Some Thoughts on Pitino [J. Mark English]
Eamonn Brennan, Rivals.com - After last night's drastic report -- wherein Rick Pitino admitted to police that he paid Karen Sypher $3,000 for an abortion after having consensual sex with her on a restaurant floor (really, this whole story screams "class") -- most thought Pitino's job, at least, was safe. There is little criminal worry to be had here. If the sex was consensual, there's no crime against giving a woman money for an abortion. It just happens to be a really awful thing to do, the sort of thing a self-appointed leader like Pitino should probably not choose to do. After all, success is a choice, right?
But when the dust cleared this morning, the Louisville Courier-Journal (which is absolutely killing this story) has this news: Pitino's contract actually contains a morality clause, which can be summed up as such:
Disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University, if such publicity is caused by Employee's willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal, or which tends to greatly offend the public, or any class thereof on the basis of invidious distinction.
Employee's dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity; or conviction of a felony or employment or drug-related misdemeanor; or intoxication or being under the influence of a psychoactive substance when performing duties under this contract, when student athletes are present, when attending scheduled public events or appearances, or during media contacts.
Not only are those terms vague and pretty easy for a university admin to wriggle through, there are about five different moral requirements you could argue Pitino isn't making there. I'd say committing adultery and paying a woman for an abortion is tantamount to "willful misconduct that could objectively be anticipated to bring Employee into public disrepute or scandal." Or also see "which tends to greatly offend the public," or even "moral depravity." Cut and dry: these apply to Pitino's situation under any objective appraisal, do they not?
Pitino's job could still be safe; maybe the university will cut him some slack and forget all these pesky morality clauses lodged in his contract. But if public sentiment grows too loud -- and you can imagine how "adultery + abortion" plays in red-state Kentucky -- Louisville can act to rid themselves of Pitino's mess.
But it's also a reminder -- as if sports fans needed another one this summer -- that we really don't know our sports figures, no matter how much larger than life they may seem.
Rick Pitino is one of the college basketball's best coaches, a man who ressurected Kentucky basketball, re-built Louisville and is the only coach to ever take three different schools to the Final Four. But he's no longer on a pedestal. Not ever again.
Pitino's admittal that he had sex in a restaurant with a woman six years ago and then gave her money for an abortion ensures that.
In the same summer when ex-NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot and killed by his mistress and when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is being sued by a woman for allegedly raping her, it's just more fodder for already jaded fans.
Some might say this simply reinforces the idea that sports figures are capable of mistakes like everyone else. Others would say this is why it's foolish to elevate them in the first place.
The details of the Pitino saga -- the best place is probably the Louisville Courier-Journal's comprehensive report -- read like a bad soap opera. Infedeilty. Extorsion. Rape. It's bewildering and sobering at the same time. And as the case progresses, it'll become even more so.
Questions now surround Pitino's future.
Does he remain at Louisville (he recently signed an extension through the 2013 season)? And if so, can he still recruit? How does he handle prospective players and their parents? Will outraged fans, onlookers and the media attention become too much? If he does leave, can he really start somewhere new?
After all, this case will follow him for the rest of his career, and his life.
A head shaker.