Louisville is good enough to play and succeed in the NCAA Tournament scheduled to begin Thursday, but they are nowhere to be found in the bracket you fill out because they screwed up.
Specifically, the University of Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban for 2016 because Katina Powell, a Louisville prostitute, revealed that she and others were paid to strip for and have sex with Louisville basketball players and recruits.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino has expressed outrage and confusion regarding the allegations and the punishment.
I was a guest on a Kentuckiana Sportsnight with Spencer Kietzman last night, and was asked about Pitino, Louisville Basketball, and the postseason ban. My answers prompted a Twitter discussion that showed a disconnect between Louisville fans and reality that deserves a little examination.
Here are 9 truths of the Louisville prostitution scandal:
9 – Motivation for self-imposed postseason ban was to minimize negative effect on recruiting. When Louisville decided to end its season early, and Pitino publicly posed as the outraged leader of a wronged team, it was to make sure incoming recruits were not spooked by potential future sanctions by the NCAA. It had nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with strategically diminishing collateral damage to the program.
8 – Rick Pitino caused this violation one way or another. If he knew and encouraged former Louisville assistant coach Andre McGee to book hookers for players and recruits, he broke rules in a morally indifferent fashion for which a respectable university (and NCAA) can never forgive. If he was ignorant to the parties, he is still guilty of losing control of his program. Regardless of what happens within a program, the head coach is responsible. Ignorance is not a valid excuse.
7 – Recruits who attend Louisville from this point forward aren’t victims. Rick Pitino likes to talk about the Louisville players who are being punished by the self-imposed postseason ban. According to Pitino, they did nothing wrong, but are the victims. Okay, let’s accept Piton’s premise that the wrong people were victimized. From this point forward, armed with the knowledge that Louisville under Pitino has stepped into the murky waters of a hookers for recruits gambit, recruits know they are potentially going to be held responsible for Louisville employing an ends justify the means morality that may cost them a postseason or scholarship.
6 – Most colleges who “entertain” recruits can do it without digging for singles. Young men and women have sex in college. That might make parents wince, but it’s what happens – a lot. Recruits come to town, they attend parties, and they hook up with a student. That’s what happens at campuses all over America, and very few if any of those women are compensated for their generosity. It’s a little less icky than flat-out prostitution, but no less effective at attracting recruits.
5 – Parents deserve better – at least some do. Parents trust that coaches will take good care of their kids. It might be a naive notion, but parents trust coaches because coaches promise they will keep kids too busy to screw up. Pitino was derelict in that duty. Other parents availed themselves of the strippers reportedly provided by McGee, which is a troubling dereliction of parental duties.
4 – Rick Pitino being “puzzled” as to how this happened is as baffling as any other aspect of the story. Pitino was on Mike & Mike this morning and he claimed to be puzzled as to how this could have happened, and then claimed the system of punishing athletic programs is broken. Well, maybe I can clear things up. The hookers were in the dorm because a member of Pitino’s staff decided the risk was worth the reward (assuming he wasn’t explicitly told to hire hookers for parties). And the system of punishment is broken because of the endless and pervasive moral equivocation in college athletics has made rule enforcement by a self-governing body impossible. All clear now? Your confusion, Rick, is self-inflicted.
3 – The NCAA must swing a heavy hammer. There is no chance the NCAA will decide the self-imposed postseason ban was enough penance for employing prostitutes to lure recruits to Louisville. SMU and Syracuse were allowed to penalize themselves with a postseason ban and suspension of their respective coaches. Academic fraud is crass and against the rules, but hookers in a dorm is seedy. The NCAA cannot equate academic fraud and prostitute parties. Louisville and Pitino are going to pay a far stiffer price.
2 – Winning is the top priority in college basketball. The University of Louisville is known nationally for its basketball program. It’s a huge part of the university’s brand, and if they are reduced to mediocrity through strict adherence to morally acceptable recruiting practices, the university as a whole will suffer. Willful ignorance was the obvious choice at Louisville for those who stood to benefit from McGee making it rain in a dorm. The ends justified the means to the point that methods weren’t worth investigating until Dick Cady and Katina Powell wrote a book.
1 – Katina Powell is hardly a stand up whistle blower in this fiasco. Powell is a stripper/prostitute (can you be a prostitute without also being a stripper?) who encouraged her daughters to follow in her footsteps. The only reason she is not being vilified by the media is that she happily admits everything she did that was illegal/inappropriate/wrong. Powell has hidden nothing, so there is nothing to uncover. Pitino has hidden, denied, and obfuscated. That has made him the target of journalists.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.