BOZICH | What's at stake for Louisville basketball, Pitino with NCAA? Everything
What's at stake for the Louisville basketball program and coach Rick Pitino as the program meets with the NCAA Committee on Infractions? Everything.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Daniel Tosh is a comedian revered because he’ll say anything for a laugh. What he said during his show at the KFC Yum! Center Wednesday night was exactly what you’d expect a world-class wise guy to say.
Wearing a University of Louisville basketball jersey on stage, Tosh thanked everybody for their hospitality – especially the hookers waiting backstage.
The laughs were put on hold Thursday. U of L administrators began the most critical portion of their 20-month dance with the NCAA – a meeting with the Committee of Infractions, the group that will decide the punishment for the prostitutes and strippers who allegedly performed for Rick Pitino’s players and recruits at the basketball dorm over four years.
What’s at stake for Louisville basketball?
The Cards’ 2013 NCAA championship. The 2012 Final Four appearance. The possibility of vacated victories and other achievements besides the title.
A discussion of additional sanctions beyond the 2016 post-season ban and scholarship limitations that former U of L president Dr. James Ramsey self-imposed last February.
A suspension for Pitino, who has steadfastly denied involvement or knowledge of the scandal. NCAA investigators and the university have agreed on several violations that the basketball program committed.
There has been public disagreement on how much Pitino knew – or even how much he should have known. The report by the NCAA enforcement staff twice notes that there is no allegation that Pitino knew or should have known about the incidents.
Nothing will be decided Thursday or this week. The Committee of Infractions is likely to deliver its decision in early June. With 23 members listed on the NCAA website, the committee is chaired by Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.
It serves as judge and jury, weighing the findings of NCAA investigators against the arguments made by U of L’s representatives.
This hearing is an opportunity for Louisville to make its final and most vigorous defense. The school has maintained that Andre McGee, the former director of operations for the program, is responsible for this embarrassing mess.
McGee, the school says, is the person who had a relationship with Katina Powell, the stripper whose book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” ignited this scandal in October 2015.
U of L and Pitino insist that McGee did this. Created the plan. Funded the plan. Executed the plan. Covered up the plan.
What does McGee say?
Nothing. He left U of L for an assistant coaching job at UMKC in Kansas City in 2014 – and resigned from that program in October 2015 days after the scandal became public. McGee did not cooperate with the NCAA, and he has declined media interviews through his attorney, Scott C. Cox.
NCAA investigators were less certain that McGee was an out-of-control rogue. In fact, this was part of the NCAA’s response to Louisville last month:
“If Pitino saw no red flags in connection with (Andre) McGee's interactions with then prospective and current student-athletes," the NCAA wrote, "it was because he was not looking for them."
Remember this: In 2012 the NCAA changed its bylaws to incorporate something many call the head coach’s responsibility standard. The change was driven to diminish the defense that assistant coaches broke rules without the consent or even any knowledge by the head coach.
Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Larry Brown of SMU were two coaches who discovered the NCAA was serious about that shift. Both Hall of Fame coaches served nine-game suspensions for rules violations at their schools.
The Committee of Infractions will decide if Pitino, also a Hall of Famer, is added to that list.
There is more at stake, primarily the 2013 NCAA title that the Cardinals won against Michigan in Atlanta as well as possible future penalties against a program that is expected to be Top Five team next season.
If the committee determines that players from the championship team were involved in the violations, will the NCAA strip the school of its third national title?
That would be a first for Division I basketball.
Ten teams have had Final Four appearances wiped from the NCAA record book, but only one (Memphis in 2008) since 1999. None of the 10 won the title. None of those scandals involved strippers and prostitutes. The offenses have been gambling, involvement with agents, academic fraud and other impermissible benefits.
Will Louisville be the first program to have its national championship banner taken down? Will Pitino coach his talented team every game next season or serve a suspension that will stain his legacy?
That is what is at stake for Louisville basketball now that this drama has finally moved in front of the Committee on Infractions.
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