The NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions just showed how its moral compass sort of points the right way.
It just didn’t have the guts to mete out the punishment deserving of the crime.
On Thursday, the committee issued millionaire basketball coach cum educator Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville the wrist slap heard round the world.
For Pitino’s role in failing to monitor his basketball program that resulted in a massive scandal alleging recruits and players were provided prostitutes as entertainment in college dorms, the coach was given a five-game suspension.
Five games. That’s it.
The allegations, however, involve four years of abhorrent and sordid off-court behavior during Pitino’s tenure.
It involves an escort named Katina Powell, who alleged that Pitino’s assistant Andre McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 striptease shows at the player’s dorm from 2010 to 2014. During that time, Louisville won a championship in 2012-13.
Mind you, we’re not talking providing racy video games and light snacks. This is a case alleging sex services provided to players and recruits, some of whom were believed to be under 18.
Initially, it did sound like the committee was going to do the right thing.
“Without dispute, NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts for prospects, enrolled student-athletes and/or those who accompany them to campus,” the committee’s decision reportedly said.
But then came a five game suspension and the possibility of the vacating of victories, and a title, notably the NCAA 2012-13 national championship.
Pitino has long denied any connection to the sex scandal, and has hidden behind his former assistant McGee, who was banned 10 years by the NCAA for his part.
But how can anyone say that Pitino, the man in charge, is only five games responsible? He’s the guy in charge.
Let’s consider the fate of Graham Spanier, the disgraced Penn State president who was convicted and sent to jail for what he knew in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.
Spanier was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
His total sentence was four to 12 months, incarceration, two years probation and a $7,500 fine.
What was Spanier’s real culpability in the Sandusky scandal? He had specific knowledge of what was happening. But ultimately, it was that he was in charge of the entire university. It all happened under his watch.
Just like Pitino at Louisville was in charge of his basketball program.
But Pitino doesn’t get the 10-year ban that his assistant McGee got. Pitino gets a puny five-game suspension, for putting the young McGee, a former player, in charge of the situation, and letting him take the fall.
The ultimate in chutzpah is Pitino complaining that his wrist slap is “over-the top severe.”
What? He thinks he has zero responsibility?
Pitino honestly believes that what the NCAA did was “unjust, and inconceivable.”
Not true, coach.
As the adult in charge, it was your responsibility to know what was going on with not just your players, but the young recruits on campus.
To the degree the recruits were underage, this is child endangerment.
But maybe compared to pedophilia, allowing for striptease shows and sex just doesn’t merit as stern a punishment in a macho, sexist, racist world.
The signal sent to other coaches and schools, is loud and clear.
Better beef up the entertainment budget if you want to recruit the best players and be a winner.
The wrist slap of Pitino and Louisville is far from punishment.
It’s confirmation of the Louisville way.
Emil Guillermo is an award winning journalist and commentator. He writes for the civil rights group AALDEF at https://www.aaldef.org/blog/