One CJ reporter assumes the worst about UofL basketball

One of the first rules of journalism, at least when I was in the profession, was to never assume anything. The constant refrain was that assuming anything, rather than verifying the facts, will invariably make an ass out of u and me.

That advice isn’t being heeded by many so-called professionals in the traditional news media these days. Their approach is to cherry pick the information, making use of facts that support a case while overlooking or ignoring anything that doesn’t support their case.

Unfortunately, there are too many instances in the mainstream media these days where it is sorely obvious that reporting is intended to support the ideological or motivational bent of the news outlet. All too often, individual reporters make little or no effort to be objective, actually betraying their training and profession to push a corporate or personal agenda.

Andrew Wolfson keeps UofL on the front page (Courier-Journal photo).
Andrew Wolfson keeps UofL on the front page of the Courier-Journal (Courier-Journal photo).

Sadly that seems to be the case with at least one long-time reporter at the Courier-Journal, namely Andrew Wolfson, who has worked at the C-J for almost 35 years. He seems to be assuming that UofL will be stripped of its 2013 national basketball championship banner.

Wolfson showed up at the press conference on the NCAA notice of allegations last week, seemingly with one thing on his mind — whether UofL would have to vacate all of its wins during the 2012-13 season. The manner in which Wolfson asked the question gave one the impression he would be disappointed if there were any other outcome.

He finally got around to turning in his story Tuesday indicating, sure enough,  that two “experts” who had previously served on the NCAA Committee on Infractions believed that UofL would have to give up the title.  Took him a few days, but he was able to find people who agreed with him. Unable apparently to find anyone who disagreed. If so, they weren’t included in the story.

This despite the fact that the NCAA report did not include any of the following: No ‘lack of institutional control’ at Louisville, which would have been the most severe accusation. No “failure to monitor” against the institution. No allegation that Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance.’ And no indication that the coach had knowledge of what took place in the dormitory.

Wolfson’s experts, which do include the dean of a law school and an author of a handbook on NCAA investigations, apparently overlooked the omissions. The actually allegations, while serious, would not seem to support further action against the institution or the program than have already been self-imposed — the ban on post-season play in 2016, the loss of scholarships and a reduction in recruiting time.

Wolfson appears to be the lone wolf (pun intended) who seems to have been given quite a bit of editorial license in advocating for further major penalties for the program. Also, he seems to be a little bit out of his league in covering a sports story, especially with such qualified C-J sportswriters as Tim Sullivan, Jeff Greer and Steve Jones already on the case. If there is any resentment of his intruding into their area of expertise, it has yet to surface.

The most likely scenario is that the NCAA would seek to penalize Pitino for failing to adequately supervise or question the activities of Andre McGee. One would expect that to finally dawn on Wolfson and, if he continues to have a role in this story, it will be to dog Pitino with front page stories until the final penalties are announced next spring.

Over the past couple of years, it was painfully obvious that the C-J was out to get former UofL President Jim Ramsey, sicking Wolfson on him at every opportunity, blaming him for every misdeed at the University, hounding him until he was finally forced to submit his resignation. All this to a man who had taken the University to unprecedented new heights in academics, athletics, giving, and campus beautification and expansion.

Jim Ramsey hasn’t been seen much in Louisville since he resigned from the UofL Foundation, reportedly spending much of his time in Florida, far from his home town and his beloved university. 

Don’t be surprised if similar tactics are employed by the C-J against Pitino. The higher-ups at the C-J have obviously determined that the guilt goes beyond the impish activities of Andre McGee and they’re eager to assume the worst about the UofL basketball program.

ESPN seeks link to Rick Pitino in escort scandal

ESPN producers have again poked their noses into the escort scandal plaguing the University of Louisville basketball program. And once again the network is stained by the stench, employing amateurish investigative techniques, coming up with no answers while pointing fingers at Rick Pitino.

They had better hope there is some substance to their suppositions or there could be some consequences for their overreach, personally, professionally and financially. Pitino never forgets, and he should hold them accountable.

