College Basketball Pay-To-Play Scandal Is Larger Than Life

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It’s a sign of our society that Rick Pitino is apparently out as Louisville’s basketball coach because some of his players apparently took tens of thousands of dollars from a shoe company funneled through assistant coaches.

It’s not that money has somehow corrupted college sports. That happened decades ago, because college sports generate a lot of money and the “student-athletes” aren’t supposed to get any of it. There’s a natural temptation for coaches and boosters to figure out a way to cut in certain players to entice them to go to their school.

(And the same college administrators who are shocked and outraged by a scandal like this one fire the coaches if they don’t win.)

But none of that is new or surprising.

The telling thing is what Pitino isn’t being ousted for.

Pitino denies any knowledge of the pay-the-players scheme. He also denies having anything to do with last year’s revelation that some of his players and recruits were plied with prostitutes in a campus dorm over the course of several years.

But there’s another incident he doesn’t deny. Back in 2003 he had a brief fling with a woman who later told him she was pregnant, and he subsequently paid her $3,000 so she could get “health insurance,” and he or his assistant found an abortion clinic for her in Cincinnati. Then he had his assistant drive her to Cincinnati to have the abortion.

Pitino testified to all that in open court during the woman’s extortion trial in 2010.

The University of Louisville, despite having a morals clause in Pitino’s contract, found nothing worth firing him over back then.

Officially, in the trial Pitino was classified as a “victim,” because the woman tried to blackmail him. But who was the real victim here?

A moment’s bad action under the influence of alcohol is wrong and sad but understandable.

But the cold, sober decision some weeks later to “fix” the problem is disturbing on two levels:  the decision itself, and the reaction to it.

A child who didn’t ask to come into this world through a drunken adulterous encounter in an empty restaurant certainly didn’t ask to have his or her life ended in a suction machine.

But few people seemed to care when the news came out seven years ago.

In four and a half decades abortion has gone from something illegal and shocking to legal and apparently not that shocking anymore.

We’re much more concerned about the integrity of amateur athletics.