LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.
Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.
Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.
Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.
Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.
He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”
Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.
AP Exclusive: Corruption probe prompts reviews of NCAA teams
The spate of arrests, details of under-the-table bribes to teenagers and the expected downfall of one of the sport’s best-known coaches has triggered uncomfortable soul-searching among the institutions at the heart of college basketball, including internal reviews by more than two dozen schools of their own prominent programs.
At stake is the future of a business that, over the span of 22 years ending in 2032, will produce $19.6 billion in TV money for the NCAA Tournament, known to the public, simply, as March Madness.
The NCAA distributes those billions to its conferences and universities, and that figure doesn’t include the millions splashed around by shoe companies, who play an outsized role in the success of the programs and the careers of some of their top players.
More than two dozen universities with major hoops programs — including Louisville, where Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino is in the process of being fired after 16 seasons — have responded to news of the sport’s bribery scandal by conducting internal reviews of their compliance operations.
The Associated Press asked 84 schools, including all the nation’s power programs, and six top conferences about their response to the arrests that upended college hoops mere days before practices for the 2017-18 season began around the country.
Of 63 schools that responded, 28 said the probe prompted their own internal reviews. So did the Pac-12 Conference, which formed a task force to dive into the culture and issues of recruiting.
Among the schools reviewing their programs are Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern California; each had assistant coaches arrested as part of the sting.
The list also includes Alabama, where a review led to the resignation of basketball administrator Kobie Baker but unearthed no NCAA violations, according to school officials.
A representative from one school, St. Johns, told AP the NCAA directed all Division I programs to examine their programs for potential rules violations after the federal complaints were filed. The NCAA declined to comment when asked about that specific directive.
But last week, the NCAA formed a fact-finding commission to be led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with results expected in April — right around the time the NCAA Tournament comes to an end.
“My only piece of advice (to young players), don’t let the process ruin you because we will. I blame myself,” said Tom Izzo of Michigan State, one of the schools conducting a review.
Izzo is convinced players’ circles grow too large as they near the big-time and fill up with too many people with different agendas.
But in an illustration of wide-ranging perceptions of the issue, Michigan State’s cross-state rival, Michigan, said it isn’t conducting an internal review and its coach, John Beilein, said “I don’t think the sky is falling in college basketball.”
“I think that there’s certainly some rogue coaches,” Beilein said. “How many? Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I can’t believe there’s too much of that going out there.”
Michigan, 34 other schools and the Big East Conference said they were not specifically responding to the federal probe. But many of the “no” responses came with the caveat that the school’s athletic department is always reviewing its compliance.
Four conferences and 21 schools declined to respond to the AP’s survey, including one university that declined to respond on the record but acknowledged privately that it was reviewing its program because of the probe.
The vast majority of schools surveyed have shoe deals with Nike, Adidas or Under Armour. A top Adidas marketing executive was among the 10 people arrested, after authorities spent two years untangling schemes, often bankrolled with money from the apparel companies, to steer future NBA players toward particular sports agents and financial advisers. No players were accused of doing anything illegal, but any recruits found taking any improper benefits could lose eligibility to play.
In many corners, the arrests have been portrayed as the government’s response to activities that have long been viewed as business-as-usual in big-time hoops — a long-awaited reckoning with problems the NCAA has been unwilling or unable to rein in.
An announcement Friday by the NCAA that a seven-year-long investigation into academic fraud at North Carolina would result in no sanctions for the Tar Heels did nothing to promote confidence in the body tasked with keeping its sports clean.
The AP also asked universities if they had been contacted by federal or state law enforcement. Only the schools involved in the federal complaints acknowledged being contacted.
That doesn’t mean more isn’t coming. Prosecutors have made clear the probe could widen in scope as the investigation continues.
“I’d say most people agree that this is the tip of the iceberg,” said John Tauer, the coach at St. Thomas in Minnesota, which has won two Division III titles this decade. “Over the next six months to a year, a lot more chips are going to fall, and you’d have to think that schools that aren’t diligent right now could end up paying dearly.”
Tauer, who doubles as a social psychology professor specializing in issues of sports in society, spends a lot of time wrestling with the NCAA rulebook. His task isn’t as high-stakes, though, because scholarship money and big-time shoe deals are essentially nonexistent in Division III.
