CBS: Pitino may be involved in NCAA corruption scheme

“If you’re the head coach, you’re supposed to know what’s going on,” analyst Betsy Ross tells Cincinnati’s WXIX in regard to the NCAA corruption probe. CBS reported earlier today that the FBI concurs, even though no head coaches have been indicted in the case … yet. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is an unnamed co-conspirator in the indictment, according to CBS, which may be why Louisville has him on the fast track to the brickyard:

University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino hasn’t been charged with any crimes, but CBS News has learned he is the man referred to in court documents as “Coach-2,” someone who may have had a role in sending illegal payments to the family of a highly-prized recruit, reports CBS News’ Dana Jacobson.

The federal bribery investigation into men’s college basketball appears to have cost the Hall of Fame coach his job. The University of Louisville placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave Wednesday and his lawyer said he had “in effect, been fired.” …

Federal prosecutors allege executives at Adidas funneled $100,000 to the family of a recruit, believed to be Brian Bowen, to play basketball at Louisville – a program Adidas sponsors.

Investigators allege Pitino, identified in court filings as “Coach-2,” spoke with an Adidas executive on the phone three times in what may have been an attempt to get Bowen’s family additional money.

If that’s the case, why hasn’t Pitino been indicted? For that matter, why have no head coaches been arrested? The Washington Post’s Will Hobson predicts that it’s only a matter of time before that happens as more underlings come under pressure to cooperate. This scandal will only get bigger and bigger, Hobson expects:

How far the fallout from this investigation extends — how many schools, coaches and athletes will be implicated — likely depends on a series of conversations that will take place over the next few months between prosecutors and lawyers for the 10 men arrested late Monday and Tuesday on charges that include conspiracies to commit money laundering, wire fraud and bribery.

In those discussions, according to those familiar with federal investigations, prosecutors probably will apply pressure as they seek evidence against the people not named in the complaints unsealed Tuesday: “Senior Executive-1” with the apparel company later identified as Adidas; “Coach-2,” who works at the university later identified as Louisville; and others at schools referred to without descriptions who apparently also were bidding for players.

The probe will almost certainly expand to other schools — and other corporate sponsors:

In one wiretapped conversation described in the complaint, Adidas executive Jim Gatto discussed paying one high school player $100,000 and then was informed by an underling that another school — sponsored by a rival apparel company — was willing to pay $150,000.

This raises even more questions about how widespread this scandal will become. One big question that has yet to be raised in the public debate: why should we assume it’s limited to the NCAA basketball program? The same incentive structures are in place in NCAA football — corporate sponsorships, TV advertising, lucrative coaching contracts, and opportunities for agents and personal managers. The stakes might be higher in hoops as team size makes individual player recruitment more impactful, but football recruitment is every bit as competitive. At this point, we can’t trust that the NCAA has policed its football program any better than it apparently did in basketball.

Here’s the full segment with Ross on WXIX, making the point that it exceeds rational belief that transactions involving six figures would not have some connection to the people who run these programs. She also explains why Pitino has not yet been fired, but why he and others are likely on their way out.

Jazz Shaw Aug 10, 2022 8:01 AM ET