Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Coach On Fire Going Down In Flames

If you only look at the incident, it doesn't seem like a huge deal. Guy meets woman, guy sleeps with woman, woman ends up pregnant, guy gives woman money for an abortion. Despite the raging debate over the abortion part, that above sentence sounds like an everyday occurrence on a college campus.

Then you find out the details: Guy = Rick Pitino, top flight college coach for Louisville who happens to be married with five kids. Woman = Karen Cunagin Sypher, a woman who has been indicted for trying to extort millions of dollars from Pitino in exchange for her not telling the world they slept together.

Pitino met Sypher while he was drinking in a restaurant late one night. They had sex in the restaurant after it closed, and Sypher later came to Pitino saying she was pregnant. Pitino gave her money for an abortion.

Now the case has taken dozens of left turns as Karen Cunagin eventually married Pitino's stregnth coach, Tim Sypher (they are now getting a divorce after all of this came out) and sent Pitino a list of demands in exchange for her silence (including cars, free tuition, and eventually $10 million). Recentlty, Sypher claims Pitino raped her, but only after she was indicted for extortion. No one knows how the case will end.

Pitino is considered one of the most powerful basketball coaches in America, a luminary program builder who has won everywhere he's gone.

And he needs to leave Louisville.

People make mistakes all the time, but Pitino is a college coach. Despite the giant contracts, coaches are still teachers. How can Pitino instill discipline into his recruits if they all know about this crazy incident? If Pitino suspends a kid for missing class, that kid will give him a sideways glance as if to say "yeah, sure Mr. Happy Pants, all I did was miss class."

Lousiville can keep Pitino, and I have no doubt the team will keep winning ball games, but the school will have then admitted that basketball games are more important than the dignity of the university. Maybe it's worth the money Pitino led teams bring in. Maybe it's not.

It might be Pitino's only affair which would be unfortunate because he chose a crazy lady to sleep with. This could also be the 50th affair Pitino has had. He may have paid off dozens of women and this is the first one to make everything public.

And it is very public now. Everyone knows and when you're in the profession of teaching kids, that's some pretty destructive knowledge.

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