Heard any good jokes lately? There are plenty floating around out there about Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals basketball team.
In case you have been living under a rock for two weeks, here is a rundown of what has taken place:
- On Friday October 2nd, a previously unknown self-described madam named Katina Powell released a book entitled "Breaking Cardinal Rules" which detailed salacious accounts of Powell working with Louisville assistant basketball coach Andre McGee in securing and paying for escorts to have sex with basketball players and recruits. This ignited a firestorm and forced Rick Pitino and Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich to address the media, ensuring everyone that they knew nothing of the events detailed in the book and that they were taking the appropriate steps to work with the NCAA in finding out the truth.
- During the next week, co-author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dick Cady did numerous interviews with Louisville newspaper columnists and radio hosts defending the book, Katina Powell and what seemed to be shoddy reporting. Cady came off as dismissive and arrogant. This gave Louisville fans hope that possibly none of the information in the book was accurate. All the while, the University itself never once issued a statement denying the details in the book.
- On Wednesday, October 7th, Ohio State confirmed that the NCAA questioned freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle about his part in the book which stated that Lyle partook in the services of the escorts during an official visit with Louisville when he was a recruit. Lyle committed to Louisville soon after his visit but later opted to spurn the Cardinals and decommit. After flirting with Oregon for a bit, he became a Buckeye in the end.
- On Thursday, October 8th, Gary Parrish published a story in which he interviewed an unnamed source within the NCAA that stated that Lyle confirmed the "gist" of the details of the book concerning his visit to Louisville. Later that same day, Eric Crawford of WDRB.com released another story in which a former player confirmed that there were indeed strippers in the dorms on one occasion, but he never witnessed money exchanged or sex taking place. He did admit that players threw dollar bills at the strippers.
- Also on October 8th, Rick Pitino was interviewed by Louisville radio host Terry Meiners. In the interview, Pitino was steadfast in his resolution to not resign. He also expressed dismay that Louisville president James Ramsey did not give support to Pitino in a released statement. The Cardinal coach also acted as if he had not heard news of the Lyle situation that rocked the city earlier that day.
There is still a great deal of information in the book that has yet to be confirmed. Nobody is certain about where Andre McGee received the money to pay for the services in question and there are plenty of former Louisville players and coaches that are saying that they never saw anything like what Katina Powell described in her book.
But what we do know is that something certainly took place at the University of Louisville and it involved recruits along with questionable women. How deep does it go? That's a question that won't be answered for quite a long time. The NCAA generally takes its time on such cases, and if law enforcement gets involved, the case could drag on for a year or more.
As Kentucky fans, we are left in a strange position. Louisville is our most hated rival, one that trumps that of even the Duke Blue Devils. This disdain has to do with the proximity of the schools and the heated relationship between the fan bases, particularly the fans that live and work side by side in Jefferson County.
The knee-jerk reaction is to laugh, make jokes, and rejoice at the turmoil that the Louisville basketball team and fans are now facing. After all, the history is quite extensive. Once John Calipari arrived in Lexington, all we heard from Louisville fans were comment such as: "It's only a matter of time before Cal gets busted for cheating"; "The only thing Kentucky fans care about is winning, they'll hire anyone"; "Pay Pal Cal will have them on probation and then skip town for the NBA".
It never stopped. No matter the success of Kentucky and Calipari, we kept hearing the same thing over and over again: Cal cheats, it's just a matter of time until he gets caught.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, so it seems. It's Louisville, not Kentucky, that is under the NCAA microscope for allegations that improper benefits in the form of sex that workers were given to players and recruits. It feels pretty good to be vindicated, right?
But why don't I feel good about it? Yeah, I've been laughing at the memes and gifs on Twitter, and the circumstances are so ridiculous that all one can do is laugh. Add the fact that some of the UofL bloggers, radio hosts, and fans have their heads dug so deep in the sand I wonder how it is that they are breathing. The excuses and conspiracies range from questioning the creation of an LLC by the book's publishing company to the accusation that Tom Crean and IU are involved because of hard feelings over a former assistant coach that is now at Louisville.
But then I think about the accusations involved. Katina Powell says in her book that she pimped out her underaged daughters, one as young as 15, to the basketball players. There are stories of alcohol and drug use, all involving minors.
On top of it all you have the legacy of Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino. Yes, Pitino hasn't endeared himself well to Kentucky fans during his time at Louisville, but never forget that Pitino pulled the Wildcats out of the quagmire of the repercussions of their own NCAA scandal in the late eighties and early nineties. Pitino is a proud man if nothing else, and it is tough to see him so beaten down. I honestly do not think that Pitino knew what was going on and that has to be crushing to the man. Not only was he lied to by people he cared about, but a coach known as a perfectionist, someone that knows the minutia of every detail on the court, was caught blindsided by a scandal in his front yard.
I have family and friends that are Louisville friends and I don't know what to say to them. I did not send any mocking texts and I didn't make any "I told you so" phone calls. I didn't even bring it up to my colleagues at work because I didn't know how to broach the subject without seeming like a jerk.
And this experience also goes to show that no matter how much you think you know the team you root for and the players on that team, you have no idea what goes on with young men once they are not being watched by authority figures. As someone working in education, I am responsible for the children in the classroom and in the school building, but once they leave my care they are on their own. Hopefully, they are under watchful eyes of parents, but even that is not a guarantee that they will make the right decisions.
The truth is we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. And this situation could have easily happened at Kentucky, or Duke, or Kansas, or Memphis, or any other school in the country. This time, it just so happened to take place at the school we dislike a great deal.
So laugh, joke, experience the inevitable schadenfreude that comes with this: but don't think for a second you know what's going on at Kentucky. I have faith that John Calipari and Mark Stoops are running clean programs with exemplary athletes representing those teams, but faith is a type of trust and trust can be broken.
I'm a big believer in karma, and karma always rears its head when you least expect it. So let's try our best to keep things in perspective as this series of unfortunate events play out. There's a chance that I will slip up now and then, especially when I'm in my circle of Kentucky fan friends. It's only natural.