Today has been an awfully big day in college basketball. There is a LOT to cover here, and I don’t intend for this to be an exhaustive post on what is happening. But this is worth discussing on TDG as this FBI investigation is likely to have wide-ranging effects on college basketball.
The big news of today is the fact that Rick Pitino has been fired, along with Louisville Athletic Director, Tom Jurich. The Pioneer Press, reprinting of a Washington Times article on the firing sums things up well.
Rick Pitino survived the tawdriest of scandals during his tenure as coach of the Louisville men’s basketball team, first a 2009 extortion attempt during which he admitted to having sexual relations with the wife of his team’s equipment manager, then a 2015 scandal in which a former Cardinals staffer arranged for strippers and prostitutes to have sex with players and recruits in the team’s dormitory.
But Pitino could not survive allegations that, in the grand scheme of college basketball scandals, barely rise above sordid: That an executive from Adidas, which outfits the Cardinals athletic teams, and others conspired to steer top recruits to Louisville via six-figure payments to their families, in one instance enlisting the aid of one of Pitino’s assistants. Those allegations, unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York after a years-long undercover investigation by the FBI, proved to be Pitino’s undoing.
The short story of the events leading to his dismissal is that according to the report, an unnamed member of the Louisville staff was working with Jim Gatto, an Adidas representative, to pay a 5-star prospect $100,000 to attend Louisville. Pitino claims to have known nothing of this (of course).
But lack of control and these very serious allegations have led to the end of the Rick Pitino Era in Louisville. It was an era that spanned 16 seasons and saw 3 Final Four appearances with 1 national title. The firing comes just days before the season begins and Louisville is looking for a new coach. They will very likely have an interim head basketball coach and an interim athletic director to go along with an interim university president. Greg Postel, the interim president, had this to say at this afternoon’s press conference.
"I'm more angry than embarrassed," Postel said. "We will be looking for someone with integrity. There's no reason this team can't have a good season.
But wait...there’s more.
Yesterday’s announced FBI investigation and subsequent arrests were affecting several other programs and individuals.
Under the first group of charges, the U.S. Attorney is alleging that assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC "took cash bribes" in order to steer elite basketball players toward certain financial advisors and sports agents. The assistants named in the indictment are Chuck Person (Auburn), Emanuel Richardson (Arizona), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State) and Tony Bland (USC).
Each of the coaches is charged with bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes, honest services fraud conspiracy, honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Travel Act conspiracy. The U.S. Department of Justice said each of the coaches faces a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison.
The real hangup here is that much of what is happening is bribery and wire fraud by individuals working at institutions that receive federal funding. This entire investigation is far-reaching and most importantly it is ongoing.
An FBI spokesperson at Tuesday's news conference warned others who could be involved in corrupt practices.
"We have your playbook," the spokesperson said. "... If you are involved in this, call us. It will be better for you to call us than for us to call you."
Today it was announced that employees of Nike’s EYBL organization have also been subpoenaed.
Sources: Employees of Nike's EYBL grassroots division, along with documents, have been subpoenaed by FBI in furtherance of investigation— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) September 27, 2017
This is far from being over. As of today Louisville, Auburn, USC, Arizona and Oklahoma State have been the most affected. But there will surely be more to come.
What Does This All Mean for Minnesota?
Right now? Nothing. Other than the fact that Richard Pitino is related to his father and worked for him at one point, there is no indication that the Gopher program is in any way affiliated with what is being alleged.
I did mention that this investigation is ongoing.
I would say that the notion of Richard having some success here with Minnesota and then moving on to Louisville when Rick retires is rather unlikely. The Cardinals hiring a Pitino is just not going to happen. For those of you laying awake at night worrying about the day Richard leaves Minnesota for Louisville can rest easy tonight.
I Want to Read More
OK here are a number of articles from around the SBN web on what has transpired in the last 24 hours.
- Card Chronicle is all over today’s news. They have former player reactions, a notion that Cardinal fans don’t deserve this and recruitment news.
- Kentucky’s A Sea of Blue has plenty of reaction to this ordeal. As you can imagine they are not fans of Rick Pitino (but this investigation ain’t over)
- Auburn’s College and Magnolia blog thinks that this is very bad for Auburn basketball. Also noteworthy that this story is buried behind 3 football stories.
- Conquest Chronicles talks of the Tony Bland arrest.
- Cowboys Ride Free highlights the arrest of Lamont Evans.
- Arizona’s Book Richardson was the culprit for the Wildcats. Arizona Desert Swarm has it covered with highlights and (maybe) a recruiting decommit.
- Finally, you should read this post from Indiana’s The Crimson Quarry. It is certainly worth a read.