The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions hammered Louisville’s basketball program Thursday, suspending Rick Pitino for the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season and, in all likelihood, removing the program’s banner commemorating the 2013 national championship, among other penalties.
The mood in Louisville? It ain’t pretty.
“Crestfallen, shocked, devastated – this was everybody’s worst fear when all this came out,” Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “Everybody that I talked to that was a Louisville fan said, ‘Just don’t take the banner. We’ll impose a ban. We don’t care if Pitino goes. That’s fine. Don’t take our banner.’ And now they’re taking the banner, pending appeals. They’ll see if they can reverse this, but those tend to be a little bit of a long shot. So I would say the mood here is quite crestfallen at this point.”
Louisville fans had been bracing for the worst ever since escort Katina Powell became a household name. Powell was hired by former Louisville staff member Andre McGee and provided various services to recruits and players from 2010 to 2014.
Louisville sat out of the 2016 postseason as part of a self-imposed ban, but that apparently wasn’t enough.
Will Pitino remain Louisville’s head coach? And do Cardinals fans even still want him?
“I think most people still look at Rick Pitino and say, ‘We want you to still be our coach’ if you’re a Louisville fan because they know how good he is,” Forde said. “They know he took them to a championship, he has taken them to two other Final Fours, wins 25 games every year, has recruited extremely well – he’ll have a very good team next year even though he’s going to sit out for five games. But that’s also pending appeal. So I think people are willing to ride or die with Rick Pitino. There have been some great times and there have been some ugly times and some tawdry times, and this is certainly one of those. But I think for the most part, Louisville fans are all-in with Rick Pitino for as long as he’s going to be the coach.”
Pitino, 64, reacted harshly to the penalties, calling the committee’s decision “unjust,” “unfair,” “over the top,” and said that he’s “lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.” He also said he plans to remain at Louisville and win “multiple championship, not just one.”
Gosh, Rick, tell us how you really feel.
“I think in theory (the NCAA) probably would like a little less defiance from him,” Forde said, “but I think there’s also a part of Louisville leadership that was happy they got out of that press conference without him going Mount St. Helens on the thing because he was that, I think, furious about it all. You could tell. He was keeping his own internal rage just scarcely in check. If it had gone on a little bit longer, who knows what might have come out of his mouth? He’s not a no-comment kind of guy. He is a heart-on-the-sleeve kind of guy. A lot of times it makes him a charming and interesting person; sometimes it’s to his detriment. I think this is one of those occasions where we saw very close to unfiltered Rick Pitino, and he was skirting the line between confidence and defiance.”