Rick Pitino has a long memory.
Rick Pitino has a long memory.

Not enough for the Outside The Lines producers that UofL has admitted that wrongdoing occurred, not enough that the school has self-imposed a post-season ban on ACC and NCAA tournament participation this season, and not enough that Andre McGee’s career has been shattered.

They prematurely arrive at conclusions suggesting that Pitino knew the sex  was going on while implying that the program illegally allocated funds to influence recruits. The segment, which aired Sunday, also suggests that current UofL player Mangok Mathiang may have been a participant in sexual activities, despite an emphatic denial from the prostitute/pimp who wrote a book about the parties.

Not coincidentally, the segment airs on the same day as the NCAA selection announcements, in a style closely resembling a “60 Minutes” approach, with McGee being ambushed by a reporter and a camera man in the back seat of an Uber car in Kansas City, Missouri. They had to be disappointed that Andre remained composed, calmly asking them to get out of the car.

The segment was produced by ESPN’s so-called Enterprise and Investigative Unit, a team created by network in 2003 with “the mission of reporting and producing high-impact investigative stories.”  It featured John Barr, a journalism graduate from Indiana University, and an online report gives credit to Caitlyn Stanco for contributing to the report.

Nothing really new or revealing in the segment, which leans on the sexual elements of the case to maintain viewer interest, and heavily relies on the suppositions of “an unnamed source close to the NCAA investigation.” They raise the predictable question about who provided the money to Andre McGee for the parties. ESPN would have viewers believe it is the only one raising the question but the source of funding is undoubtedly receiving a lot of attention from the NCAA and the University of Louisville.

Uninformed viewers can’t help but come away from the segment convinced that Pitino is somehow intimately involved and that he is involved in some kind of coverup — a thinly-veiled insinuation about a lack of honesty and integrity.  That may have been a clever ploy by John Barr and the producers but they should be very concerned about the repercussions if no evidence is uncovered tying Pitino to the activities.

Pitino is quite familiar with the justice system, having proven that he is adept at using the legal process to protect his reputation. This latest ESPN segment has unquestionably harmed him professionally and personally, and ESPN could be hard-pressed to defend itself in a civil lawsuit against the damage it has inflicted on Pitino.

New revelations in Louisville basketball investigation force voluntary ban

Something changed this week in the course of the investigation into the University of Louisville basketball program, making it seem to be much more than a case of a former player paying prostitutes to entertain basketball players.

The decision to take the dramatic step of suspending all post-season play came quickly. So quickly in fact that one has to believe the investigation uncovered much more serious violations.

President Jim Ramsey indicated that the school was made aware of information on Thursday that compelled the University to take immediate action. There was no other recourse, no possibility of the University allowing this to go away. The situation had gone past allegations to tangible evidence.Rick Pitino

The evidence was so alarming that:

— Ramsey believed he had to take action the very next day, no waiting around for the NCAA to conclude its investigation.

— Ramsey was willing to take the full brunt of the negative reaction from UofL fans, many of whom will believe he has overreacted.

— The post-season opportunities for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis were expendable, denying them any opportunity of realizing their NCAA dreams.

— The ban had to include both the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament this year. No waiting until next season, no taking any chances on lesser punishments, like reduced scholarships or coaching suspensions for a few games.

— Rick Pitino would not be given a chance to protect his program, with a team he believed was very special and could have gone a long way this season.

One is left to conclude the new facts indicated that the situation was much more serious than a few college students involved in sex parties with strippers and prostitutes. Whether there were more individuals involved than Andre McGee remains to be seen. Whether the issues involved more than just sexual encounters is open to speculation.

The really sad part is that Tom Jurich, Rick Pitino and the current players still seem to have no idea about what actually went down. They still have not been informed about the new information the university uncovered during the investigation. Nor were they ever permitted by the NCAA to ask any questions of anybody, including their players and staff.

One had to feel sorry for Pitino at the Friday news conference, so staggered by the news that he resorts to talking about his early days at the University of Kentucky, rescuing that program after probation.  What he fails to realize is that UK fans rejoice over any misfortune that occurs at UofL or to him personally. Not the time or place to be discussing his “glory” days in Lexington.

