Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thinking Downstream

Previously published by The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Last fall, Katina Powell, a previously unknown former escort, published her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”  It exposed a sordid trail of debauchery that will, if confirmed, leave a lasting stain on the storied basketball program at the University of Louisville and on the record of Rick Pitino, its Hall of Fame head coach.

In the book, Powell alleges that from 2010 through 2014, Andre McGee, a former player, Graduate assistant and Director of Basketball Operations at Louisville, financed several parties at an on-campus location where escorts provided, shall we say, “adult services” to Louisville basketball players and recruits. 

McGee has since resigned from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was an assistant basketball coach.  Pitino has steadfastly denied any knowledge of the alleged parties and remains on the Louisville bench.  Think about that: One of the most powerful men on campus and the face of the athletic department, if not the entire university, claims ignorance of parties that supposedly happened nearly two dozen times over a four-year period.  Maybe Pitino is innocent, but if these allegations prove true, his institutional control was incompetent.  If this was a football program with dozens of coaches and 100-plus players, Pitino’s story might be plausible.  But basketball?  A sport with a handful of assistants and a roster of roughly 15 players?  Unacceptable.  And let’s not forget, this is the same Pitino who, in a 2009 extortion case, admitted to an extramarital affair and paying for his mistress’ abortion.  Fast-forward seven years and this man of questionable morals is requesting the benefit of the doubt.  Louisville, in retaining his services (and thereby determining him the best man to lead the program and its student-athletes), has obliged.  You wouldn’t be alone in questioning that decision.

The NCAA’s investigation is on-going, but there’s apparently some fire behind Powell’s smoke.  A few weeks ago – and here’s where it gets complicated – Louisville President James Ramsey announced that it was “reasonable to conclude that violations had occurred” and that, as a consequence, the university would self-impose a one-year postseason ban, effective immediately.  It is a classic preemptive action ahead of near-certain NCAA sanctions.  

The significant collateral damage of such a decision, as is the case with most NCAA scandals, is its impact on the innocent – the current players.  Few, if any, of the kids on Louisville’s roster were involved in these alleged parties; yet, while Pitino continues coaching and many former players polish their 2013 NCAA championship rings, the 2015-16 Cardinals deal with the sins of their Louisville ancestors and their own shattered NCAA Tournament dreams. 

This situation – the un-involved present bearing the burden of the shameful past - is so common in major college athletics now that it is easy to attribute it only to major college athletics.  In fact, the immediate reaction to the ban wasn’t to laud Louisville’s proactive discipline or to speculate on what the schools action means long term, it was to express sympathy for the guys wearing the colors today. 

But this story isn’t just about Louisville basketball.  It isn’t even just about college athletics or sports at large.  It’s about parents raising responsible, respectful kids and turning them over to appreciative teachers and communities.  It’s about workers setting a high standard and managers mentoring and grooming their replacements, a collective effort that produces a healthy organization.  It’s about using the planet’s resources judiciously and not consuming them recklessly.  It’s about not attending parties with escorts, literally or figuratively.  All of us, in all of our various roles, must remain acutely aware of those downstream and make sound, responsible and selfless choices for them in the present.  Our efforts should produce beneficiaries, not victims. 

Visitors to the beach in Ocean City, Maryland are greeted, at nearly every access point, by this trademark phrase: “Leave only your footprints.”  It’s a simple request: Leave our Maryland treasure as you found it (and feel free to improve it by grabbing any trash on your way out).  Those who visit after you will be glad you did.  If only the forebears of this year’s Louisville basketball team had been so courteous…

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