UPDATED: 3:49 p.m. EST — Rick Pitino was officially fired from his post as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville on Monday, ESPN reported. The termination came just about three weeks after it was revealed Pitino was allegedly involved in a massive fraud and corruption scandal that included charges of bribing players and recruits.
Rick Pitino’s future as a college basketball coach is in doubt after the University of Louisville fired him Wednesday morning over criminal allegations that include bribing a prized recruit. That much is unquestioned. What is in question, though, is how exactly the NCAA will punish him.
The NCAA, which has many times been likened to a slave master because of how it profits from the free labor of college athletes without compensating them, threw the book at Todd Bozeman back in 1996 after the then-head coach of the University of California, Berkeley, admitted to paying $30,000 to a recruit’s family to travel to games.
Bozeman, who is Black, was hit with an eight-year show-cause order that included stringent stipulations that prevented any college from hiring him without exposing itself to potential negative exposure. The punishment was effectively a ban from coaching college until 2005, when Morgan State University, an the HBCU in Baltimore, hired him at a fraction of his previous salary at Berkeley. Bozeman has gone on record as saying no other school would hire him as a head coach arg the time. Did we mention that it was Bozeman’s first offense?
Meanwhile, Pitino has been flirting with his coaching fate for years now. The Hall of Famer has found himself embroiled in multiple scandals, two of them sexual in nature, but the NCAA has only given him a slap on the wrist with a five-game suspension that he was supposed to begin serving this upcoming season.
While his achievements on the court weren’t nearly as noteworthy as Pitino’s, Bozeman still enjoyed success as a Division I head coach, sending a handful of noteworthy players into the NBA, including Jason Kidd, before he was sent into NCAA basketball purgatory. When he was finally cleared to return to the college coaching ranks, he found that “Only a black school will hire you,” as he told The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon in 2010.
But in major college athletics, as in life, money talks, and Pitino’s multiple Final Fours and a pair of national championships with the University of Kentucky and Louisville, respectively, brought in millions of dollars from sponsorships and wins.
And so, despite being involved in sex and bribery scandals — charges that pale in comparison to Bozeman’s transgression — it’s doubtful Pitino’s return to the sidelines, should he choose one, will be nearly as tumultuous as the Morgan State head coach’s was.
But that, of course, depends on the punishment, now doesn’t it?