Because its athletics department is now nationally synonymous with sleazy sex, the University of Louisville is in a disastrous pickle that is both tragically sour and bitterly ironic.
Nothing describes the situation’s lewd gravity so well as the lyrics of a jubilant old song from a distant, innocent age.
This is it. Make no mistake where you are.
This is it. Your back’s to the corner.
This is it. Don’t be a fool anymore.
You’re going no further.
U of L is facing hard choices it can’t afford to long ignore. A multilayered, multiyear sex scandal is threatening to arrest, and perhaps reverse, two decades of remarkable ascent on and off the court.
The reputation of the entire school – and to some extent the entire city – has been soiled by an increasingly baroque succession of carnal sins committed by the Belknap jockocracy. The program’s heart has been transplanted from the corner of Floyd Street and Cardinal Boulevard to the intersection of Heidi Fleiss and Ashley Madison.
How much additional embarrassment are university trustees willing to abide?
When (if ever) will big boosters start jumping ship?
When (if ever) might basketball coach Rick Pitino and perhaps even athletics director Tom Jurich say “Enough already” and pull the cord on their golden parachutes?
When will the downward spiral of disrepute finally end?
When will an authority figure stand up and say, “This is it. This is going no further”?
How deep a hole will the university be in before that finally happens?
Don’t expect definitive answers anytime soon. It would, however, be nice if someone outside of the athletic department, someone with some clout, would acknowledge the deep (and ever-deepening) ugliness of this situation.
It would be nicer still to hear a plan – or even just a promise – for restoring the University of Louisville’s good name.
Fans, students, teachers and alumni are angry and embarrassed. U of L’s reputation has been deteriorating since the world was introduced to Karen Sypher in 2009. That it grows closer by the day to hitting rock bottom is no surprise. Crashing halts are to be expected when, in addition to the infamous infidelities of its bell-cow coaches, the school’s signature sports team puts on the red light.
U of L’s celebrated men’s basketball program stands accused of turning its cushy dorm into a part-time bordello. So says self-described sex facilitator Katina Powell, who on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program on Tuesday doubled down on the claims made in her recent e-book, “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.”
Calmly, convincingly and damningly, Powell told OTL she hooked up U of L players and recruits with strippers and prostitutes on multiple occasions over a four-year period. OTL didn’t just take her word for it. The show’s reporters talked to five former and prospective Cardinals who essentially corroborated Powell’s tale.
That corroboration, along with the PR pain of seeing Powell spill her sordid tale on multiple TV networks, prompted predictable calls for Pitino’s ouster, voluntary or otherwise. The great shrieking gods of angst and schadenfreude demand human sacrifice, tout de suite!
Who knows? Maybe they’re right.
And while we’re at it, maybe Jurich should go too.
He is, after all, the lone common denominator in this oversexed mess. He stood by Pitino through the Sypher shamefest, and he re-hired football coach Bobby Petrino, who was drummed out of Arkansas for adulterously consorting with ex-volleyball star Jessica Dorrell, a female staffer.
It’s a stretch to suggest those moves promoted a culture that enables skeevy sex, but I daresay nobody’s mistaking U of L for BYU either.
Though the misbehaviors involving Sypher, Dorrell and Powell are separate and unrelated, the aggregate optics are horrendous. It is not in a program’s best interest to be known nationwide as a hotbed of extramarital and extralegal sex.
That we know for certain. What will – or should – happen next, that part is a mystery.
This part is not: It’s way too soon to make anyone walk the plank. The torch-and-pitchfork crowd will disagree, but really, what’s the rush? Why not let the various investigations run their course and then pass judgment? You know, after all the facts are in.
On that day, there will be no mistake where we are. And some guys, they’ll be going no further.