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Pitino Case Shows Why Hall of Fame Should Tighten Requirements

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Rick Pitino's 2013 national title at Louisville has been vacated.

As soon as the news broke that the NCAA had stripped Louisville of its 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance in men's basketball, the stories began. The gist of many headlines: "Pitino's Legacy Tarnished Forever."

In truth, Pitino's legacy was already tarnished, not just by the sex scandal that brought down the two banners, but also by the more recent and ever-expanding FBI investigation into corruption at numerous college basketball programs, including Louisville.

The more recent scandal cost Pitino his job. It has not, however, cost him his plaque in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Which raises two questions: Should active coaches be eligible and should NCAA sanctions — before or after their election — disqualify them?

Pitino was inducted in 2013, soon after winning the national title that, in the eyes of the NCAA, no longer exists at Louisville. He is part of a not-so-glorious group of coaches who were enshrined while active and have been on NCAA probation in one form or another.

Larry Brown joined the Hall of Fame in 2002 even though he had been the coach at Kansas and UCLA when they were sanctioned by the NCAA — including UCLA's appearance in the 1980 national championship, which was later vacated. Brown returned to college ball long enough to be in charge when SMU went on probation two years ago. Three for three.

Three years after Brown's induction, Big East rivals Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun joined the club. Calhoun went on to win his third national title in 2011 but retired the following year later with Connecticut ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament for Academic Progress Rate failures. Boeheim was suspended for nine games and forced to vacate 108 wins in 2015. It was the second time Syracuse had faced sanctions in his current 42-year tenure as the school's coach.

In 2015, Kentucky coach John Calipari was inducted even though he's led two programs — Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008 — that later had Final Four appearances vacated.

The thing all these coaches have in common besides their Hall of Fame plaques is that they all claim innocence in one form or another.

To be fair, there are plenty of coaches inducted while still active whose programs were not hit with NCAA sanctions, among them Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Dean Smith, Bob Knight, John Chaney and Lute Olson. Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Herb Magee and Tom Izzo all have plaques in Springfield and are still coaching; on the women's side, there are Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer and Sylvia Hatchell.

For years, the only criteria for a college coach was that he had to have been active for 25 years or retired for four years.

This year, perhaps because of what has happened with active coaches, the Hall tweaked the criteria. First, it required that a coach be 60 before he is eligible for induction. Second, and perhaps more important, it added a "statement of values" — which in English would be called a character clause — that voters are supposed to take into consideration for all candidates.

One wonders if some of the coaches who have gone in recently would still be elected if the "statement of values" had existed when they were nominated.

Past transgressions haven't seemed to matter to the basketball voters. All the coaches with tainted records who have been elected in this century had already committed violations that landed them and their schools in hot water when elected.

While Pitino and Louisville continue to rail at the injustice of the lost banner, the larger college basketball question is how many more programs and coaches will be taken down when the FBI finishes its investigation?

If that happens, will the Hall of Fame decide it's time to make it possible for plaques to come down? Will accomplished coaches otherwise up for election find that the new statement of values will keep them from joining other tainted coaches in the Hall?

To quote the late Bill Foster, who coached at four college programs including Duke before Krzyzewski, "if there's one thing I know about college basketball, it's that cheating pays."

Clearly, that statement can also be frequently applied to getting into the Hall of Fame.

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February 26, 2018
 
 
 

 

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