"First day, learned why ethics really don't apply."
-- Steve Taylor
"Since I Gave Up Hope, I Feel A Lot Better"
Everyone wants to win.
People who say that the cuture of permissiveness, handing out participation trophies so everyone can feel they won something, is a recent phenomena aren't paying attention.
People have long been more interested in bragging rights, in something outside of them that gives validation to their lives, for ages. We have seen time and again that people will put up with monstrous behavior as long as the person wins. People loved and celebrated Bobby Knight. My ancestral home of Poland, for some unfathomable reason, continues to defend Roman Polanski because they are afraid that a man who drugged and raped an underage girl and spent 30 years as a fugitive from justice won't be able to get a "fair trial." Lee Iacocca. George Ryan. History and society are full of people who insist on fairness and equality, unless it's someone from their individual clique. Then, all standards go out the window because this person did something that made people feel good. He or she may be an asshole, but they're OUR asshole.
Nowhere is this more shamelessly demonstrated than in the realm of college sports. People like to talk about the "purity" of competition there because the athletes aren't paid. In fact, it is illegal to pay them. "They are playing for the love of the game and the love of the school!" Sure. They live really well for being "free," often graduating with worthless degrees because they either got blow off courses or had "extra help" to pass. Meanwhile, the coaches make millions a year, schools get millions a year, and the money, instead of going to things like teaching science or art or modern ethics goes to making bigger stadiums to bring in more gate money and lobby for inclusion in television packages to get more money. Everybody knows the system and how it works, but it was cloaked in secrecy and subterfuge, enough that no one could really connect the dots.
The supposed gatekeepers here are the NCAA. They have rules and investigators that are supposed to keep the competition pure. But they don't. The system has been gamed since it started. Duke University basketball fans are a shark tank of snark, and during a game in 1980 against academically suspect UNLV, the Duke mascot, the Blue Devil, paraded in front of the UNLV section holding a banner that read, "Welcome, fellow scholars." Not only that, but if discovered, the NCAA can be nullified. And if you doubt me, I have two words for you -- Joe. Paterno.
It was in 1989 that a sports scandal erupted at the University Of Kentucky. It made the cover of Sports Illustrated, bearing the headline, "Kentucky's Shame." In an effort to restore their good name, Kentucky hired a coach from Providence named Rick Pitino. Pitino had himself a little bit of history -- he got his start as an assistant coach and then head coach for the University Of Hawaii until 1976. In 1977, the NCAA issued 64 infactions against Hawaii, and inplicated Pitino in 8 of them (Pitino denies he was involved in any of it). Pitino then moved to Syracuse and eventually his first official head coaching gig at Boston University in 1978, where he wound up leading their team to their first NCAA appearance in 24 years. He then did some time in the NBA before going to Providence. In two years, he led the team to the Final Four. Kentucky brought him in, and Pitino promised to make the team winners and to do it the right way. He developed a fast, high pressure game that brought playoff appearances and titles to Kentucky. He then jumped back to the NBA in 1997.
In 2001, Pitino was brought in to coach Louisville, and his legend continued to grow, becoming the only coach to win two national championships at two different schools. However, all was not well in Louisville. In 2009, Pitino came forward to say he was being extorted. He had begun an affair with Karen Sypher, the wife of a Louisville equipment manager. Apparently, he got her pregnant and gave her $3,000 to have an abortion. A few years later, a prostitution scandal broke out of the Louisville program. The fallout saw Pitino suspended for five games for not monitoring his program and the school having to vacate their 2012 Final Four appearance and their 2013 national title. Louisville was also put on probation for four years, which has not expired yet. I should note this is currently being appealed.
Now, a new bombshell, and this one has not only pretty much ended Pitino's career, but a lot of others, as well. In 2015, the FBI and the US Attorney's office out of the Southern District of New York began investigating fraud and corruption in college basketball. On Tuesday, the axe fell. The Department Of Justice announced three complaints. One was for corruption. The second was that apparel executives, financial advisors, and others bribed assistant college coaches to steer elite players their way. The third was that players were allegedly bribed to enroll at schools sponsored by Adidas. And that's not all of it, that's just what they are releasing right now. They have admitted there's more, so chances are, they are just waiting for some people to roll over before continuing the death march.
Although Pitino and the Cardinals program are not named, they are still connected to this, and I'll get to that anon. For now, let's name some names. Among those charged is Chuck Person, a former NBA player who is associate head coach at Auburn University. There is also Emanuel "Book" Richardson (University Of Arizona), Anthony "Tony" Bland (University of Souther California), and Lamont Evans (originally from University Of South Carolina and now Oklahoma State University). There is also James Gatto, who works for Adidas as their director of global sports marketing for basketball. Christian Dawkins, a former ASM Sports agent who reportedly got sacked from the company in May for charging $42,000 in Uber rides to an NBA player's credit card. Munish Sood, a money manager from Noo Joizee. And Rashan Michel, who runs an apparel company out of Atlanta. Merl Code, a former Nike employee currently affiliated with Adidas. Jonathan Brad Augustine, president of the nonprofit League Initiative.
Although the schools are not specifically identified, refered to only as "University 1" and so on, there are enough details provided to come up with pretty good guesses who is who. Joon H. Kim, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at the press conference, "Google is an amazing thing." For example, "University 2" is described as "a public research university located in South Carolina with over 30,000 students." There's enough there to point it squarely at University of South Carolina. And this is where Louisville gets mixed in. "University 6" is described in several pages with details such as a public research university in Kentucky with APPROXIMATELY 22,640 students and...drum roll, please...being on probation for using hookers to lure recruits to their program. Guess who that is? Like I said, Pitino isn't mentioned in the indictment, but he was put on unpaid leave the day after all this went public. An unnamed Louisville student-athlete is also being barred from practices and games. The NCAA is probably going to be paying them a little visit.
Pitino is playing Mickey The Dunce -- "These allegations come as a complete shock to me. If true, I agree with the US Attorney's Office that these third-party schemes, initiated by a few bad actors, operated to commit a fraud on the impacted universities and their basketball programs, including the University Of Louisville. Our fans and supporters deserve better and I am committed to taking whatever steps are needed to ensure those responsible are held accountable." In other words, "Not me."
What's telling here is that this isn't a bunch of whisper. The feds have surveilance. Video. Audio. This isn't stuff you can spin, it is as cold, hard, and unbreakable as cement overshoes. There is talk of the NCAA using the "death penalty," which will forbid teams to participate in tournaments, costing them millions upon millions in revenue and recruits.
We need to get over this.
We need to stop being more interested in accomplishments than we are in the ethics that made them happen.
When good things happen for bad reasons, there's no pride in that.