Louisville/Adidas Payola Scandal, Pitino Chutzpah, Mandate Re-Opening Stripper Case

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.)



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Hard Cider Recipe for Knuckleheads


German Hard Apple Cider [“Apfelwein”] for Knuckleheads  

Fall is coming on. If you plan right, you can have some excellent hard cider, with little effort, by the time of the 2nd or 3rd weekend of college football.


You can’t screw up this recipe, it’s so simple — and the hard cider is, needless to say, excellent. [Sir Charles Barkley was interviewed toward the end of his career, and was asked how the recent playing days compared to when he started out. His response: “When I was younger, I could carry all the other knuckeheads on my own team; now I just can’t carry the knuckleheads.”] This recipe is for knuckleheads. Continue reading

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The House of Cards Pitino Built: Louisville Lessons for Coaches and AD’s

Last week’s NCAA decision to sanction Louisville for hosting prostitution and stripper parties in its basketball dorm was more than a sex case, though you couldn’t tell that from the decision issued by the Committee on Infractions.


Like the 1930’s-era Chinatown cops known for (as Jack Nicholson quipped in the movie) arresting Chinamen for “spittin’ in the laundry,” the NCAA ended up fiddling and diddling on some small stuff. But their Louisville decision has some important lessons for coaches and athletic directors: Continue reading

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NCAA: UCF Kicker De La Haye Can Promote Nike, Not Himself

UCF football kicker Donald De la Haye has a lively ‘vlog’ where he described his recent encounter with the UCF compliance office, which told him that he can no longer operate that vlog and receive money for it.

According to de la Haye, who has an obvious charismatic presence on camera, UCF compliance has told him that he “can’t make it obvious that” he “is a student-athlete,” because that means [he] is using his likeness and image to make money.” Continue reading

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Bowlsby’s Bye Bye Ms. Amateurism Pie and NCAA Spooky Action at a Distance

About a month ago I think I glimpsed some NCAA spooky action at a distance – just a momentary flash, really, like some subliminal image across a movie screen. Then it disappeared. Spooky.


It happened at the May 1 annual D.C. confab of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and it was Big 12 commissioner and major NCAA Talking Head Bob Bowlsby who did it. Bowlsby, apparently, drove his Chevy to the levee, found the levee was dry, and then fired off the shot which (so far) nobody has heard ’round the world.

I take issue,” Bowlsby said, “with the characterization of college athletes as amateurs.”

I started singing bye, bye Miss Amateurism Pie Continue reading

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Watch Knight Commission and Arne Duncan Go Off the Rails Again Tomorrow

Foundations are endowed by capitalists who had a lot of excess cash when they died and who, before they died, wanted to make sure that a good chunk of the cash they made off the labor of others might ‘pay forward’ to others, perhaps even the offspring of those whose labor built that capitalist’s fortune.

The Knight family wanted to do good when they endowed the Knight Foundation. And their money has done some good for college athletics. But KF has gotten co-opted. They actually think that the current operation and structure of the NCAA has merit. Continue reading

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Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes Interviews Marvin Miller about a Final Four Players’ Strike

(Below is an entirely fictional interview, conducted by Wisconsin basketball player Nigel Hayes, of the late, great economist and sports labor pioneer Marvin Miller, on the question of a March Madness Final Four Player’s Strike.)

Nigel Hayes: Well, Mr. Miller, I know you’ve only been gone for three years, but you’ve probably been keeping an eye on things, so you probably know that there’s been a lot of unrest and talk about giving big-time college athletes more power, and even pay. What do you think we should do?

Marvin Miller: Call me Marvin. It’s odd, really, you big-time college players, right now, in so many ways, you’re just like my major league baseball players when they hired me on a shoestring back in ’67. No money. No power. No leader. Lots of country-poor blacks, doin’ all the work. They couldn’t pay me, so I ginned-up some money through their baseball card contracts – which paid ’em only $125 a year, believe it or not. Bought and sold and bullied — that’s what they were. Continue reading

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Why Michigan’s Beilein Should Be Calling Ten Other Coaches With $20 Million Contracts

A confession: It’s been hard for me to abide Michigan’s head basketball coach John Beilein. It started when I attended a Harvard-Michigan game six or seven years ago at tiny Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. It’s a small venue, no bigger than the Ann Arbor high school gym. I sat directly behind the Michigan bench and watched as, three or four times during the game, coach Beilein insisted upon loudly, and with much remonstration, addressing and grandly instructing some player he had just pulled from the lineup, using elaborate hand-and-arm gestures, to make clear to that pulled-player how badly he had just executed some fine art of basketball upon which Beilein had surely – the little sideline skit was meant to tell the crowd – previously repeatedly instructed that player.


