The irony of Rick Pitino’s latest scandal.
Oh, the irony. Rick Pitino’s latest scandal (that is likely his last) is almost too much for this Kentucky fan to handle.
Louisville fans have long enjoyed condemning Kentucky’s basketball program as “dirty.” I must admit that accusation is not without merit. The history of Kentucky basketball includes its share of scandals. There was the 1951 point-shaving incident that culminated in the forfeiture of an entire season. Then there was the “pay for play” scandal during Eddie Sutton’s tenure that resulted in Sutton’s forced resignation and the team’s NCAA probation. Of course, that incident led to Kentucky hiring Rick Pitino, who lifted the program from its low point in 1989 to a Final Four in 1993 and a National Championship in 1996.
Kentucky’s decision to hire John Calipari added more fuel to the proverbial fire. Cal’s resume includes leaving two different programs under probation for violations of NCAA rules. That’s a favorite talking point for Louisville fans. Kentucky fans counter with the fact that Cal was never implicated in either scandal. Of course, that argument has never carried too much weight with Cal’s critics. The irony is that Louisville’s incessant criticism of Calipari continued while their coach racked up scandal after scandal.
There’s never been a break in Louisville supporters’ ridicule for Kentucky and Calipari. That has held true even while glossing over their own program’s issues under Pitino. In 2009, it came to light that Pitino engaged in extramarital sexual relations at a restaurant in 2003. That wasn’t the end of the story. Pitino paid the woman involved $3,000 to have an abortion. Louisville fans stood by their man. Sure, that has nothing to do with basketball. But isn’t it hypocritical to call Calipari a sleazebag when Pitino’s conduct surrounding that particular evening was about as sleazy as sleazy gets?
Last year, Pitino became a little harder to defend after it was revealed that Louisville’s program was involved in paying escorts to “entertain” its players and recruits…on campus…in their dorms. However, Pitino played dumb claiming that he was unaware that such a thing was going on right under his nose. His strategy for self-preservation worked. The U of L basketball program self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015–16 season and Pitino, yet again, kept his job.
As of yesterday, the era of Louisville standing by Pitino and his growing list of bizarre scandals seems to be coming to an end. I can’t imagine the University will excuse the basketball program’s alleged involvement in paying a recruit $100,000 for his services. That’s especially true when you take into account the prior embarrassing transgressions.
It’s no surprise that Pitino is playing dumb again. In a statement released yesterday, he said that the allegations come “as a complete shock” to him.
Fool me once.
For now, Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich have been put on non-paid administrative leave. However, any result other than permanent removal from their jobs would be incomprehensible. It’s past time for Louisville basketball to move on from Rick Pitino. And maybe, just maybe, their fans won’t be so quick to throw stones at the program 75 miles East. Maybe that’ll appreciate a program that isn’t forced to pay prostitutes or recruits to stay relevant.