New Scandal Shocks College Basketball


Adam Glanzman

Rick Pitino during a press conference at the 2013 Final Four. (Adam Glanzman CC)

Zach Combest, Website Editor

A hall of fame career ending with yet another scandal that rocks an already beaten up university.

Former University of Louisville (UofL) head basketball coach, Rick Pitino was put on unpaid administrative leave last week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found the university basketball program guilty of a federal bribery investigation.

The FBI held a nationwide sting that involved probing multiple NCAA men’s basketball programs looking for fraud and corruption. Former UofL Athletics Director Tom Jurich was put on paid administrative leave with Pitino in the mists of the scandal. This is not the first bump in the road Pitino has hit in his 15 year career at UofL.

On September 25, UofL interim President Greg Postel announced that UofL was a part of the investigation that claimed the university basketball coaches of being involved with the bribing recruits during the summer to come to the university to play for the Cardinals. “The University of Louisville received notice that it is included in a federal investigation involving criminal activity related to men’s basketball recruiting,” said Postel. “While we are just learning about this information, this is a serious concern that goes to the heart of our athletic department and the university. UofL is committed to ethical behavior and adherence to NCAA rules; any violations will not be tolerated,” said Postel during a press conference. Federal prosecutors in New York announced 10 indictments in late September involving a nationwide FBI sting probing fraud and corruption at NCAA men’s basketball programs, in which sports agents and apparel companies coordinated with assistant coaches to offer bribes that steered players to attend certain schools, calling this “the dark underbelly of college basketball.”

Assistant coaches for Oklahoma State, Auburn, Arizona and University of Southern California  were charged with taking bribes in the sting, and while UofL was not specifically named, one of the indictments alleges in detail how a coach from a school meeting UofL’s description was involved in a $100,000 payment, by a top executive of Adidas, to land a top basketball recruit. UofL was thought be to “university-6” in the FBI documents. In the FBI documents, no school was specifically named so each school was labeled as university was a number attached to it. The unnamed school was described as being a public research university in Kentucky with the exact enrollment from last fall as UofL, which also has a large contract with Adidas. UofL recently signed a $160 million dollar deal with the apparel company this year.

The recruit in the documents was not named, but they labeled the recruit of “Player-10.” The FBI states this recruit had desires of attending many rival schools to “university-6” but around June 3, right after the bribe scheme was allegedly agreed to, this player surprisingly committed to “university-6.” The timeline and description of these alleged events appears to suggest that this refers to UofL recruit Brian Bowen.

Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave after the allegations came out and many people speculated that the university put him on leave because he wouldn’t fire Pitino. “I think it was a good idea to get rid of him. It’s time to get someone new and this will be the fresh start we need,” said senior Ryan Gaddie. Since Jurich was placed on leave, many fans have backed him on social media and wanting the university president to rethink his decision and bring him back.

Vince Tyra, a former University of Kentucky baseball player, son of a UofL basketball legend (Charlie Tyra) and part-owner of the local professional soccer team, was announced as the school’s interim athletic director. “I’m confident,” Postel said, “that Vince will have the ability to work with me, our coaches, our athletic staff and our athletes to promote stability, to promote confidence in our programs and to ensure the success of our athletic endeavors.” The university’s board of trustees will decide whether to retain Jurich, who has been the athletic director for about two decades, in the coming weeks.

“My first impressions when Pitino was put on leave wasn’t much of a shock , I knew it was coming eventually . He has went through three scandals now in his tenure with the University and because Tom Jurich decided to back him up once again, he was also put on leave leading many to speculate if he had any involvement . Jurich however was more of a shock because of how much he has contributed and most people wouldn’t see him as the type of guy to play dirty so I’m also interested to see how this,” said senior Jonathon Tegarden.

This is not the first bump in the road Pitino has had during his long stint at UofL. In August 2009, Pitino was in a legal battle with a woman who tried to extort money from him after she claimed they had unconsented sex. The lady was later arrested for extortion charges. In October 2015, the university and the basketball program was in the public eye once again when the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” by Katina Powell came out. In this book Powell stated an assistant coach paid strippers to come to a UofL dorm where basketball players lived. The investigation went on until February 2016 when the University of Louisville announced a self-imposed postseason ban on its men’s basketball team, citing the investigation into allegations that the school’s former director of basketball operations provided prostitutes for players and recruits. The team had to vacate wins from the 2013 season and the championship title they had won that year was in the balance for a while and still is today. With the latest allegations around the basketball program, Pitino finally was let go and David Padgett, former Louisville center and Pitino’s director of basketball operations (2014-16), took over as the interim head basketball coach. “I thought David Padgett was the best choice , Louisville is a high profile job and no big time coach is going to step away from another program to join one that’s currently in turmoil. So step in David Padgett, a guy who has played for Rick Pitino and has been an assistant coach on the team, he’s someone the players all wanted and he is someone who is comfortable and familiar with the previous system that has driven the cardinals to have as much success as they have,” said Tegarden.

Overall, the UofL men’s basketball team has lost many recruits over the past few weeks, but look to rebound before the season starts in a few weeks with new faces leading the team and the athletic department. Only time will tell how the outcome will look like for the already shocked and dazed basketball program. A follow up story will be posted later in the basketball season to update everyone on the condition and state of the program.