“As an educator and a coach, you’re certainly disappointed but not shocked to know this kind of thing goes on,” Tauer said. “You hear rumors and stories of things that go on in the underworld of recruiting. You always hope they’re not true, but you probably know, deep down…”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak told a story of losing a hard recruiting battle, and his initial reaction was “at least we didn’t cheat.”
He called it his heat-of-the-moment reaction, though he’s certainly not blind to the issues confronting his sport. When he arrived at Utah in 2011, his two guiding principles were: “We are never going to cheat,” and “We aren’t going to recruit any turds.”
“I wasn’t sure in my lifetime that we were going to see anything of this magnitude where the lid got blown off,” Krystkowiak said. “I was hopeful that at some point somebody’s going to pay the price. Now when you get the feds and the FBI involved, it takes it to a new level.”
Kansas coach Bill Self, whose school is among those conducting an internal review, said he harbors no illusions about what’s at stake.
“This is bigger than us just coming up with ideas, this is us coming up with ideas that can withhold all the headwind that’s going to be coming toward it,” Self said.
College Hoops Contender Series: Where is Kentucky’s scoring going to come from?
Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.
As we have become accustomed to, Kentucky is as talented, as deep and as loaded with high-priority recruits as any team in college basketball.
There are eight former five-star recruits on the roster, three of whom joined the program for the 2016-17 season, as well as another pair of former four-star prospects. The amount of size, length and athleticism on this roster is going to make some NBA teams jealous. There will be times this season where the five Kentucky Wildcats on the floor will be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards. Diallo, who is 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and a 44.5″ vertical, would be the smallest player on the floor, and that’s before you throw P.J. Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones into the mix.
Simply put, this Kentucky team is going to be a nightmare to play against.
They probably won’t be as good as the 2015 team was defensively – I’m not sure people really appreciate just how good Willie Cauley-Stein was as a defender at the college level – but they’ll likely end up being one of the best defensive teams in the country this season. They have size and athleticism at every position, switchable defenders all over the floor and shot-blocking at the rim, and that is before we mention that Kentucky happens to have a coach on the sidelines who is as good as anyone in the sport at getting his players to buy-in to the role he needs them to play.
What they won’t have is someone like Karl-Anthony Towns or Devin Booker, which is where Quade Green, the five-star point guard recruit, comes into play. He’ll be tasked with creating shots – or, as we’ll get into in a second, dunks and layups – for the rest of the roster, and it should not surprise you if much of Kentucky’s offense ends up coming in transition. Since arriving in Lexington, John Calipari has not generally been known as a coach that runs a transition-based attack. The only two times he’s ranked in the top 140 in tempo, according to KenPom, were the years he had De’Aaron Fox and John Wall at the point, but scoring in transition will be easier for this year’s team that scoring against a set defense.
That said, Kentucky won’t have to score much, not with the way this group will be able to defend.
If their defense lives up to its potential, we may be looking at a year where the Wildcats win simply by getting to 60 points.
There are two things that this Kentucky team lacks, both of which have the potential to derail the season for the Wildcats: Veteran leadership and proven offensive weapons.
Let’s start with the former.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the loss of Isaiah Briscoe hurts Kentucky more than the loss of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk or Bam Adebayo. John Calipari planned for those three to head to the NBA after one season. The core tenet of his recruiting philosophy at Kentucky has been to get the best players on his roster to the NBA as quickly as possible and to replace them with a new crop of soon-to-be NBA lottery picks. Fox, Monk and Adebayo are gone but Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo and a handful of five-star big men are on campus.
Briscoe, despite being a five-star recruit in the Class of 2015, didn’t exactly fall under that umbrella. He was a very, very good college player that, predictably, went undrafted back in June after leaving school as a sophomore. Had he returned, he would have been precisely the veteran leader that the Wildcats currently lack; the 2017 version of Darius Miller, if you will.
This may be surprising, but this is going to end up being the youngest, least-experienced Kentucky team that Calipari has ever had as the head coach of the Wildcats. Only one of Kentucky’s nine rotation players from last season returns, and that’s Wenyen Gabriel, who averaged 4.6 points in just under 18 minutes per game. By the time the NCAA tournament rolled around last year, Gabriel was barely cracking double-digit minutes. This is just the second time that Cal has a team with no returnee that averaged more than 18 minutes and the first time that he’s had a team with a leading returning scorer that averaged fewer than 5.0 points. The only other time that was comparable was in 2012-13, when Kyle Wiltjer, who had averaged 5.0 points and 11.6 minutes on the 2012 title-winning team, was the leading-returning scorer, transfers Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays made up the starting back court and a team that lost Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL in February lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.