It was a petty little performance. And the faces on his team when, for example, they were assembled for a time-out ‘huddle,’ seemed bemused, distant, but wary of provoking Beilein’s wrath – and also ever-so-slightly contemptuous of his sanctimony. The great Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics always insisted that all coaching instruction be reserved for practice days; on game days, he wanted his players to perform. Mack, a hard-nosed man of dignity, grace, and compassion, was also aware that -in-game correction or instruction of players could easily be interpreted by attentive fans as an effort to show-up that player.

And then I heard Lukey Bonner describe his experience a decade ago as a freshman player at WVU years ago, when Beilein was the head coach there. Out of the blue, toward the end of the year, Beilein came to him and requested, with a straight face, that Bonner ‘take a red-shirt year.’ As Bonner described it, he said ‘NO!’ He’d never once heard the notion of red-shirting before, and he had no intention to do it then. Bonner later transferred. The story confirmed for me: Beilein, an approximately decent man, succeeds because he can don that hard-heart, which demands that he confront and pressure a young player suddenly to red-shirt, or openly scold a player before a crowd. But also, I’ve recently learned, ignore the patent duty of care he owes to his players — and his duty to react with moral force, in the face of revealed adversity.

Beilein has continued to engage in those little grandiose sideline skits which, apparently unbeknownst to him, make obvious to the public that he has some need to demonstrate that he’s not to blame for foul-ups by his players. He used this same overt, in-game show-up of his players during Michigan’s defeat of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on March 11th.

But I will take an entirely contrary position about the need for immediate instruction, if not scolding, correction, or sanction, when it comes to obvious errors in the conduct of sports administration, particularly as regards endangering the lives of players. Specifically, with regard to the airplane accident in which the Michigan team was involved at Willow Run airport in Ypsilanti as they were attempting to fly to Washington DC for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last week, in which the winds were 60 to 70 miles an hour. The tower at the airport was shut down. There were no good reasons for any prudent person to allow that plane, containing very valuable, high-profile big-time college players, to travel to the Big Ten Tournament.

But there were very strong personal, financial and professional reasons for characters like John Beilein and his boss, Warde Manuel, to have that plane give it a rip, and try to take off, to get to DC, despite that extraordinary storm — even though doing so meant that they needlessly endangered the lives of their players. Both men get bonuses for winning the Big Ten tournament, and for qualifying for the NCAA tournament. No bonuses are given for the players on the court who do all this ‘qualifying.’

The plane lifted off, and the wheels went up. But then the wheels went down, and the plane skidded across the runway. Some players were injured – none seriously, thank god. All players were shaken.

It was the Mad Bull of Triumph and Profit, in the person of Coach Beilein and AD Manuel, which attempted that lift-off. Somebody should be subject to serious sanction for having subjected those Michigan players to that risk.

If you think that I make this conclusion merely because of the obvious, if not terrifying risk to which Manuel and Beilein subjected their players, then you are wrong. It is also because Manuel (who might have been on the plane) and Beilein (who surely was) carried massive amounts of their own life insurance, provided as a part of their employment contracts: millions of dollars in life insurance.

Do you know how much life insurance Michigan procures for each of its players whose lives were risked last week? — $25,000. A dipshit, shit-ass, spit-in-your-eye $25,000 life insurance policy. That’s all.

Let’s take a quick breath. The NCAA makes a billion dollars on March Madness — the same March Madness tournament which propelled Beilein and Manuel to make the cavalier, devil-may-care-but-also-may-get-March-Madness-invite decision to make that plane aim to get airborne.

And as these sordid events unfolded at Willow Run, the Michigan loyal fans were engaged in some odd fund-raising mechanism, which was directed toward increasing by $100,000 the amount which might possibly be pledged to the ‘Chad Tough’ campaign which has long operated, to fund a UMich hospital effort to fight the kind of cancer which killed former football coach Lloyd Carr’s grandson recently. The $100,000, all literature and tweets suggested, was somehow to be atributed to that saintly Michigan coach: John Beilein. This is all decent, noble, and kind. It is also a process fed by the ego and narcissism of John Beilein.  