Jim Ramsey knows the controversy has taken a toll on the University, on him personally, and on Jurich and Pitino.  What he learned Thursday, however, left him with no other alternative than taking swift and decisive action. Brace yourselves. We haven’t heard the worst yet.

Scandal turns fan’s Louisville basketball world upside down

When I was a child, we played a silly game called fruit basket turnover.   These last few weeks, I have felt as if I have been in a fruit basket,  turning topsy turvy.  My emotions about “SkankGate” are all jumbled.

At first, I was stunned with the news reports.  Shocked.   Thrown back against the wall.

Mystified.  How could this have happened?

Barbara Springer wonders what hit the program.
Barbara Springer among many UofL fans reeling.

Angry.  How could this be truthful?

Disgusted.  Wall-to-wall media coverage, conclusions reached prematurely.   Guilty until proven innocent.

Betrayed.   By her.   By Andre McGee, maybe.  By players we cared about.

Aggravated.  By media attention spotlighting a brazen, money hungry  prostitute.

Outraged.  By a mother who puts her children in harm’s way.  And brags about it.

Sad.  That a whole student body, a fandom,  and a city itself are smeared by her outrageous  story.

Skeptical.  If the scenarios in the book are true,  is  UofL  the only school where this happens?

Curious.  How could this go on for several years with not one “leak” on any social media?

Embarrassed.  By some fans calling for Coach Pitino to resign or be fired; some  threatening to no longer wear their red and black.

Ashamed.   Of those “fans”  for rushing to judgment.

Frustrated.  The investigation process will drag on a long, long time.

Impatient.   For answers.  For rebuttals.  For explanations.

Encouraged.  That there is at least one local sportswriter (Eric Crawford) in the mainstream media who tries to be objective and thorough.

Charmed.  By two teammates who brave a media storm to answer questions about a scandal of which they had no part.  And their honesty and good humor.

Hopeful. The season still can be a success.  And fun.  And even laudatory.

But  mostly  tired.   Of the whole mess.

Media blitz for Katina Powell book peaking

The accusations aimed the University of Louisville basketball program couldn’t be much worse. Five former players or recruits have told ESPN they attended stripper parties at Minardi Hall, with one of them saying sex was involved.

More damage, this time from a whirlwind media tour for the principals behind the book, Breaking Cardinal Rules. Katina Powell is working hard to destroy Andre McGee and make some money. The publishing company is trying to sell a book. ESPN is humoring them, as are some shows on other networks. UofL’s radio partner, 93.9 The Ville, is devoting a full day of programming to the topic.UofL flag

The low point may have been three female WHAS-11 reporters clucking about the scandal on the noon news, as if they had some inside scoop, basing their comments on the accusations of the prostitute.

Powell has already succeeded in damaging McGee’s reputation. But unless she received an advance from the publisher, she won’t be making much money. Neither will the publisher because the book, from all accounts, is poorly documented and badly written, with a sorry script.

Sorry guys, this is just not titillating enough.  The media will move on during the next news cycle, and the books will still be collecting dust on the shelves.

She was apparently hurting after McGee finally cut her off in 2014, a while after leaving for an assistant’s job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. We are left to conclude that she was upset over the loss of a source of income. And that nobody at Minardi Hall wanted her and the girls around. Why else would she be so vindictive?

Powell is enjoying the limelight, that’s why. She may be an aging prostitute but right now she’s getting national TV exposure and lots of name recognition. She couldn’t be happier, especially with McGee hiding behind a lawyer. Inevitably she will self-destruct and fade into the woodwork.

The lasting lesson is that the mess demonstrates how easy it is for one or two irresponsible individuals to sully the reputation of the people around them, including the good name of a major institution. A point of pride for fans had been UofL’s almost flawless record of compliance with NCAA rules over two decades. That’s gone now, leaving the school with some ugly scabs that will take a long time to heal while leaving some permanent scars.