University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich are out in the wake of the school’s latest scandal. Officially, both men have been put on leave, though that appears to be a mere formality, as the university weighs its legal options as the federal investigation into bribery and illegal payments to college basketball recruits continues.
Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel joined The Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio Wednesday and said the Hall of Fame coach had no chance of keeping his job after this latest scandal.
“I mean they are already on probation for having escorts in the players dorms for recruiting visits, almost anybody else would have been fired for that,” Wetzel said. “So then months later, to get hit on a charge where the FBI apparently has a video of a meeting in a Vegas hotel room with one of the Louisville assistants, and a sneaker rep, and an agent, where they’re talking about $100,000 and a recruit they ended up getting… There was just no way he could survive, that’s it.”
The latest scandal all but cements that Pitino’s legacy in the sport will be a complex one.
“He’s an incredible basketball coach. Won two titles. Revolutionized the game early on with the commitment to the three pointer,” Wetzel said. “But the scandals are just immense. I mean you had the extortion deal. The woman at the restaurant. The abortion. The prostitutes. And you got this. So a colorful career, if there ever was one, out of Rick Pitino.”
Pitino has denied having any knowledge of the payment scheme that helped land him one of the nation’s top recruits. Asked whether it was possible for Pitino to not know if one of his assistants was doing something like that without his knowledge, Wetzel was skeptical.
“I think the only way you don’t know is if you choose to not know. I mean he’s been recruiting for 40 years. Everybody in college basketball knows how this works,” Wetzel said. “This is not breaking news that agents and financial planners and shoes companies are dictating where things are going. So if you’re in the finals for a top-10 player in America, you can’t just sit there and go, ‘wow we’re lucky we’re in this,’ you’ve got to know why you’re in this.”
Wetzel’s spoken to a lot of college basketball coaches since the FBI announced the charges. Some were happy to see the game is being cleaned up. Others have gone radio silent. But almost all of them understand that recruiting is too often a dirty game—something Wetzel knows all to well, having written the book Sole Influence with Don Yaeger 17 years ago.
“[Blue-chip recruits] don’t pick a school by accident, that’s not how it works,” Wetzel explained. “It’s not believable, it’s not plausible that a kid out of the blue says I want to come to the University of Louisville from Saginaw, Michigan, that’s not how it works. To not know is because you don’t want to know. Everybody knows how this thing works. Everyone in college basketball knows, and you can’t play plausible deniability and just say geez these kids just show up, they must really love us.”