Ironic that I was just wondering Monday about how things could get any worse at the University of Louisville, knowing that the school already had more than its share of problems. Just had a gut feeling that more bad news was inevitable.
Tuesday began as a quiet, peaceful day. Then all hell breaks loose mid-morning with a text from junior about a WDRB tweet, something about the UofL basketball program being involved in a Justice Department investigation. Just how bad could it possibly get that Louisville is suspected in a scheme to funnel cash to prospective players?
Just our luck that the FBI would, for some reason, get involved in the shabby business of college basketball recruiting. After years of the system being abused by some of the top programs in the nation, UofL is the one that gets nailed by the Justice Department.
The gut feeling here, if the allegations are true, is that UofL was new to the game of using shoe companies to attract players. That possibly Coach Rick Pitino, watching rival schools get away with the practice without any repercussions for years, maybe thinking it was time to take advantage of a broken system or see his program get left behind.
If true, that’s unfortunate. But it’s also understandable in a cut-throat business where some coaches have made an art out of breaking the rules, taking advantage of close ties with shoe companies to consistently recruit the best players. Despite the disadvantages, Pitino’s UofL teams were consistently ranked in the top 10 to 15 teams in the nation, with three final fours and a national championship.
Let’s hope it’s true what the FBI said in Tuesday’s news conference said about the dirty underbelly of college basketball recruiting, warning other college basketball coaches that the investigation is far from over. “If you are aware of this type of conduct, call us,” said the spokesman. “Better for you to call us than us to be calling you.”
A shock for sure, but somewhat easier to bear, with a promise from the FBi that the investigation of such practices has only just begun.
Rick Pitino’s days as coach at the University of Louisville basketball program are probably behind him. Probably the best college basketball coach in America, demanding and expecting the best effort from every player, a master at getting players to meet or exceed their potential.
There’s no way he can stick around, however, not with the revelations coming when his basketball program was already under probation. Controversy follows him like a plague, first the sex scandal with Karen Sypher, the stripper controversy orchestrated by former player Andre McGee and now this, with what seems to be hard evidence of intent to pay tens of thousands of dollars to recruits.
There were already whispers around the program that some members of the Board of Trustees were pressuring Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich to fire Pitino over the most recent sex scandal. The word was that Jurich did not want to fire Pitino for something of which he had no knowledge,
The latest revelation may have made things easier for Jurich who has always said he wanted a clean program and would not tolerate recruiting violations. Tom has been tested and tested again by the goings on in the basketball program He has no choice now but to let Pitino go.
The worst thing that could happen would be for Jurich to decide that he has had enough, that he would possibly even consider leaving the University of Louisville. I personally want to be around when TJ cuts the ribbon on the latest football stadium expansion, the baseball stadium expansion and whatever else Tom wants to build at UofL.
Let him go, Tom. Enough grief already.