jewels of college basketball. They continue to play – and win big. As the NCAA drags their feet, Louisville will have a prominent place on March Madness brackets. Louisville could either win it all or knock out a team that might have won it all – making this year’s tournament a farce.
Then, expect Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals to be next year’s SMU – but the damage will have been done.