Press Defense – Unchecked Power, Denial and Louisville Basketball: Part Two

By Alexander Haynes
Sports Journalist

Part two of a three part series

Crime and the subsequent punishment is a point and tangent which plagues mankind. An old adage is crime begets a fall from glory, yet crime has a way of deteriorating the soul, and in truth, no glory initially existed. The misnomer that glory once existed for men such as the University of Louisville and Rick Pitino assumes that public knowledge of the crime perceptually ruins men and is the punishment. No, the punishment for Pitino began decades ago upon the inception of the initial crime – a lack of repentance and respect of integrity to deepen activity in scandal eons ago set in stone a pattern of lies which did not only hurt Pitino, but those lives he touched.

Facts go beyond the surface level of investigation, title and wins and losses. Crime permeates an organization and allows for timidity in integrity and honesty. In other words, crime is exponential, flowing wider and wider until it redefines those who commit such acts. And that is what happened at the University of Louisville, a lack of integrity redefined college basketball and that which was acceptable.

The following is a three-part series detailing Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville, and NCAA recruiting scandals. The first part will provide the timeline regarding Pitino’s career and an on-campus brothel ring. This second part will provide timeline regarding NCAA recruiting violation, white-collar, and monetary crimes. The third part will provide commentary, implications, and lessons on that which has incurred.

Facts Revealed

On June 3, 2017 Brian Bowen lifted the spirits of the University of Louisville basketball by committing on Twitter. Bowen, whom is from Saginaw, Michigan, surprised almost everyone when he committed, but surprises do happen to the best of programs. That surprise lasted until Pitino gave too much detail in an proverbial interview with WHAS-AM Lexington’s Terry Meiners.

“We got lucky on this one. They [Bowen’s family] had to come in unofficially, pay for their hotel, pay for their meals. We spent zero dollars recruiting a five-star athlete who I loved when I saw him play. In my 40 years of coaching, this is the luckiest I’ve been,” said Pitino.

Louisville would naturally pay zero dollars recruiting a five-star athlete; to do anything else would be a severe violation of NCAA recruiting guidelines. Except, the truth behind the matter was Pitino’s luck was defined by $100,000 of manipulation.

Pitino’s luck on his glory and control would last only 12 more days. On June 15, violations for the brothel (discussed in part one) at Louisville came down from the NCAA. Pitino’s suspension for the first five ACC games of 2017-2018, a $5,000 fine, scholarship reduction and vacation of 123 wins (including the 2013 NCAA National Championship) in which the ineligible basketball players played. Any money received from conference revenue-sharing during that stretch will be relinquished. According to ESPN, that total amount may be as little as $1 Million or as much as $15 million. The punishment was appealed but upheld in the past week.

On Sept. 26, 2017, the FBI then dropped the bomb on Pitino and Louisville (as well as innumerable other NCAA Division I programs) that would end their tight-control on the program perception. Allegedly a Louisville staff member in cooperation with Adidas representative Jim Gatto paid Bowen $100,000 to in exchange for the “surprise” commitment to Louisville. As the investigation unfolded, a ring and systemic approach in this recruiting methodology has unleashed a nightmare scenario for the powers of college basketball.

Pitino and Athletic Director Tom Jurich were placed on unpaid leave the following day, despite their natural inclination to deny the allegations. Both would be fired, leading to dutiful lawsuits between the University and Pitino. As for Bowen, he was suspended and then transferred to South Carolina in January.

While the FBI has yet to detail the nuanced process of the Adidas “Pay-to-play” scheme, functionally Adidas employee Merl Code, former AAU program director Christian Dawkins and investor Munish Sood along with Gatto would pay players to sign at certain universities, pay bribes to underlings to steer players from other schools and then pay family members upon turning professional to influence their decision to sign with Adidas.

The FBI had an undercover agent who witnessed firsthand the monetary funds which were funneled to Bowen’s family, as well as the funneling of money to a 2019 recruit who has gone unnamed. Furthermore, phone numbers used by Pitino contacted those leading the “Pay-to-play” scheme. As the investigation continues the dirty process of recruiting will slowly be further unveiled.

Photo by Wiki Commons.

The scheme does not only indict Louisville, but thus far has hit coaches at Auburn (Chuck Person), Arizona (Book Richardson), Oklahoma State (Lamont Evans) and USC (Tony Bland). Person, for example was caught paying a total of $91,500 to recruit two Auburn players as well as conspiring with former NBA referee Rashan Michel to recruit these players to sign with Michel’s clothing company. As the timeline has gone on, leaks and rumors are implying Hall of Fame coaches will be revealed as implicit just before the March Madness NCAA Tournament bracket selection. Leaks indicate Dawkins kept a precise record book, and thus players, coaches and exact funds are on the record and in the hands of the FBI.

The exact funds all go back to a willingness to compound and take advantage of vulnerable students and parents. There is an element of guilt for the families, but the decision to win at any cost by schools over the years will redefine what has been written about perceptually perfect coaches. The crimes committed, beginning years ago, derived private punishment for many, and soon will publicly define punishment. College recruiting in all sports has fundamentally changed due to the poignant demand for money, and it will soon change again due to the dirty deeds being made known.

Featured image by Wiki Commons.



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