No Press Defense – Unchecked Power, Denial and Louisville Basketball: Part Three

By Alexander Haynes
Sports Journalist

Part three of a part three 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. The second part will provide timeline regarding NCAA recruiting violation, white-collar, and monetary crimes. This third, and last, part will provide commentary, implications and lessons on that which has incurred.

Lessons from Louisville on College Recruiting

The philosophical goal of recruiting players to play at college is to win in the respective sport. Recruiting has always, and will always, be filled with hyperbole, vain promises and lofty thoughts of grandeur. In short, recruiting is a business which attempts to make University programs winning names by selling to players the ultimate dream of power. The entire premise has been built on the amount of power people have over each other. In check, that power is silly at best, deceptive marketing at worst. Recruiting, for better or worse, is an infomercial of hope, dreams and sports stardom.

The question in recruiting players for college athletics then becomes what college is actually about: education. There are only a select few schools (Stanford, as an example) which recruit players within a guideline of academic excellence. However, academic excellence is not the sole positive of recruiting, academic opportunity is another. The harsh truth is not all Division I programs will be competitive, yet athletics provides a way for students to receive an education they might not otherwise receive.

Not all recruiters and coaches are involved in power struggles and manipulation. There are those who truly intend to make the life of their athletes better and are convinced their school is the best spot to do so. Thus, recruiting is– with the proper fundamental notion– a respectable and opportunistic timeline of events. Recruiting is intrinsically amoral, and the morals of a coach define the action of recruiting as either moral or immoral.

Pitino’s actions define what incurs when recruiting becomes, not about improving the lives of others but, winning at any cost. More than winning, the Louisville scandals define a culture which has gone beyond winning and instead wants to control the flow of the commodity of hope. Pitino has long gotten off easy from scandal and sketchy character due to the essence he can control the future ideals of Louisville; in controlling recruitment, he controls the dreamy future goals.

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“Pitino has long gotten off easy from scandal and sketchy character due to the essence he can control the future ideals of Louisville,” Photo from Wiki Commons.

The responsibility of any basketball coach at any of the university involved is to set the tone and flow of that which is acceptable. Their duty in recruiting is to sell to players the type of culture they are walking into. Unfortunately, character development is not an attractive selling point whereas parties, sex and power is.

Furthermore, the Adidas scandal at large points to a systemic approach which takes advantage of players’ families. The ideal of moral recruiting was flipped on its head and took advantage of those who had no money to vainly promise wealth and power. Not only were rules violated, but families and the athletic opportunity of students were ruined. Until recompense and repentance occur, the apt punishment for these crimes will go on for eons, far beyond surface level records and championships.

In college, there is an onus on coaches to work for players whom compose a team. The activities of coaches ought to involve assisting players in learning how to navigate the path of life. How far the coaches want to go with this ideal is up to them, but at minimum, virtue is part of coaching.

Much of the discussion regarding Louisville has focused on whether the punishment is appropriate. Yet, the point missed is the implications of the punishment – until the belabored upon repentance and shift in collegiate recruiting occurs, all punishment is surface level. True punishment would be the NCAA recognizing the flaws within recruiting and refocusing rulings to end opportunity of corruption.

In the end, however, even more stringent rules and oversight will not create a true punishment. That is all programmable and usurp-able, simply hovering thoughts which program fail-safes and set guidelines the dishonorable will see as bendable. No, the goals of recruiting and college basketball will not change until power and narrative is not defined by the coaches. Collegiate basketball is buried within heroes who are almost poetically held up for a community precisely because the money created from their programs. Universities might state they do not wish these activities to occur, but in all vitality, their crimes are important to the direct money flow.

College basketball is a more accessible program than college football for many schools. Due the physical changes and five-man sport, basketball can provide hope to even the smallest of schools. More than other programs, basketball has given coaches their own kingdom to work within – their own sense of power in the community which is defined by lofty dreams, and nothing can sell dreams more than recruiting. Thus, recruiting is the definable action which a coach can use to keep or lose power over an organization.

The circle of complicity is a scheme waiting to be exploited as now the AAU programs have given players a sense of power. Thus, a desire for even more power has risen, embellished falsely into these players. Exploiting the desire to gain worship, prominence and money is only inevitable.

The crimes will continue to be conducted until punishment breaks the cycle of power. And that breaking of power is beheld by the media, those who cover University athletics. The endless praise of coaches from media outlets have put coaches on an unbreakable pedestal of praise, which in return grants positivity and support from fans. There is no relegation of power because there is no longer anyone willing or ready to relegate that power with reverberating honesty.

This then is the core of Louisville and Rick Pitino: honesty and integrity. Narrative cannot be buried in perception, but truth. Organizational structure ought not be evaluated by hope and the whims of grandeur, but the actions which are evident. Facts, not mere feelings, define the underlying tone of a culture, and by and large, NCAA sports must now be defined by factual evidence to end the cycle of sickening crime.

Featured image by Wiki Commons.

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