Louisville men’s basketball needs a time out after latest extortion plot

A tradition like no other: Louisville basketball and extortion plots.

Seriously, that’s the extent of weird weirdness the men’s program carries like inexpensive nausea-inducing cologne: For the second time in a dozen years, the Cardinals are claiming to be victims of a strange blackmail requiring federal intervention. There was the extortion of Rick Pitino at the hands of a woman he had sex with in a restaurant, which put Karen Sypher behind bars for years; and there’s the current case that exploded on Tuesday when former assistant coach Dino Gaudio was charged federally for allegedly threatening in March to hand the NCAA violations to the media if his demands for money were not met. .

What in real hell?

But wait, there’s also the scandalous slalom between bookend extortions: the strippers in the dorm who were arranged and paid for by a Louisville staff member, which led to major penalties from the NCAA; and the Brian Bowen payola scam that was part of the Southern District of New York’s exposure to corruption in college basketball, which continues to work its way through the NCAA crime and punishment process .

Now blackmail. Again! This time from the inside! “This is not an outdoor party, like the last one,” as an impressed / dismayed college basketball source said. “It is a crime of brother against brother.”

This is, according to the indictment document, what happened on March 17, three days after Louisville was excluded from the NCAA men’s tournament: in an “face-to-face meeting with Louisville staff.” , Gaudio threatened to report violations relating to the production of recruiting videos for athletes and the use of graduate assistants in practices. Later that day, according to the document, Gaudio also texted one of the recruiting videos to “Louisville staff,” the text having “traveled” out of the state of Kentucky.

Gaudio, according to the federal government, was looking for 17 months’ salary, or the equivalent in a lump sum. The exchanges took place after Gaudio was informed by head coach Chris Mack – whom Gaudio has known for about 30 years – that his contract was not renewed. He was charged with interstate communication with intent to extortion, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

“The university and I were victims of Coach Gaudio’s conduct and I will continue to cooperate fully with authorities in their investigations,” Mack said in a statement.

Brian Butler, lawyer for Gaudio, said Illustrated sports that Gaudio was blinded by his termination and that the conversation with Mack “ignited.” Coach Gaudio was injured, he was angry, he felt he was being treated unfairly and he made comments he regrets. And he didn’t have a chance to back them off.

And the comments are being recorded, according to Butler, unbeknownst to Gaudio.

“Coach Gaudio intends to take full responsibility for his mistake,” said Butler. “He is hoping that all the good he has done in 40 years as a coach will put this mistake in the context of a moment of pain and anger. We hope this will be resolved quickly. “

So here we are, with the latest uproar in a program that has cornered the market on a madman. You can search up and down a college basketball team trapped in extortion fiasco. This one has of them on the books. In that area alone, the Cardinals returned to No.1 for the first time since 2013, when they won a national title … which was later canceled.

I mean, Bobby Petrino’s two tenures as a soccer coach were boring compared to the string of crazy hoop events.

As Pitino learned in 2009, being the victim of extortion does not dim the spotlight on what led to the extortion. What if Louisville committed a the third set of NCAA violations over the past few years, as Gaudio alleged, they might as well make the Yum Center America’s biggest flea market and shut the program down for a few years.

If Gaudio’s claims are true – and the school did nothing to refute them in its Tuesday statement – Louisville’s NCAA workload could reach critical mass. How this is handled by the NCAA Enforcement (or its other body, the Independent Accountability Review Process, which handled the Bowen case) will be very important.

According to sources familiar with NCAA charging guidelines, these are likely to be considered Level II or III violations, perhaps more geared towards Level III. A Level II violation – a “significant misconduct” – could be a problem for the Cardinals, given all the other baggage. Level III is considered inadvertent violations or infractions that produce “minimal benefit”.

The use of graduate assistants in practice was found to be a Level II violation in a recent decision in an NCAA case involving UTEP football. But as anyone who has operated in the NCAA offense space knows, these are not universal cases. If there is a video of Mack’s practices running with GAs involved in an impermissible way – especially if it’s a regular occurrence – it would appear to increase the risk to Louisville.

The same would apply to the cumulative effect. When infractions pile up higher than the Twin Spiers at Churchill Downs, that’s a problem.

According to the NCAA statutes, one of the “aggravating circumstances” that can increase penalties is the history of violations. And, my boy, does Louisville have a recent history. As one lawyer familiar with the process put it, the question in a potential hearing context may well be, “Why is your school here again?”

Which brings us to an existential question that might be relevant to both an offense committee and anyone else interested in varsity athletics: Does the world really need Louisville men’s basketball?

Would it be the worst thing if she went into an NCAA-induced coma and then woke up, say, in 2024? Would the so-called NCAA death penalty be too strict for a program that has become Repeat Violatorville? How many embarrassments are too many? How much is a chronic source of controversy worth? What is the tolerance level for bad titles?

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which was quite elastic in pushing its university representative to bring in Louisville in 2014, could ask itself these questions. The same goes for the school’s own administration, which has worked hard to improve its academic profile.

When your last two full-time male basketball coaches have both been blackmailed, things don’t go well. And when there have been two major scandals between these extortions, things are worse. In addition to generating a wacky interest in an audience perpetually amused by the belly of college basketball, Louisville doesn’t contribute much to the sport.

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