Over the past several weeks, the U of L’s men’s basketball program and the name Katina Powell have gone hand in hand in headlines across the country. Unfortunately, Powell’s book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” has caused more controversy to surround the basketball team and their past than any national championship or protruding shin bone from Kevin Ware ever could.
Out of sheer loyalty, many U of L fans and supporters are already throwing themselves to Head Coach Rick Pitino’s defense. Pitino has on numerous occasions expressed his unawareness to the matter. Most recently, when questioned on the scandal, he turned the focus to basketball by stating, “When adversity hits, the strong survive. Idleness is what makes the mind wander, so the best thing I can do is work, work, work.”
In the meantime, we’ll have to see if Pitino ends up being the exception to this incredible amount of adversity, and whether or not his career will actually be lucky enough to survive this looming scandal.
Notable journalist and sports writer Billy Reed believes that this whole scandal has effectively tarnished U of L’s reputation regardless of Pitino’s claims of innocence. “In a way, the damage has been done. No matter what the investigations finally reveal, the idea that U of L is running some kind of unsavory program has been planted in the mind of headline readers and ESPN viewers from coast to coast. No matter what the truth, the university’s name already has been drug through the mud.”
Charles Zimmerman, a communication professor at U of L, also spoke to The Cardinal on the matter. In contrast to Reed, Zimmerman supported the university’s innocence. “Anytime you raise the unholy trinity of sex, money and recruits, the attention is certainly going to be negative. This is not good, but it’s not the end of the world. I fully expect that the university will weather it.”
However, Zimmerman did not rule out the credibility of Powell’s book. “Frankly, I believe that some isolated instances occurred but not to the extent, for the duration, and at the costs this woman claims,” he said.
Although she may be solely in this for the money, it’s interesting to note that renowned Pulitzer winning journalist Dick Cady would support her claims 100 percent and put his reputation on the line by helping her write the book in the first place.
Powell’s accusations may hold little power to chip away at the empire we call the Athletic Department. Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “Escord Queen” created a smear on our university—a smear that will continue to grow day by day. It will tarnish not only the reputation of U of L’s basketball program, but also the university as a whole. Sadly, it seems as if the only solution to wiping away such a smear is for someone to take a fall.
To the average student, this entire situation is what you make of it. For some, this scandal may be nothing short of an opportunity to sit back, grab some popcorn and watch as the madness unfold. Yet, for an esteemed college basketball coach approaching retirement like Pitino, this is a flat-out nightmare.
Although this is an interesting time to be a U of L student and fan, this scandal has made a big enough splash across the nation that the average student may want to check and see if they’ve gotten wet in the process.
Whether we can accept it or not, this scandal affects us all. It affects those of us who are constantly wondering about U of L’s priorities. At The Cardinal we have had our fair share of this conversation this semester.
Tuition continues to rise, parking options continue to shrink and housing issues are abundant—we’ve heard this all before. Instead of focusing on more important areas of concern, we put such value and importance on the one thing that’s turning around and making us look like idiots to the rest of the country: athletics.
This isn’t even mentioning the amount money already being poured into U of L’s internal investigation and legal defense in response to this whole scandal. Think of that next time you write your tuition check at the Bursar’s office.
It’s understandable that athletics bring U of L positive national attention, but that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the times they bring us negative attention as well. If we don’t pay attention, those who bring us such negative attention will continue to do so behind closed doors.
Once you look beyond this scandal for what it is at the moment (allegations), the bigger picture becomes more and more vivid. Regardless of the outcome of either the U of L led investigation by Chuck Smrt, or the nervously anticipated NCAA investigation, the smear is still there.
U of L will walk away from this with a rather large black eye, no matter the findings. From the New York Times to ESPN, the media has already painted the university as one who lures recruits with sexual favors. I think all of us could agree this is not a good look. This also isn’t a matter of when the stories and negative attention will stop, but instead, what U of L can do to try and cover up such a huge shiner. In this case, regardless of what happens, sunglasses just aren’t going to do the job.