Nunnsense: Pitino’s Possible Punishment


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In the fall of 2015, when we heard about the release of a book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” we all immediately assumed the book was completely fiction and we turned our attention to finding the hidden agenda of the author (a name that shall never be mentioned again).

In February of 2016, the University of Louisville held a press conference to announce a self-imposed postseason ban of the men’s basketball team. It was a preemptive strike in an attempt to lessen future penalties that the University of Louisville deemed possible through an internal investigation. To the public, the ban was an admission of guilt and it validated every detail of the book. To most Louisville fans, it was the first moment that there was as a distinct possibility that this was more than just a broken-hearted women with a vendetta. The million dollar question then became, to what degree are we guilty. All of us poked holes in the authors story and found plenty of inaccuracies, exaggerations and false claims but what did the University find out that they weren’t sharing? It had to be something pretty big to impose the post season ban and then reduce scholarships. But U of L cannot release that information nor are any officials allowed to talk about any of the information that prompted the school’s decision as long as the investigation is ongoing.

Now that the NCAA has handed down the Notice of Allegations and the University has responded to those allegations, we know why Louisville imposed the ban and reduced scholarships. The University was charged with four allegations. They basically accepted responsibility for three of the level 1 violations but has formally disputed the fourth allegation that Rick Pitino “violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation.”

According to the Courier-Journal,  “The NCAA’s enforcement staff has 60 days to file its reply to U of L’s response, which the school sent on Jan. 17. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will begin reviewing the case materials after that, and a hearing date is typically set about 30-45 days after the enforcement staff issues its counterarguments.”

The big question now is, what will the punishment be? Will the 2013 banner come down? Will there be a another post season ban? Will Rick Pitino be suspended? Will there be more scholarships revoked? Will we be put on probation? We must keep it real and acknowledge that all are possibilities. Another possibility is that I hit the lottery tonight. Both possible but not probable. The most likely punishment that will be handed down is a suspension of Rick Pitino for his failure to monitor the program. That suspension along with all the self-imposed punishments should be enough to satisfy the NCAA based on the precedent set from other schools infractions.

However, the length of a Pitino suspension could be tough to determine. Years ago a coach was not held responsible for violations of his program unless he was implicated directly in the violations. Now a coach can no longer use the excuse that he knew nothing about it. If a violation occurs under that coaches watch then the coach is held liable no matter if they can prove he was aware or not. The NCAA has set a precedent with in-season suspensions after several coaches were hit with the failure to monitor charge or charges similar. Jim Calhoun was suspended for the first three Big East games of 2011–2012 season and then retired. Larry Brown was suspended for 30% of the games for the 2015-16 season and then retired. Bruce Pearl was given the show cause charge and was out of coaching  while serving the suspension. He is now back at Auburn.

But the one we should take note of is the Jim Boeheim suspension of last year. Boeheim was suspended for nine ACC games during the 2015-16 season and the NCAA took away 12 scholarships. “Over the course of a decade, Syracuse University did not control and monitor its athletics programs,” the NCAA said in a statement, “and its head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor his program.” While Louisville’s violations did not take place over a decade they did take place over several years. Therefore a similar suspension could be handed down to Pitino.

Here is where I believe it gets tricky. During Boeheim’s suspension, Syracuse went 4-5 and was on the bubble for making the NCAA tourney after finishing the season 19-13.They made it as an at large team earning a 10 seed. Amazingly enough Syracuse advanced all the way to the final four. It was almost a slap in the face to the NCAA  because it was only one year after serving a self-imposed postseason ban and only months following Boeheim’s own nine-game suspension from the NCAA. The prevailing thought was that the NCAA’s sanctions had little impact on Jim Boeheim’s program.

So will the NCAA take Syracuse’s success as a signal that they didn’t punish Boeheim enough and make Pitino an example? Or will the NCAA say that the punishment was fair and Boeheim was just a good enough coach to endure his just punishment? It scares me a little to think that the NCAA may suspend Pitino for longer than 10 games because of Syracuse’s Final Four run. I say his probable punishment will be the first 8 games of the 2017-18 season. That’s just my opinion, but hoping for less.  Whatever the punishment is, you can be sure that Louisville will appeal it.

As always, GO CARDS!

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