And there’s a chance this season could end up like that season. The best teams that Kentucky and Duke have produced in the one-and-done era have all featured veterans playing prominent roles. In 2010, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins had junior Patrick Patterson to lean on. Kentucky’s 2012 national title-winning team featured sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb as well as senior Darius Miller in prominent roles. Duke won the title in 2015 in large part due to the fact that Quinn Cook, a former McDonald’s All-American and a three-year starter at the point, played his senior season off the ball.
That would have been the role that Briscoe played for this team.
Instead, we’re looking at Hamidou Diallo being a resident veteran on the Kentucky roster because he enrolled early and redshirted the second semester of the 2016-17 season.
Which leads me to the second issue that this Kentucky team is going to face this year: There isn’t much polish on this roster. There’s talent – Kentucky has eight five-star recruits on the roster, including a pair heading into their sophomore seasons, and two more four-star prospects – but there aren’t many instant impact players, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. In other words, Kentucky has a team full of raw athleticism, players whose potential in the future is more intriguing than what their current production is expected to be.
Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and, when he returns from injury, Jarred Vanderbilt. They all have the kind of long-term potential that will force NBA teams to take notice. None of them are considered to be much of a threat offensively heading into this season.
Think about it like this: In the final minute of a close game, who are you giving the ball to if you are Calipari? Where is that bucket going to come from?
The lack of creators isn’t the only issue, either. Where is the shooting going to come from? How will the Wildcats be able to space the floor? If your answer is Jemarl Baker, then that means you’re pulling Diallo or Vanderbilt off the floor. If the answer is Gabriel, it means Knox is sitting or Kentucky is playing a lineup that features no true post presence.
All told, of the 10 players expected to be in Kentucky’s rotation, six of them play in the front court and two of the guards — Diallo and Gilgeous-Alexander — have major question marks with their ability to shoot the ball. That’s going to be an issue alone, before you factor in the lack of a go-to guy.
The easiest way to phrase the issue is like this: I’m worried that this Kentucky roster features a wealth of role players without one true star.
The that lack of one true star may ultimately end up being the downfall of this group.
In the last ten years, there have been 50 players taken as top five draft picks. Of those 50, 28 were top ten players in their class (all of whom were one-and-dones) and seven more were international prospects, which means that there have only been 15 players drafted in the top five in the last ten seasons that were not top ten prospects in their recruiting class. Of those 15, 13 were sophomores, juniors or seniors. One was Enes Kanter, who arguably should be listed as an international prospect.
The other was D’Angelo Russell, one of the most unique and electrifying offensive talents we’ve seen in college basketball in recent years.
Kentucky has just a single player currently on their roster that ranked in the top ten of their recruiting class in 247 Sports’ composite rankings, and that’s Hamidou Diallo. He was ranked 10th in his class, but as a prospect, he was not enough of a sure thing to keep his name in the 2017 NBA Draft.
To be clear, you don’t have to be a top five pick to carry a great college team, even as a one-and-done. Malik Monk did it. Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow did it. Jamal Murray did it.
But all of those guys were top ten players in their recruiting class. I challenge you to find a freshman that wasn’t a top ten recruit or a top five pick that managed to be the star for a team that contended for a national title. It’s not easy to do, which means that in order for Kentucky to compete for a national title, they will be relying on one of three things to happen this season:
Hamidou Diallo, whose offensive limitations kept him from getting picked where he would have liked to be picked in June, turning into a superstar at this level.
Wenyen Gabriel or Sacha Killeya-Jones turning into a star as a sophomore in college.
One of Kentucky’s other freshmen having a season that, essentially, is unprecedented; Russell’s 2015 Ohio State team was a No. 10 seed entering the NCAA tournament.
That’s the bet that you’re making when you pick the Wildcats to get to the 2018 Final Four.
NCAA’s North Carolina ruling devalues scholarship, ‘student’-athlete even further
There is no NCAA by-law that would have allowed the Committee on Infractions to bring the hammer down on North Carolina.
In April of 2014, the Division I Legislative Council clarified academic misconduct rules, saying “academic standards and policies governing misconduct are the responsibility of individual schools and their accreditation body,” and that “the membership’s position that it is a school’s responsibility to decide whether or not misconduct involving current or future student-athletes or school staff has occurred.”
