The University of Louisville houses one of the most prestigious basketball programs in collegiate basketball. The Cardinals have won 3 national championships, made the Final Four 10 different times, and have produced some excellent players, including Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld. Today though, none of that matters.
Former escort Katina Powell has alleged that she was a part of organizing parties to aid in the recruitment of players to the Louisville program. The parties were effectively makeshift strip parties where recruits would stay in Minardi Hall, the on campus dorm where the basketball players and many other athletes live on the Louisville campus, then would enjoy the night with drinking, music, and side deals. When I say side deals, I mean sex. Powell kept a journal of all the parties hosted at Louisville. Included were notes on the number of players she had sex with, how much money she was paid personally, how many girls danced and took money on side deals, and how the girls would be compensated by one of the graduated assistants, later coaches, Andre McGee. And all of this took place over four years. Four years in which they either had to keep it quiet or had to get the consent or de facto permission of the brass at Louisville. And this continued after Andre McGee, one of the alleged ringleaders of the whole operation, left to go to another college and accept a different job.
The allegations were brought to Louisville privately over the summer, and were only made public in a book “Breaking Cardinal Rules”, released earlier this month. Yesterday, ESPN’s investigative program Outside The Lines released a report on the whole mess yesterday. I watched the initial report and some of the adjoining interviews on the OTL program yesterday. It’s a damning report with incredibly serious allegations. Take a look at it here, and judge for yourself.
Rick Pitino, the head coach of the Louisville basketball program, and Hall of Fame coach, has denied knowing anything about it. He has done the usual routine of claiming that all of this happened under his nose with him being blissfully unaware of the things taking place on campus. To be blunt, I don’t believe him. Head coaches of major sports programs are the CEO’s of the respective organization. They need to have their thumb on the pulse of the program, and an enormous part of the job is recruiting players to the school. The coach has to be on top of the recruiting process, otherwise the team will run into issues with being not under NCAA regulations. Is it possible he legitimately didn’t know? Yes. Is it probable? Not at all. Especially since these parties took place in an on campus dorm for the athletes, and it’s named for Pitino’s brother-in-law, who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pitino has said about this “I hope that’s not true, because that building means a lot to me.” I believe him there. That’s also why I’m skeptical that he didn’t know that something was going on there.
At best, this is serious mess in which girls sold themselves out for both the money they could make for themselves and to convince the potential recruit to attend the school and play for the Cardinals. At worst, the administration and the head coach allowed all of this because the basketball program benefited in a huge way. Louisville won three consecutive conference championships from 2012-2014, went to the Final Four in 2012 and 2013, and won the National Championship in 2013. They achieved enormous success on the back of recruiting excellent players and remarkable coaching from one of the best in the business. One of the best who was either blissfully ignorant of illegal and immoral things going on in his program on campus in a dorm named for his late brother-in-law, or worse, knew it and allowed it. Neither option is good, and either would merit Pitino’s dismissal from Louisville. Exploitation of young girls for sex is a horrendous sin on its own, without the added issues. The fact that all this happened and the program won because of e recruits who came because of that is awful. Pitino might have a name now synonymous with Louisville basketball, but if it is shown he knew anything about this and didn’t stop it, or if he was just being negligent in his responsibilities, he deserves to be removed from that job.