NCAA focuses on sexual activity, Pitino is the easiest target

That dark cloud is back, the one emanating from the NCAA investigation of the University of Louisville basketball program, casting an ugly shadow over an already deeply scarred Belknap Campus.

The NCAA enforcement staff, one of the world’s slowest deliberative bodies, has finally gotten back to UofL’s response on a charge that Rick Pitino did not monitor the activities of Andre McGee. The reaction from the NCAA is disturbing, claiming that the UofL coach should have been much more active in supervising McGee.

This coming from an organization that goes overboard to promote racial equality, essentially suggesting in its response that Pitino should have micro-managed McGee. That somehow the coach should have known that illicit activities were occurring at Minardi Hall. That the individual Pitino made Director of Basketball Operations was not worthy of his trust. That Pitino should have been looking over McGee’s shoulder.

Courtesy of Kelly Dickey

If Pitino is guilty of anything, he is at fault for trusting McGee not to drag UofL’s basketball program into the gutter.  As a result, the university has been exposed to shame and ridicule. The coach’s demands for strict adherence to NCAA rules were obviously ignored. And his reputation, personally and professionally, has taken a major blow.

Simply because Pitino trusted McGee.

In essence, what the NCAA is suggesting is that Pitino knew that McGee was up to no good. The NCAA enforcement committee avoids making a direct accusation but its response also could be interpreted to mean that Pitino actually knew what was occurring at Minardi Hall. 

Pitino has probably produced more successful college basketball coaches than anyone in the profession. Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Ralph Willard, Kevin Willard, Jim O’Brien, Mick Cronin, Travis Ford, and Scott Davenport, just to name a few. He didn’t achieve that monitoring their every move.

The UofL coach no doubt had high hopes for Andre McGee, hoping he would join that group some day. McGee probably would have followed a similar path had he acted responsibly. From all indications, McGee just wasn’t mature enough to handle the expectations.

As a result, Pitino may well be subject to a severe penalty, possibly a temporary suspension similar to that incurred by Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Boeheim was suspended for nine games for a number of years of illegal recruiting activities. 

The difference is that Boeheim was actively involved. There is no evidence that Pitino knew, or should have known, that illicit activities were occurring at Minardi Hall. No evidence whatsoever.

Pitino’s knowledge, or lack of it, seems to be beside the point. The enforcement committee report goes into great detail on the sexual activity and seems determined to ensure that someone pays dearly for it. Rick Pitino just happens to be in the line of fire.

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.

Rick Pitino under fire for trusting assistant too much

“Furtively” was the word that kept coming up during the University of Louisville press conference on the NCAA Notice of Allegations against the UofL basketball program.  Specifically in regard to Andre McGee, former player and assistant.

Rick Pitino a stickler for NCAA compliance (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Rick Pitino a stickler for NCAA compliance (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

McGee is accused of secretly arranging for strip shows and sexual favors for as many as 17 basketball players, including recruits and active players. Surreptitiously in the early morning hours at Minardi Hall, without the permission or knowledge of coaches.

Disappointing his tutor, taking advantage of a casual college dormitory atmosphere to throw sex parties. Betraying the trust, taking the program to unprecedented depths, partying all the while.

Those were the kinds of images that loomed heavy over the press conference with Acting President Neville Pinto, Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich, and Coach Rick Pitino responding to the allegations in front of a packed room of journalists.

Some of them apparently eager to make the administrators pay for the sins of the perpetrator. The people in charge, those seeking to provide the opportunity and leadership, winding up bearing the shame of irresponsible behavior.

Pitino, in particular, facing a Level 1 allegation of failing to monitor the activities of Andre McGee. A very serious charge that could result in a show cause and personal penalties against the head coach.

“For the past 30 years, I have been extremely compliant with NCAA rules because I don’t believe in an unfair advantage,” said Pitino, in response to a question from WAVE-3’s Eric Flack about whether the investigation has tarnished his reputation.

“I have never asked a shoe company to help me out with a player — just the opposite. It’s my personal opinion that this is over, but that’s not for me to say. It’s for the NCAA Committee on Infractions to decide, the judge and jury. We will present our case.