The COI could not determine that the “courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” because they weren’t. They were created by a rogue professor. The athletic department found out those classes existed. Student-athletes took advantage of a fake class the way the rest of the student body at-large did. The fake classes were not created specifically for those student-athletes.
That distinction is critical, because it represents the difference between the scandal falling under NCAA jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the agency tasked with accrediting the University of North Carolina as something other than a diploma mill.
That’s why this was tried as an extra benefits case.
That was the only way that the NCAA had a shot of getting North Carolina. That failed, mainly because this effort from doomed from the start.
North Carolina spent $18 million on lawyers and would have spent $18 million more to keep those banners from coming down, and there was nothing that three-and-a-half years of investigation could do to change it.
They were never going to win this fight, and frankly, the NCAA probably should have cut their losses a long time ago.
But arguing about whether or not this ruling was actually fair misses the forest for the trees.
Because the NCAA just admitted that they have no ability to enforce whether or not their member institutions are actually willing or capable of providing their “student”-athletes with the education that is supposed to be their compensation for playing their sport.
That is the fundamental argument for amateurism, correct?
That’s the reason why all the sponsorship money, advertising dollars and TV contract revenue in college athletics goes directly to the schools, the administrators and the coaches, right?
“We don’t have to give them more, we don’t have to allow athletes to be able to profit off of their name or their likeness or their talent because we’re giving them this incredible opportunity to educate themselves for free!”
What good is a $212,000 diploma from the University of North Carolina if you do not get the education that is supposed to come with it?
What this ruling did, for all to see, was cede the NCAA’s control of that over to the schools. They have no power to punish a university that decides they care less about the quality of the education that their student-athletes receive and more about the grades those players get. Keeping them eligible is the priority. Always has been, always will be. Keeping them available for practices and games and midweek trips from Boston to Miami, or LA to Seattle, or Morgantown to Waco takes precedence over a lecture course that happens to be held when conference games are played.
That’s why you see athletes clustered within a major. It’s the easiest one to get good grades in and it makes scheduling practices that everyone can attend that much more manageable, and that’s to say nothing of online classes, where you can never actually be sure who is doing the work.
And frankly, that’s how college works. Everyone with a degree has a story or five about the easy class they took in college, about the way they finagled an ‘A’ out of a bowling class or the way they buoyed their GPA by taking a 100-level class on Coaching Basketball. It’s almost a rite of passage.
This isn’t the place to discuss the preparedness that these student-athletes have for taking college-level courses, either, although it is worth mentioning that part of the reason these athletes get funneled into easy classes in college is because far too many of them were funneled into easy classes at high schools that aren’t exactly known for their academic prowess to make sure they stayed eligible to play, eligible to accept that scholarship when it comes along. Using college courses as compensation, as a salary, creates a situation where players are being paid in a way that they are incapable of extracting value from.
It would be like NBC paying my salary in Raffi cassette tapes. What the hell am I going to do when that direct deposit hits?
But all of that is beside the point.
If possible, the NCAA proved on Friday that it is even more useless than we previously believed.
Amateurism is their rule, and by proxy the rule that these schools want. It exists because an education is supposed to be enough of a salary, but if the association doesn’t actually have any power to determine whether or not the compensation NCAA student-athletes receive from their school actually has any value, what the hell is the point?
We know amateurism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which means that we are going to have to trust that these universities are willing to police themselves, that they are going to prioritize an athlete’s education over their eligibility. North Carolina, which ranks as the 30th best university in America, according to U.S. News and World Report, and the 13th best non-Ivy League school with a Division I sports program, had 18 years of fraudulent classes result in a punishment from an accreditation agency of a one-year probationary period.
One year probation!
What’s more, North Carolina dodged punishment by stating that they were perfectly OK with the fake classes. The NCAA doesn’t have the authority to punish schools for academic impropriety, so while North Carolina admitted what they were doing was the opposite of what a university is supposed to do, all they had to do was say, “But we’re cool with it,” and they were home free.
Just read this.
“With respect to paper courses, there is little dispute,” the NCAA report on the case states. “The classes did not meet. They rarely, if at all, directly involved a faculty member. They required the submission of a paper, occasionally two shorter papers. The papers were often graded by the secretary, who admitted she did not read every word and occasionally did not read every page. The papers consistently received high grades. At the hearing, UNC stood by its paper courses. UNC indicated that the work was assigned, completed, turned in and graded under the professor’s guidelines. UNC also asserted that the grades are recorded on the students’ transcripts and continue to count.”
