The NCAA punished Louisville’s basketball program Thursday, suspending Rick Pitino for five ACC games next season and, potentially, vacating its 2013 national championship, along with a host of wins from December 2010 through the 2013-14 season.
The punishment was a response to allegations that former Louisville staff member Andre McGee paid strippers and escorts to entertain recruits and student-athletes from 2010-14. The Cardinals self-imposed a postseason ban in 2015-16, but the vacation of wins – and the removal of their national-championship banner – may be inevitable.
Pitino blasted the NCAA’s decision, calling it “unjust” and “over-the-top severe.”
Is he right?
“I thought their decision was pretty forceful,” Louisville Courier-Journal Louisville writer Jeff Greer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I thought they went pretty much all the way to the hard right of the spectrum of what a lot people thought they would do. We kept telling people in stories and on the radio that there was always the chance that the NCAA and its panel would be concerned more with the shock value of the allegations than the monetary value. U of L tried to argue everything on the monetary value side of things, but when it came down to it, (the focus) was how shocking the actual allegations are. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of wins vacated, and it’s looking likely that that championship banner will come down.”
Pitino was defiant Thursday, saying that he intends to remain at Louisville and win multiple championships. But this isn’t his first scandal. He also turns 65 in September.
Is there any chance that Pitino steps down?
“He’s a hard guy to read,” Greer said. “I do think that this scandal, it’s been a real interesting past decade or so. Obviously he had the issue with his affair and that whole thing with the extortion stuff, and that was very embarrassing for both him, his family, and the university, and he kind of got through that. The guys on that 2013 team – like Peyton Siva and Russ Smith – I think that team really got him to kind of be happy again and enjoy basketball again. And the groups that he’s had since then have kind of continued building on that.
“So once this all happened, the last year-and-a-half, two years, has kind of started pulling him back down again and really dragging on him,” Greer continued. “So I do think that is something that may be more on the radar than it was before, but every indication of how he’s acting in recruiting and pushing forward and fighting back on this stuff, to me, seems like he’d rather not go out on this. He’d like to try to kind of rewrite the end of all of this and go out on his own terms. We’ll see if that’s actually how it pans out.”