Yesterday, it was revealed that several people affiliated with NCAA schools and athletic apparel companies were facing federal charges of bribery to push student athletes towards certain agents and clothing companies. Among the arrested were assistant coaches at Auburn (Chuck Person), Oklahoma State (Lamont Evans), Arizona (Emanuel “Book” Richardson), and USC (Tony Bland). James Gatto, director of global sports marketing at Adidas, Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent, and many more were also arrested. But what seems to be the biggest story coming out of this is “University-6,” as this “mysterious” school is referred to in the document, which, based on the descriptions about the school that are given, is pretty clearly Louisville. Louisville apparently funneled around $100K to the family of 5-star basketball recruit Brian Bowen, who signed with the team in June.
The results of this investigation have, as of a couple of hours ago, led to the firing of legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino and Louisville AD Tom Jurich. Pitino is a 2-time national championship-winning head coach (Kentucky in 1996, Louisville in 2013) and is widely considered to be one of the top coaches in college basketball today. Under Pitino, Kentucky returned to its former glory until he signed a deal to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics, a tenure that was a complete and utter failure, one that was hard to envision him coming back from until he returned to prominence at Louisville. But Pitino’s career was loaded with scandal and, quite frankly, I am absolutely shocked he has lasted this long. From the incident with Karen Sypher, to the hookers for recruits, and now this, Pitino has had a history of questionable decisions. Yet he still remained on at Louisville. After the incident with the prostitute parties for recruits, I figured Pitino had to be done for at Louisville. But he was only suspended for 5 games and Louisville was put on probation. It is this probation, however, that has caused some people to ask the dreaded question: is Louisville basketball headed for the death penalty?
My quick answer to that? No. While you can’t receive the death penalty unless you already are on probation, which Louisville was, there is a reason that only SMU football in the late 80’s has received the death penalty from the NCAA: there’s too much money at stake for there to be an entire season of no Louisville basketball. And that’s really what it all comes down to: money. Despite the fact that the NCAA is a “non-profit” organization, money is going to be what keeps Louisville playing, however the program will be set back YEARS when the NCAA finally hands out a punishment. You can already bank on Louisville being ineligible for the postseason for multiple years and losing several scholarships.
So what do you do if you’re Louisville? Well, you won’t be a basketball blue-blood for the foreseeable future, that’s for damn sure. But the fact of the matter is Louisville needs a new head coach. There’s one name that immediately comes to mind: Tom Crean. Crean has done this before, he brought Indiana out of the depths of hell in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson era and quite frankly, he didn’t get the respect he deserved while at the helm for the Hoosiers. Indiana was in a similar situation back in the mid-2000’s that Louisville finds itself in now. Sampson had provided improper benefits to Eric Gordon and the program got put on probation for several years. Would Crean take the job? I’m not so sure. He’s a stand-up guy, but I doubt he’d want to get back in the rebuilding entire programs business after the lack of respect he got from a lot of IU fans. If I’m Crean, I would wait for something a little more stable. But no doubt Louisville will come calling.
We may have seen the last of Rick Pitino, however. If you are someone who can’t live in a world where he isn’t patrolling the hardwood, fear not. His son, Rich, is head coach at Minnesota.