If that can happen at a school as highly-regarded as North Carolina is, what happens at the 338 Division I programs that are ranked below them?
If the NCAA doesn’t have quality control over the education, and an accrediting agency hands down that meek of a punishment for 18 years worth of fake classes, where is the incentive for a university to give those athletes the education that you all keep telling me is so important and is so valuable?
N.C. State freshman Beverly sandbagged by NCAA, ruled ineligible in transfer dispute
On the same day that the NCAA announced that they will not be handing down any punishment of note to North Carolina for an academic scandal that helped keep players on two different national title-winning teams eligible, they also alerted N.C. State to the fact that incoming freshman Braxton Beverly will be ineligible to play this season for going to class.
Here’s what happened.
Beverly, who is not a top 100 prospect but a three-star point guard, signed an LOI with Ohio State in November of last year. After Thad Matta was fired, he asked for, and received, a release from the Buckeyes. A month later, signed with the Wolfpack; his head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, A.W. Hamilton, was hired as an assistant coach by new N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts, who was himself the head coach at Hargrave until 2011.
The problem here is that the coaching change at Ohio State happened in early June, nearly a month after Ohio State’s summer sessions began on May 10th. Beverly, who received his release on June 30th, attended summer classes in Columbus on the assumption that the coaching staff that had recruited him to Ohio State would be coaching him at Ohio State. Since he attended those classes, he is no longer a prospect asking out of an LOI. In the NCAA’s eyes, he’s a freshman looking to transfer.
Firings don’t typically happen in June, and they don’t typically happen three months and zero games after an athletic director unequivocally states his support for his head coach.
That’s what happened with Ohio State.
Beverly was duped.
But since the NCAA makes it so clear that nothing matters to them more than the sanctity of being a student-athlete, Beverly, barring a victory in appeal, is going to have to spend his freshman season riding the pine.
NCAA infractions panel could not conclude academic violations in North Carolina case
If the NCAA’s investigation into North Carolina were a college student, it would have graduated a semester early.
On Friday morning, three-and-a-half years – and three Notices of Allegation – after the NCAA opened an investigation into alleged academic impropriety by the North Carolina athletic department and seven years after investigators first began looking into the UNC football program, we finally got an answer.
The NCAA infractions panel could not conclude that North Carolina committed academic violations. What the panel found was two violations: “the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.”
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” said Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”
The NCAA was unable to determine whether or not academic fraud occurred at North Carolina due to an NCAA principle that states that individual member schools are responsible for policing themselves. It is on the school itself to determine if academic fraud is happening on their campus.
Beyond that, the NCAA also determined that the paper classes were not impermissible benefits.
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” said Sankey. “Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”
The panel also determined that North Carolina did not fail to monitor or lack institutional control over the athletic department.
The NCAA charged North Carolina with five Level I violations, including a lack of institutional control, although none of the coaches at the school – including Roy Williams – were charged with any wrongdoing.
The focus of the investigation were independent study-style courses in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. They were identified as lecture classes, but the classes didn’t actually meet. They only required a research paper or two, and the NCAA alleged that the typically high grades were used to keep athletes eligible.
Former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein released an independent investigation into the scandal, and by his estimate more than half of the 3,100 students that enrolled in those course from 1993-2011 were Tar Heel athletes.
The football program was sanctioned in March of 2012 in the NCAA’s initial case, but in the summer of 2014, the investigation was reopened. North Carolina received the first Notice of Allegations in May of 2015, with subsequent NOA’s arriving in April and December of 2016. The main difference in the three was how the NCAA viewed some of the academic issues. Initially, they were considered improper benefits – access to courses and assistance in those courses not available to regular students – but that charge was removed in the second NOA only to be refiled in the third.
UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction in this matter. They contend that this is a school issue, one that should be handled by its accreditation agency – they already hit the school with a year of probation. UNC’s argument, which will likely be the crux of their appeal, is that the NCAA is overstepping their jurisdiction. The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”
UNC also argued that athletes did not receive special treatment since the classes were open to the public while challenging the number of athlete enrollments Wainstein came up with. He counted athletes who were no longer team members. The accurate figure is less than 30 percent, the school said.