Louisville can bring up Penn State when appealing NCAA penalties

Rick Pitino

For those who have the stomach to read the NCAA’s report on what happened with the Louisville men’s basketball program between 2010 and 2014, put your head on a swivel. One’s head will instinctively shake.

It is a detailed account of strippers, prostitutes and teenagers all in the name of luring them to play basketball for the Louisville Cardinals and Coach Rick Pitino. The Committee on Infractions panel presented a meticulous case against those involved and why Pitino bears  responsibility, even if he was unaware of what was transpiring.

One of the penalties prescribed was forfeiting games over those four years, which includes their 2013 NCAA championship. This part should be, and must be, reversed.

To be sure, what happened over that four-year period is beyond reprehensible. Louisville admitted that one of Pitino’s staff members (identified by accuser Katina Powell as Andre McGee), arranged sexual trysts for teenage recruits, including four 17-year-olds and at least one who was only 16 at the time. Graduate assistant Brandon Williams was also implicated.

At least two players on the Louisville 2013 championship team roster were also involved. Those identified to ESPN by Powell and two of her daughters (who were among the “escorts”) were star player Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell.

They are now on probation, they lost scholarships and their recruiting practices are limited. The also made it difficult for McGee to get a job in college basketball for 10 years and Williams for one year.

For his part, Pitino is suspended for the first five games of the 2018 ACC schedule. Then NCAA accepted the school’s self-imposed post season ban in 2015-16.

All of these make sense. It is a little bit tougher when the committee ordered the school to give up its share of revenue earned from playing in the 2012-2015 NCAA Tournament. The justification? The participating members of the basketball team became “ineligible” because they received “impermissible benefits.”

This is the logic also used in forfeiting all wins over the period, including the 2013 championship. Impermissible benefits are usually reserved for cash under the table, cars, no-work jobs, etc. While such actions carried out with legal age young men may be morally wrong, it’s hard to keep a straight face in hearing sexual favors described as a benefit when determining eligibility.

“Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity,” Pitino said at a news conference, “but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the NCAA.”

Why should anyone outside of the Cardinals’ fan base be worked up about this? Two words:

Jerry Sandusky.

Sandusky perpetrated horrific treatment of young boys while serving as an assistant coach to Joe Paterno at Penn State. Sandusky is rightfully in prison and the NCAA ruled Paterno and the university were negligent as the atrocities continued. According to court testimony, Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior.

The Committee on Infractions slapped PSU with a $60 million fine, cut scholarships, instituted a post-season ban and forced Penn State to vacate their wins from 1998-2011. They were also forced to return bowl game money.

But when Penn State and supporters fought back (rightly or wrongly), the vacated wins were restored by the NCAA in January, 2015.

Think about that. No wins are vacated following criminal behavior that ruined lives.

What Louisville did was wrong, repugnant and also qualifies as child abuse in some of the cases. But when compared to Penn State, they should have every reason to believe they will win on appeal to either the NCAA or in court.

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @BobSparksFL.


  • Tre Manning

    June 20, 2017 at 5:30 pm


    I’ll at least try to be respectful as I comment this because your article literally has me shaking my head. First, the incident that you and everyone else references about Jerry Sandusky happened actually after he was retired. Second, according to court testimony Paterno knew about Sandusky’s behavior while true that it is on the record was also made after Paterno had died and was not able to defend himself. That is an allegation not a fact and you should not present them as such as a writer. Lastly, in regards to Louisville one is a NCAA violation while the other isn’t. Is what happened at Penn State worse sure? But murder is worse than tax evasion. I don’t see the IRS going after murderers though. The reason the NCAA rolled back was because they didn’t have jurisdiction in the Penn State matter. They do in the Louisville one.

  • TJ Murphy

    June 20, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Let’s add some facts to your musings. Sandusky was a monster and Penn States admin and BOT failed the victims and the university. But Sandusky was retired, not a coach, and the quote you referenced about Joe knowing about the behavior is pure bullshit! An insurance company fighting a $60 million claim magically found this person and this “evidence” against Joe even though the state and the press couldn’t. How convenient.
    Louisville and Penn State couldn’t be any more different when it comes to the NCAA. Their own mission statement calls for fairness and integrity in college sports. Louisville used strippers and hookers as a recruiting tool. Penn State and Sandusky was a criminal matter to be handled by law enforcement and the courts not the NCAA. Louisville got a competitive advantage….Sandusky almost tore apart an entire university. Nice try though. Maybe use some facts next time

  • Doug Steele

    June 21, 2017 at 2:16 am

    This article is a fabrication of lies regarding Penn State. You need to know the facts.

  • Jodi J

    June 21, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Prosecuting attorney on record saying no facts to support Joe knew anything. As an established attorney you should have known better than to use fact- Freeh report as basis for your comments. Retired employee committing crimes is not the same as assistant coach trying to lure recruits illegally. PSU matter was grandstanding and an egregious overreach and that’s why NCAA backed off a bit but they are still being sued along with Emmert and Ed Ray personally. Keep on writing falsehoods and you could be sued for libel. Not too smart for a man with such a resume.

Comments are closed.


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