Pitino wants to count unused 2016 scholarships toward penalties

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Rick Pitino thinks he may have found a way to immediately satisfy the scholarship limitations Louisville self-imposed as part of the aftermath of the Katina Powell bombshell.

Instead of taking away one scholarship in 2017 and another in 2018 like originally announced, Pitino wants to take away the open scholarship Louisville hasn’t filled in 2016 and perhaps a second if Chinanu Onuaku stays in the NBA Draft, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, citing an interview Pitino gave on 93.9 FM in Louisville.

That move, clearly, would not be in the spirit of the scholarship reduction, given it was intended to punish a program that allegedly had a staffer paying for prostitutes for recruits. Taking away one or two scholarships that aren’t being used anyway isn’t much of a punishment at all.

Now, of course, Louisville could still conceivably use one or both of those scholarships this season, so taking them away does eliminate that possibility. But we’re in the middle of May and the recruiting and transfer pool isn’t exactly deep at this point. And if Pitino is publicly saying he’d be fine with dumping the extra scholarships now, it’s a pretty clear indication he believes the scholarships are of more use to his program down the line that in the here-and-now.

Would counting unused scholarships in the 2016 class fulfill Louisville’s self-imposed obligations? By the letter of the law, probably. But just like when a school sidesteps NCAA punishment by banning itself from postseason play in a year where they’re not headed there anyway (here’s looking at you, Syracuse), it’s a pretty transparent attempt to pay public penance without actually feeling the sting of the punishment.