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Rick Pitino protests NCAA ruling on scandal

Pitino believes the NCAA’s punishment is too severe

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Rick Pitino calls stripper parties, "the greatest hidden thing ever in my lifetime." Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Many have suggested that Rick Pitino's lack of knowledge of the stripper parties in Billy Minardi Hall should have prevented him from the jolt of NCAA sanctions personally.

In protesting his NCAA suspension for five ACC games, Pitino again claimed to have no knowledge of the incidents. He referred to the parties as "the greatest hidden thing ever in my lifetime."

In a prepared statement Louisville's Interim President Greg Postel said, "This ruling is also unfair to Coach Pitino, who we believe could not have known about the illicit activities."

Pitino's attorney, Scott Tompsett, said this in a statement through USA Today, "Today’s decision breaks with established head coach control precedent and imposes a standard of strict liability."

But the precedent of holding coaches responsible for their staff and their players is well established. It has a history that dates back to the point shaving scandals of the early 1950's.

The NCAA made it clear it had no evidence Pitino had direct knowledge of the fourteen parties where the strippers and hookers were present. But they did rule that Pitino had put Andre McGee in a position where he had control over activities, even though McGee was just one year out of school himself. McGee was put in charge of a group that were essentially his peers, and clearly he did not have the maturity to control the situation.

The NCAA sanctions report says, “He essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dormitory. Further, he delegated responsibility for monitoring the former operations director to his assistant coaches, who later stated they were unaware it was their job.”

When Kentucky was dealing with the fallout of the 1951 point shaving scandal, the NCAA put a great deal of pressure on the school to fire Coach Adolph Rupp. But at that time, the NCAA had less power to punish coaches. Rupp, who had no knowledge of the actions of the players shaving points, refused to retire and the university did not fire him. So Rupp remained at Kentucky and rebuilt the program while other schools involved in that scandal went as far as giving up college basketball completely.

Although Rupp remained as coach, UK did abide by other rulings the NCAA handed down concerning other issues. It was the first time any school had allowed the NCAA power over their program. And it was the first time a coach felt the wrath of the NCAA.

NCAA pressure on coaches to oversee their programs is not a new thing. In more recent years several coaches have been given suspensions in similar situations. They also claimed to have no knowledge of the scandals that brought the NCAA to their door. The list of suspended coaches includes Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown, who were suspended nine games. Jim Calhoun was suspended three games.

Pitino is at the top of the program at Louisville and he is responsible for the actions of his staff. He has no grounds to complain about his personal suspension. That bird just won't fly.