Houdini was unable to escape this time.
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, Greg Postel, University of Louisville interim president, placed Rick Pitino, head men’s basketball coach, on a 10-day unpaid administrative leave. This was in reaction to the latest allegations from the FBI probe into major shoe companies’ corruption of college basketball.
Many media outlets are reporting that Pitino has been fired, and the leave of absence is merely legal talk to avoid paying the massive buyout he would be owed.
Moving on from Pitino is what the right move for the university would be. The long and illustrious career that is full of accolades will now forever have an asterisk by it.
Pitino should have been remembered as one of college basketball’s most successful coaches. His .745 win percentage is the highest in Louisville history. He reached seven Final Fours at three different schools. And he is the only head coach in college basketball history to win championships at two different schools, winning one at both Kentucky and Louisville and was elected into the college basketball hall of fame in 2013.
Instead, this hall of famer’s legacy will end with him exiting Louisville following his third scandal at the school.
Not many coaches would survive two separate sex scandals at the same school, but Pitino did.
The second, and more egregious of the two, was the sex-for-play scandal with Andre McGee, former director of basketball operations at University of Louisville, and the stripper Katina Powell. The NCAA came down hard on Pitino charging him with failure to monitor the program. He was to be suspended for the first five Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) games of 2017 and vacating wins from December 2010 to July 2014, including the 2013 national title, which would be the first time the NCAA had vacated a national title.
Pitino managed to escape by pleading ignorance and promising to monitor the program more strictly in the future by keeping a closer eye over players and assistant coaches.
The third was the one he could not escape from. The ignorance and pleading, “I don’t know what the hell is going on,” and the “rogue assistant” excuses weren’t working this time.
Members of the staff were mentioned in the affidavit from the FBI probe. A coach on staff was said to have requested $100,000 to be paid to an elite recruit, which is believed to be wingman Brian Bowen.
Just six weeks after being put on probation, a U of L assistant coach is on wiretap recordings saying, “we gotta be very low key,” since the program was already on probation with the NCAA.
For all the good things Pitino did for the Louisville basketball program, the way he left it, could be even worse for not only the program, but the city of Louisville.
With two major violations within the five year period, the repeat violators rule, also known as the “death penalty,” will be a possibility. It hasn’t been given since 1987 with the Southern Methodist University football program, and many speculate it will never be handed out again.
It would terminate the program for at least a year. And for the most lucrative program in college basketball, it would devastate the university and the downtown economy.
The biggest question in all of this is why anyone on staff felt the need for any of this.
Louisville is a top-10 college basketball program, with the nicest arena in all of college basketball and a hall of fame coach at the helm.
They have been one of the most successful programs in college basketball since Denny Crum took over in 1971. So why do all of this now?
Regardless of whether it is the “death penalty” or more sanctions on top of the ones handed down from the sex-for-play scandal, the hammer is going to come down hard on the Louisville basketball program.
While some fans may be upset with the decision to let go of coach Pitino, this is the right move; and with the threat of the “death penalty” or other harsh sanctions looming, the decision might have left the program with a pulse.