University of Louisville

John Clay: For good of Louisville basketball program, Pitino has to go

Rick Pitino faces national scrutiny amid allegations made by a self-proclaimed madam.
Rick Pitino faces national scrutiny amid allegations made by a self-proclaimed madam. AP

Rick Pitino has to go.

That's clear now. It doesn't matter if the Louisville basketball coach didn't know. He should have known. He gets paid to know. It's his program. It's his responsibility to know.

What Pitino should have known is what ESPN's Outside the Lines reported Tuesday. Five former Louisville basketball players and recruits corroborated the allegations made by self-proclaimed madam Katina Powell in her book Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.

ESPN has a way of taking a previously reported story and making the story its own. That's what happened Tuesday. Jeff Goodman and John Barr reported the players and recruits attended parties with strippers inside Billy Minardi Hall, U of L's basketball dorm. One player said he had sex with a woman after she had been paid by former Louisville assistant coach Andre McGee.

ESPN may have been late to the story, but the Worldwide Leader brought a very sizable torch. Tuesday, a brush fire turned into an inferno.

The key here is not only what happened, but where it happened. What is alleged to have happened didn't happen in a club somewhere in Louisville. It happened on campus. It happened in the basketball dorm.

I'm against athletic dorms. They do too much to separate the athletes from the so-called regular students. They foster the impression athletes are pampered, spoiled, entitled. If you want to know why so many colleges are having trouble getting their student populations to attend sporting events, start there.

But what was alleged to have happened at Louisville is precisely why you build a basketball dorm. You build a basketball dorm to control the athletes. You can watch the players in the dorm. You can restrict access. You can keep what allegedly happened at Louisville from happening. That's why you have an athletics dorm.

Maybe Rick Pitino didn't know what his staff member was doing. Maybe he was oblivious to what McGee was alleged to have done. You would like to believe he would not have condoned such behavior. You would like to believe that, upon learning of it, he would have shut it down.

That doesn't matter. Pitino should have known what was going on inside the dorm, the one named for his best friend, his brother-in-law who tragically died in 9/11. At the absolute least, he should have known. He should have fostered a culture in which someone would tell him what was happening in that dorm.

No doubt a certain segment of the Big Blue Nation celebrated ESPN's Tuesday morning scoop of confirmation. That's the way of the sports world these days. It's not enough for your team to win, your rival must lose.

Never mind that the same segment of Big Blue Nation thought Rick Pitino walked on water in Lexington. He won big. Then, after failing in the NBA, Pitino committed the ultimate sin. He went to Louisville.

A friend said to me Tuesday morning that Kentucky fans should thank Pitino. He rebuilt Kentucky and destroyed Louisville.

Louisville basketball is not destroyed, but it is severely damaged. Worse, it's a laughingstock. An embarrassment. At least Ole Miss football, back in the Billy Brewer days, had the smarts to take its recruits to Memphis strip clubs. According to ESPN, U of L brought the strippers to the recruits.

In the midst of the flames, Louisville AD Tom Jurich released a statement Tuesday saying Pitino had no intention of resigning. That's too bad. He should put the program ahead of himself.

Can you imagine what it will be like at Louisville road games this season? As Bill Raftery would say, there will be lingerie on the deck. Only it will have been thrown by the opposing student body. There will be jeers. And smirks. And laughter. Lots of laughter.

Louisville can claim it didn't know what was going on inside its own athletic dorm, but surely it now knows this: Rick Pitino has to go.

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