A federal investigation could lead to the downfall of several prominent college basketball programs, including Louisville, due to a fraud and bribery scheme involving student-athletes, agents, and Adidas, among other entities.
“I could see Rick Pitino being forced to resign soon,” CBS Sports college basketball columnist Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “If Rick Pitino is the head coach at Louisville a week from now, I’ll frankly be surprised.”
According to an FBI investigation, Louisville may have paid $100,000 to a recruit and $150,000 to another – all while on probation for using prostitutes to attract top prospects.
“This is tough for him,” Parrish said of Pitino. “He was able to frame a defense in the prostitution scandal of, ‘That was a rogue assistant. I had no idea. I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed. If I would have known about this, I would have stopped it.’ That didn’t prevent Louisville from getting in trouble. It won’t prevent Louisville from having to vacate their 2013 national title. But it did save Rick Pitino his job. I think his bosses – and most people – actually believe he was in the dark, and they wanted to believe it because he’s awesome at his job.
“So you can get away with that once,” Parrish continued. “But literally a month after being punished by the NCAA, the allegations from the FBI are that they’ve got a Louisville assistant coach on video and on audio in a bugged hotel room in Las Vegas discussing six-figure payments from a shoe company to a prospect’s family in exchange for getting that prospective student-athlete enrolled at Louisville.”
Brian Bowen, a five-star recruit, committed to Louisville in June, this after a Louisville assistant reportedly worked with Adidas to funnel $100,000 to Bowen’s family.
“We’re talking about major recruiting violations literally weeks after being punished by the NCAA,” Parrish said. “It’s going to be tough for anybody to survive that, Rick Pitino included. And if I were Tom Jurich, the athletic director, I’d be a little worried about my job as well.”
Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, USC, and South Carolina, among others, could also be impacted by the investigation.
“People in basketball circles, there’s not a single aspect of this story that would be shocking to folks who understand how it works,” Parrish said. “The idea that shoe companies are paying big money to families to influence where prospective student-athletes go to school, that agents would be trying to develop relationships either with families or with assistant coaches, who have influence over student-athletes, in an attempt to represent them once they get into the NBA someday – this is all stuff that’s been going on, I think it’s safe to say, for decades. The truth is, though, the NCAA doesn’t have subpoena power or the manpower to actually go out and bust this stuff up. Beyond that, I don’t know if the NCAA’s ever had much of an interest in banging on the shoe companies because they benefit. The member institutions (benefit from the) shoe companies in a variety of ways. . . . It is widely known in college basketball circles that the shoe companies – all of them – have been operating in this manner to some degree for a long, long time. So there’s a lot of nervous people today.”
Parrish said it’s possible that NBA players such as James Harden and Damian Lillard – both of whom signed with Adidas – could be part of the federal investigation.
“Oh, sure,” Parrish said. “Nothing will surprise me at this point.”
As for college recruiting in general, Parrish said this: if this is happening in college basketball, it’s almost certainly happening in college football – and probably to a much more significant degree.
“It defies logic to think that this Wild Wild West is going on in college basketball recruiting but college football recruiting is all on the up-and-up,” Parrish said. “It might get done slightly different ways on that side, but these types of things still get done on that side.”