USA TODAY US Edition
Pitino must go
Louisville coach’s ignorance of alleged sex parties no excuse.
If Rick Pitino isn’t already packing up his office at Louisville, he ought to get started.
Sordid allegations of sex parties for players and recruits got even seamier Tuesday with one former recruit telling ESPN’s
Outside the Lines, “It was like I was in a strip club.” OTL also found a wire transfer from Andre McGee, Pitino’s former director of basketball operations, to an escort and confirmed that text messages to arrange the parties came from McGee’s cellphone.
Pitino has denied — vehemently — any knowledge of the parties, though that’s hard to believe given they took place on university property.
“I don’t know if any of this is true or not,” Pitino told ESPN and Yahoo Sports. “There’s only one person who knows the truth, and (McGee) needs to come out and tell the truth.”
But what Pitino knew or didn’t know no longer matters in the eyes of the NCAA or the public.
This is his program and, like it or not, he’s responsible for everything associated with it. When someone Pitino hired is accused of paying teenage girls to strip for and have sex with players Pitino thought enough of to want on his team, some of the blame has to fall on Pitino, too.
It seems Louisville President James Ramsey has figured that out. In an Oct. 8 statement, he pledged to get to the bottom of the embarrassing allegations while praising athletics director Tom Jurich. Nowhere did he mention Pitino, his Hall of Fame coach.
Pitino has done great things for Louisville, reviving a once-proud program that was fading into irrelevance and leading it to the 2013 NCAA title. The Cardinals also went to the Final Four in 2005 and 2012 and have made the NCAA tournament in all but two of 14 seasons under Pitino.
But that matters less and less at a time when image is everything. Louisville is now a punch line, a school only Hugh Hefner could admit to loving, and that isn’t likely to play well with big-pocketed donors. They’ve already weathered one sex scandal involving Pitino, and that one seems tame by comparison.
Pitino’s contract, which runs through 2026, contains language requiring him to “diligently supervise compliance of assistant coaches and any other employees for which (Pitino) is administratively responsible.” It also requires him to “demonstrate acute sensitivity to and support of the core values of the academic institution.” A staffer facilitating sex parties on campus wouldn’t seem to square with either of those objectives.
The larger concern is the punishments that are sure to come from the NCAA. If anything ever fit the description of “extra benefits,” a basketball staffer giving players and recruits money so they could have sex with strippers would surely be it.
It won’t just be Louisville being punished, either. As Larry Brown and Southern Methodist learned the hard way last month, coaches can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse when there are NCAA violations. If something goes wrong on a coach’s watch, he or she has to pay the price, too.
For Pitino, that price ought to be his job.