Who should be held accountable for basketball recruiting violations?

Published 2:48 pm Thursday, October 26, 2017

The firing of Tom Jurich as the University of Louisville’s athletics director has sparked consternation in some quarters.

Three of the 13 trustees voted against the action, and many Cardinal fans have said the firing is shabby treatment for an AD who over two decades built Louisville teams — women’s and men’s equally — into college sports powerhouses, thus elevating the university’s national profile.

The FBI’s allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the recruiting of basketball players are, after all, just allegations, yet to be tested in a court of law or considered by the National Collegiate Athletics Association.

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We agree with U of L Interim President Greg Postel’s assessment, in a letter to Jurich, that the FBI investigation has already exposed “a scheme of fraud and malfeasance” that is unacceptable. Likewise for Coach Rick Pitino, who was fired by U of L’s athletics board.

But if you’re still not convinced, flip back a few pages to the recruiting violations that resulted in NCAA penalties against Louisville and the vacating of the men’s basketball team’s 2013 national title.

In particular, consider that teenagers making campus visits were entertained by strippers and prostitutes, arranged by a member of the athletics department staff, at a U of L dorm for athletes. The youngsters were hoping to earn a scholarship and, reasonably enough, wanted to make a positive impression on the adults to whom they had been entrusted.

Under those conditions, what the recruits experienced was abuse, perpetrated under U of L’s imprimatur. A fraternity that made sexual performance with a prostitute part of its initiation rites would be disbanded and kicked off campus, probably for good.

Granted, U of L’s former president James Ramsey, whose own administration became a cauldron of self-dealing and greed, was not providing much in the way of institutional oversight.

But Jurich and Pitino should have known what was going on, and if they didn’t, they were falling far short of their duties. The “rogue assistant” alibi was shaky the first time and won’t fly again. Accountability up and down the line is not too much to demand from an AD and head coach who were richly compensated for their work.

Jurich’s taxable income as AD in 2016 was $5.3 million, according to an audit released in June. That included net pay of $1.9 million; an annuity of $1.8 million, to be paid out annually at $200,000, and the payment of taxes on the annuity in the amount of about $1.6 million. Jurich, 61, also was in line to collect $3 million in incentive pay if he remained on the job until age 65 and another $3 million if he stayed until 70.

Not surprisingly, Jurich and Pitino are contesting their firings, no doubt in hopes of contract buyouts commensurate with the lofty standards to which they’ve become accustomed.

The trustees did the right thing. U of L sports needs a major housecleaning, no doubt about it.

Lexington Herald-Leader