“I believe in my players, I believe in my coaches, many of whom have gone on to successful careers, and I believe in this university … We’re dealing with a very difficult thing right now that will be in our rear view mirror very soon because we’ve been transparent, we tell the truth and by telling the truth, your problems become part of your past.”

Really unfortunate that an individual who has been so dedicated to compliance with NCAA rules is compelled to defend his reputation because of the actions of one individual. An individual that he believed in, invested in, wanted to succeed and have a great life — only to be let down in the end.

Pitino trusted McGee too much and they are both paying a price.


NCAA: Institutional control not an issue at Louisville

At long last, progress. Time to start putting this ugly episode behind us.

And so much for the Doomsday scenarios originating from Fifth and Broadway (aka, The Courier-Journal) about vacating an NCAA title.

Not even close.

 The NCAA has finally provided the University of Louisville with the Notice of Allegations following a prolonged investigation of the basketball program. Embarrassing and a punch in the gut, but endurable.

Rick Pitino has a long memory.
Rick Pitino

The findings essentially allege that UofL assistant Andre McGee was actively involved in providing sex parties and favors for a number of recruits and players at Minardi Hall.

What’s significant at this point is what is not included in the allegations:

— That Coach Pitino had knowledge of what took place in the dormitory.

— 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 Coach Pitino failed to ‘promote an atmosphere of compliance.’

The NOA does contain a narrower allegation – which UofL will dispute – that Coach Pitino failed to demonstrate that he monitored McGee.

If anything, Pitino probably had too much faith in McGee, expecting him to conduct himself responsibly. Around the clock monitoring of McGee would have been a violation of privacy.

The NCAA has never been consistent in administering punishments. Whether additional penalties will be administered  is impossible to predict.  The Doomsday scenario, however, is highly unlikely.

UofL files lawsuit against health care blogger

One can’t help but be amused that the University of Louisville has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Peter Hasselbacher, who had sought access to UofL records pertaining to the NCAA investigation into the basketball program.

Peter Hasselbacher, MD, during a recent Board of Trustees meeting.
Peter Hasselbacher during a recent UofL Board of Trustees meeting.

The lawsuit against Hasselbacher follows the release of an opinion from State Attorney General Andrew Beshear that UofL violated state open records requirements. This in response to Hasselbacher’s request for documents leading to former President Jim Ramsey’s decision to self-impose a one-year ban on NCAA participation.

UofL denied the request indicating that no documents were available, with most of the information coming in verbal reports from Chuck Smrt, a former NCAA enforcement official employed to investigate the case.

A former faculty member at the UofL School of Medicine, Hasselbacher has a history of criticizing the University. He describes himself as a physician for 30 years and the president of the Kentucky Health Policy Institute, which seems to be primarily a blog for his views.

A while back Hasselbacher appeared to favor a Norton Healthcare-University of Kentucky alliance to replace a long-standing arrangement between Norton and UofL for pediatric care at Children’s Hospital. Negotiations between Norton and UK apparently fell through, sparing UofL the indignity of an unprecedented takeover.

He also was among those calling for Jim Ramsey’s resignation as UofL president, ignoring the University’s incredible growth over the past decade or so while claiming Ramsey was “an embattled president who can no longer lead and there is no one else left to take the fall for him.”

Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan on Sunday picked up a quote from the blog in which Hasselbacher writes that it would be a travesty “not to know who put up the money to pay for the entertainment of prospective athletes in the athletic dorm.”

Presumably that’s what the NCAA investigation is all about. But the organization’s hands may be tied unless Andre McGee decides to cooperate with investigators. He hasn’t, and that information would not have been available to Jim Ramsey when he announced the self-imposed ban.

Hasselbacher also points out on his blog “that the UofL Board of Trustees has little or no oversight responsibility for the spending budget of the UofL Athletic Association.”

Considering the suspected motivations of some of the individuals on the UofL Board of Trustees, that may be a positive thing. Better that these issues are managed by individuals with the best interests of the university at heart.

Hasselbacher’s constant attacks on the University of Louisville are not consistent with his professed interest in transparency, which seems to be convenient crutch for many with axes to grind these days.