The announcement this week of ten indictments has rocked college sports basketball. It should rock the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. The indictments allege, apparently, facts which suggest that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino had direct contact with Adidas marketing head Gatto, in which discussions were had about ensuring that a $100,000 payment would be made to recruit Brian Bowen.
Pitino is required by NCAA rules to annually sign NCAA Form 16-2, which states that the coach has:
“reported through the appropriate individuals any knowledge of violations of NCAA legislation involving [his] institution.”
Form 16-2 is a lynchpin of the entire NCAA enforcement “self-reporting” framework. Throughout the investigation and ‘trial’ of the Louisville Strippers-in-Basketball-Dorm scandal, Rick Pitino insisted that: 1) he knew nothing about any of the ‘extra benefits’ which were provided to the players as a part of those repeated stripper parties; and 2) he had, therefore, truthfully filled out Form 16-2, when by stating that he was unaware of any NCAA violations.
The Stripper case, therefore, raised serious questions involving Pcentral fact witness Pitino — and evaluating the credibility of witnesses is a central part of any adjudicative proceeding. The NCAA COI, for example, explicitly found in 2011 that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was “not credible” and “purposely hid” evidence. The Louisville Stripper COI resolved the issue of Rick Pitino’s credibility in Pitino’s favor, by concluding that they believed his claimed lack of knowledge. And the committee therefore found Pitino ‘guilty’ of the much lesser offense: that he had merely ‘failed to monitor’ the actions of his director of basketball operations, Andre McGee. Pitino got a 5-game suspension penalty.
The new indictments directly challenge the COI’s finding that Pitino told them the truth. In fact, the timing of events is stunning: the COI held its Louisville Stripper hearing in mid-April 2017, and its decision issued in mid-June 2017. In between those two events, recruit Bowen announced his commitment to Louisville on June 3 and, if the indictment is to be believed, Pitino was on the phone to Adidas’ Gatto, sometime before Bowen’s June 3 commitment, to insure that Gatto would be paying big cash to Bowen’s family.
The allegations suggest that Pitino has amazing chutzpah. They also suggest that during a two month period this past spring, Rick Pitino laid one big fat con-job onto the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
The COI needs to leave aside, for a later date, a complete resolution of the depth and width of the Louisville-Adidas Payola Scandal. On a triage basis, it needs to immediately re-open its Louisville Stripper decision rendered four months ago, to revisit it. And, if it finds anew that Pitino was, like Jim Tressell, “not credible” and “hid evidence,” then the COI’s entire decision needs to be re-examined, and new more severe penalties imposed — solely relating to the Stripper case.
(Note: Form 16-2 must be completed each year by each coach by September 15 (according to bylaw 18.4.2, which means Pitino probably signed another such form, just before being suspended.)