Beilein should be raising money to expand the amount of  insurance coverage available to his players, and also expanding his efforts to  change NC double A regulations to allow such increased coverage. How could I possibly make that conclusion?  

Beilein likes being a charitable icon, if not hero. Everyone likes Chad Tough. But Beilein took his eye off the ball. I want to have a sideline conference with him as the crowd watches, and I wave my arms, and contort my face, as Beilein likes to do, to ask him how anyone in their right mind, in that setting, could do what he’s done. How could he possibly have:

1) allowed that plane to try to take off, in those terrible winds – and did that decision have anything to do with the ‘incentive’ bonuses to which Beilein would be entitled if the team went to the tournament?

2) not immediately become an advocate for radical increase in insurance for big time players. Beilein professes to have been shaken by the plane crash. But he wasn’t. Beilein wears silk ties. He makes big money. He’s an aristocrat, like those same British aristocrats who founded a phony ‘amateurism’ in 1866, and which began paying its players by 1867. Beilein did not emerge from the event as a new man, or with any new insight. It never dawned upon him that he might now be precisely the right person of power and bully pulpit, able to use his sway to lobby for money to fund appropriate, substantially increased, levels of insurance for his players, to whom he had subjected rather extraordinary risk. Instead, Beilein basks in a Chad Tough glow, and waxes eloquent about his player’s toughness in the face of adversity.  

John Beilein? Warde Manuel? Anybody home? Moral outrage? Tremble for your players and their parents, other than little lip service at some fawning press conference? John Beilein, have you been on the phone the last 3 or 4 nights, to ten NCAA coaches who also have $20 million contracts, and massive life insurance policies, to persuade them that immediate new legislation is needed, to provide all players with, not $25,000 in death benefit coverage, but $250,000?

Suppose that that plane had actually took off but then was grounded by the extraordinary storm which had overtaken the Midwest, and that all of Michigan’s 12 scholarship players were then killed in the plane crash – much as occurred when the Marshall University football team went down back in 1971. Maybe John Beilein would think beyond his own bank account, and be a force for change? 

Time for a TO, John Beilein and Warde Manuel. What were you thinking? 

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Elegy For the Dying College Athlete Employee: NLRB General Counsel, Dashing Out the Door, Gets Valiant

NLRB General Counsel Griffin has obviously been stewing. A year ago, the NLRB had decided they just wanted to keep drinking PBR’s in their banquette out back, up ’til closing time. There wasn’t, they decreed, any reason to do anything at all different. What, after all, their decision on the Northwestern union-cert campaign pronounced, is at all wrong with, well . . . just keeping things the way they are?

Griffin knew, when they did it, how cowardly were those NLRB members. Maybe, even (and we will never know), he might’ve cornered one or two of them, sprinting to catch the Metro: “How,” he might’ve challenged them, “How, ‘could you walk away from this, the way you have?’

But they are hurried. There are other things in their lives. Kids, soccer out in Fairfax County. A great outdoor concert somewhere close by, in all the steam. It’s easy and, really, how important could any of this all, possibly, be?

So General Counsel Griffin decides. It’s late one night, and he knows that he has some slight heft, what he puts out on press release will get a broad read.  A broad read. So he gives it a rip.

Griffin, the flaks then say, says that college athletes are employees. They are so oppressively controlled, Griffins says, that they must be employees of those private colleges.

Griffin is right. But he’s wrong. The arc of governance is now working hard and fast against him, and Griffin will soon be a footnote. He will, a couple years later, maybe have some fellow find him, maybe a law school classmate, out in the left field bleachers at Nationals Park on a steamy DC evening out, or maybe at Wolf Trap — and the guy will pop him, because it’s been a while: what, the fellow with two blue cups in his hands will wonder — what  happened with all the NLRB stuff, and the college player employees?

It might be 2018. Maybe ’19. But the NLRB is no close relative, any longer, of what Griffin knew in early 2017.  There’s a whole new regime, they blew it all up. It was worse than Taft-Hartley in 1948. Mostly, it’s all gone, really. These NLRB guys now, they’re all scared, hedgehogs, running from burrow to burrow, and unions, basically, are dead.

“Employees?” Griffin responds. “Employees? Nah. Not really” It was, he mutters to himself, “it was all,”  thinking of Joni Mitchell –“it was all just a dream some of us had.”

Copyright William Wilson 2017



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What the Puck

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