If you or I were Rick Pitino right now, we’d be looking for a new job.
If we had signed a contract with a morals clause in it to not defame our employer with our actions, as Pitino did at the University of Louisville, we’d be finished if we’d had extramarital sex in a bar after it closed and subsequently paid the person we committed adultery with $3,000 when she claimed she needed an abortion.
I am in favor of extending forgiveness and giving people a second chance.
But Louisville’s decision to back Pitino and try and sweep this under the rug as fast as possible has everything to do with the regrettable double-standard offered to high-profile people in all walks of life.
It’s unnecessary to list sports figures, entertainers, politicians, etc., who have all gotten a relative free pass the overwhelming majority of us would never get in an identical set of circumstances.
This is by no means some sort of ridiculous blanket condemnation of people in power. I love college basketball, go to plenty of movies and vote. So do many of you.
This also isn’t coming out of fan allegiance to the University of Kentucky. I hold degrees from Purdue University and Ball State University. I’m a Big Ten guy. Kentucky-Louisville might as well be Oklahoma-Oklahoma State to me, or one of any number of heated regional rivalries that often mean little in terms of rooting interest outside of hard core fans and alumni.
This decision has everything to do with why Pitino was hired at Louisville, winning basketball games, something which he is undeniably very good at.
In taking a very realistic view of the thought process behind the university’s treatment of Pitino, Tennessean sports columnist Joe Biddle points out it has everything to do with the presence of recently-hired coach John Calipari at Kentucky.
Calipari has been a winner in the college game everywhere he’s gone. With the resources and tradition he has at Kentucky, the sky is the limit. Keeping Pitino on board was essential in Louisville’s easy basketball calculations. The already heated rivalry will be a consistent battle for on-court winning and off-court recruiting at an elite level for at least the next decade with the persistent Calipari-Pitino tension.
A story in the Louisville Courier-Journal correctly pointed out a case I thought of right away, when Mike Price was fired before ever coaching a game a football game for the University of Alabama in 2003. A similar morals clause in Price’s contract gave the university the right to boot him after he was confronted about raunchy behavior at a strip club.
The huge difference is that Alabama had little to lose to firing someone whom they had no strong ties with. Nothing could be further from the truth in Pitino’s case.
There are also very serious faith questions involved. Pitino is Catholic, has been married 33 years and has five children. The spiritual implications of paying for an abortion and committing adultery are obvious.
At a press conference where he fielded no questions and exited the podium the instant he stopped speaking, Pitino portrayed an air of contrition, especially toward his family.
“They make the sun rise for me every morning,” he said. “They are highly principled people, very strong morally and very strong fundamentally. I let them down with indiscretion six years ago. And I’m sorry for that I’ve told them that every single day.”
You may be perturbed by the reference to his actions as an indiscretion.
The fact remains, though, that as Pitino also said himself, he’d like to stay at Louisville as long as the university will have him. Chances are that will still be years to come.