I can’t stop watching the coverage of the Louisville scandal. It’s now the biggest story in sports, playing on loop on each ESPN station. Almost every national and local writer has weighed in on the topic, with some going as far to call for Rick Pitino’s job. I realize there’s plenty going on in the world of UK sports, but before I shift back, here are the questions I have after watching 7+ hours of coverage.
1. Where did the money come from?
The most obvious question. Through five former players and recruits, ESPN confirmed that Andre McGee supplied money for strippers and prostitutes, and on one occasion after he left Louisville, wired money to Katina Powell for her and one of her dancers servicing Antonio Blakeney and his guardian. Even though Powell claimed she only received roughly $10,000 for the 22 or so parties, “Outside the Lines” reporter John Barr estimated the amount of money paid for the escort services was much higher than that, in the tens of thousands. Perhaps Powell was only referring to the money she made and not the total sum by all the dancers before it was doled out.
In both her book and on “Outside the Lines” today, Powell said McGee said he went to the ATM to get the money, but he would arrive at the dorms or hotel rooms with it in bank-banded stacks. When asked where she thought McGee got the money, Powell mentioned a mysterious “Coach Mike” whom McGee repeatedly referred to and she spoke to on the phone twice.
2. Who is “Coach Mike”?
So, who is “Coach Mike”? The most obvious possibility is Mike Balado, an assistant coach at Louisville who joined the staff in April 2013, towards the end of the timeline. Along with Pitino, Balado was Antonio Blakeney’s primary recruiter, and in theory, could have been the one to contact McGee after he left Louisville to arrange for Katina and her dancer to entertain Blakeney and his guardian on his visit. Powell said McGee told her to pull out all the stops to get Blakeney to commit, which he did. Ten days later, he decommitted, telling CBSSports.com, “”I feel like I made a quick emotional decision based on some of the wrong reasons.”
The fact that OTL independently verified the texts sent to Powell to arrange the parties came from McGee’s phone and the wire transfer after the Blakeney visit is damning on its own, but to me, it’s also proof McGee wasn’t acting alone at Louisville. By the time of Blakeney’s visit (September 2014), McGee was already on staff at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Do you really believe that he would still arrange these visits all on his own when he wasn’t on staff? He had to be working with someone, aka “Coach Mike,” which yes, could be a code name, except I think McGee has proved he’s not that clever.
3. Will Pitino be forced to resign?
It’s clear he’s not going on his own. This morning, Tom Jurich released a statement saying Pitino has no plans to step down, a small sign of support. Despite the fact that several national and local writers — including Rick Bozich, the last writer you’d expect to turn on Pitino — are calling for him to resign, Pitino is digging his heels in to go down with the ship. It appears Jurich is in his corner, but when all of this broke a few weeks ago, it was clear UofL president James Ramsey is not. Ramsey did not include Pitino in his statement about the scandal a few weeks back, a pretty ominous sign. Will Ramsey and the Board of Trustees pressure Pitino out?
4. Will Andre McGee fall in line?
This afternoon, Pitino did a conference call with Dana O’Neil and Pat Forde in which he called for Andre McGee to come forward:
“I don’t know if any of this is true or not. There’s only one person who knows the truth, and he needs to come out and tell the truth to his teammates, to the University of Louisville, to his fans and to his coaches that have taught him to do the right thing for years and allowed him to be part of something special here.”
Let me translate this for you: “Andre, you better fall in line and lie to the NCAA and the media or I will make your life a living hell.”
What will McGee do?
5. Is Zach Price one of the whistle blowers?
We know that five former players and recruits confirmed the allegations to ESPN. The Twittersphere did some investigative work this morning and discovered this tweet from former Louisville player Zach Price almost a month ago:
I'm a ghost as far as college basketball, and I like that, time to start haunting those that condemned me.
— Zach Price (@Zdot2fivePrice) September 22, 2015
Price played sparingly at Louisville from 2011-2013 before transferring to Missouri and Winthrop. He’s not exactly a choir boy (was dismissed from Missouri after a former teammate filed an order of protection against him), but he may have an axe to grind. Is he one of the five that talked to ESPN?
6. Is this the new Deflate Gate?
If so, Louisville is toast. I turned ESPN on this morning at 7 a.m. CT and the Louisville scandal had been the lead story all day. I’ve seen the same clips of Powell at least ten times and I stopped watching after “Outside the Lines.” The IBJ may have broken this story, but ESPN has made it its own with the OTL investigation. Sex sells (literally in this case…rimshot!), and since they took it mainstream, ESPN will run with this story into the ground.
Hell hath no fury like a TV/news outlet after ratings. Except, maybe, Pitino fighting for his legacy.