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Beyond the Bubble: Scandal rocks NCAA basketball

The results of a two-year FBI investigation shook several Division I programs.  |  Thecla Li/THE CHIMES

 

During one of the most tumultuous weeks of news in recent memory, a scandal surfaced in the world of college basketball destined to change the sport forever. The FBI announced the findings of a two-year-long investigation into NCAA Division I college basketball on Sept. 27, resulting in 10 arrests of coaches, agents, advisors and corporate executives.

Pitino ousted amidst scandal

As part of the investigation, the FBI went after several major sports apparel companies. One executive from Adidas, Biola Athletics’ new exclusive apparel partner, was arrested after the FBI found he had secretly funneled more than $100,000 towards the family of a top high school basketball recruit.

Jim Gatto, Adidas’s director of global sports marketing for basketball, arranged the deal with top-ranked recruit Brian Bowen of Indiana so Bowen would attend the University of Louisville, which also has an apparel contract with Adidas. The bribes came at the request of Rick Pitino, Louisville’s head men’s basketball coach, who faces FBI accusations of helping orchestrate the deal over the phone.

Louisville announced later that day that Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich had both been placed on indefinite leave. The university has since started the process of firing Pitino, who is the most high-profile subject of the investigation.

Before his sixteen-year-long run at Louisville, where he won the 2013 DI Men’s Basketball Championship, Pitino had already become one of the most successful and well-known coaches in the sport of basketball. His other career highlights included taking a lowly Providence College program to the 1987 DI National Semifinals, leading the University of Kentucky to a national title in 1997, and working as the head coach of two of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.

a sobering reminder

“[Pitino was] a god around here,” one Louisville woman told ESPN.

At the time of the FBI’s announcement, however, Pitino and Louisville were already fighting another scandal in which an assistant coach repeatedly hired escorts for team members without Pitino’s knowledge.

As Biola Athletics expands its influence in its first years as part of both the NCAA and the Adidas family, the downfall of such a successful coach and athletic program provides a sobering reminder of the dangers of losing sight of one’s priorities - including service to the one true God.

“During the NCAA Division II transition, Biola Athletics is staying true to our mission and vision,” said Bethany Miller, Biola athletic director, in an email. “All segments on campus have spoken into Biola Athletics—staff, students, faculty, coaches, student-athletes, senior administration—forming good policy and procedure necessary to provide structure for becoming a model Division II institution that brings God glory in all we accomplish.”

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