Cover image for The last temptation of Rick Pitino : a story of corruption, scandal, and the big business of college basketball / Michael Sokolove.
Title:
The last temptation of Rick Pitino : a story of corruption, scandal, and the big business of college basketball / Michael Sokolove.
ISBN:
9780399563270
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Press, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
260 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Contents:
Family -- Footprints -- Waiting for Brian Bowen -- The 'Ville -- Absolutions -- Fishing in polluted waters -- The Saginaw connection -- The playbook -- When we sin against our nature -- "I feel it was an assassination" -- The Chardonnay crowd -- The spoils of uncompensated labor.
Abstract:
At a lavish annual event in late August 2017, the University of Louisville athletic director, who made more than $5 million in compensation in 2016, announced an extension of his school's sponsorship deal with Adidas: $160 million for another 10 years. The invitees were city's gentry - horse breeders, bourbon distillers, partners at big law firms, the state's governor, Matt Bevin, and its most powerful politician, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. One month later, the FBI revealed that it had reached the endgame of a sprawling investigation of large-scale corruption involving Adidas, Louisville and a host of other colleges, in which large payments were laundered from Adidas through a network of coaches and fixers to athletes and their families to induce them to go to Adidas-branded college programs. In short order, Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino (salary: $8 million) and athletic director Tom Jurich were fired, and fear and trembling swept through the world of bigtime college athletics. Because there is another shoe, as it were, and it will fall.
Personal Subject:
Holds:
Copies:

Available:*

Copy
Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
1
Searching...
796.323092 PIT SOK Book Adult General Collection
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

From acclaimed New York Times Magazine author Michael Sokolove, the astonishing inside story of the epic corruption scandal that has rocked the NCAA and exposed the rot and hypocrisy at the heart of big-time college sports.

At a lavish annual event in late August 2017, the University of Louisville athletic director, who made more than $5 million in compensation in 2016, announced an extension of his school's sponsorship deal with Adidas: $160 million for another 10 years. The invitees were city's gentry - horse breeders, bourbon distillers, partners at big law firms, the state's governor, Matt Bevin, and its most powerful politician, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. One month later, the FBI revealed that it had reached the endgame of a sprawling investigation of large-scale corruption involving Adidas, Louisville and a host of other colleges, in which large payments were laundered from Adidas through a network of coaches and fixers to athletes and their families to induce them to go to Adidas-branded college programs. In short order, Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino (salary: $8 million) and athletic director Tom Jurich were fired, and fear and trembling swept through the world of bigtime college athletics. Because there is another shoe, as it were, and it will fall.

In THE LAST TEMPTATION OF RICK PITINO, Michael Sokolove lifts the rug on the Louisville scandal and places it in the context of the much wider problem, the farce of amateurism in bigtime college sports. In a world in which even assistant coaches can make high-six and seven-figure salaries, as long as they keep the "elite" athletes coming in, shoe deals can reach into the nine figures, and everyone is getting rich but the players, can it be surprising that unscrupulous parties would pay athletes, creating in effect a black market in young men, a veritable underground railroad of talent?

But a few bad apples are one thing. In THE LAST TEMPTATION OF RICK PITINO, Michael Sokolove shows an elaborate, systematic machine, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit payments and connecting at least one of the largest apparel companies in the world with schools across the country. The Louisville-Adidas scandal has revealed a web of conspiracy whose scope has shaken big-time college sports to its core, delivering a devastating blow to the fantasy of amateurism, of "scholar athletes." A Shakespearean drama of greed and desperation involving some of the biggest characters in the arena of sports, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF RICK PITINO will be the definitive chronicle of this scandal and its broader echoes.


Author Notes

Michael Sokolove is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine , as well as the author of four previous books, Drama High , The Ticket Out , Hustle , and Warrior Girls .


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Using the tarnished legacy of former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino as an anchor, Sokolove (Drama High) provides a lucid account of large-scale corruption in college basketball. In 2017, Louisville's program was one of seven initially named by the FBI in an investigation of money laundering, bribery, and wire fraud involving shoe and apparel manufacturer Adidas. Since then, at least a dozen additional schools have been named in the investigation, which focuses on illegal payments made through a network of coaches and fixers to athletes and their families as encouragement to attend colleges with Adidas-branded sports programs. In the aftermath, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich and Pitino were fired, although Pitino claims he is innocent of any wrongdoing and told Sokolove, "I've been assassinated." Sokolove also digs into an unscrupulous subculture in which recruiters act as so-called "advisors" to players and their families in return for the potential of a big payoff. Such scenarios have destroyed young careers, Sokolove writes, including that of Brian Bowen Jr., a recruit to Louisville who was caught in the scandal's crosshairs; after it was discovered that his family accepted payments for him to enroll at Louisville, he was kicked out of the program. Sokolove provides a richly detailed, enlightening account of college sports. (Sept.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

A "SLASH" PLAYER in football is one who excels at more than one position, an evolution of the "triple-threat" player of old. Books about sports have also evolved over time to include both sports-only works - Jack Nicklaus's "Golf My Way" for instance - and "slash" works, ones that straddle genres: sports/history, as opposed to merely sports history. Nonslash sports books can be terrific. 1 learned to be the best golfer 1 could be (still not a very good one) by attempting to channel Nicklaus's lessons, and there's much to admire in players who do one thing really well, for example, run over people â la Earl Campbell. But generally when 1 stretch out on the couch with a sports book - or any book, really - 1 want it to also stretch my mind, to both overpower and reverse field, to ace and wrong-foot. The five books below all have that aim and some succeed beautifully. IN THE LAST TEMPTATION OF RICK PITINO: A Story of Corruption, Scandal, and the Big Business of College Basketball (Penguin Press, $27), Michael Sokolove, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine (where an excerpt of the book first appeared), tells a tale as fresh as the headlines about corruption and salaciousness in college sports. The rot starts from the ground - that is, on the feet of the athletes and the shoe companies that seek to influence them, Adidas in this case. The portentous title's nod to "The Last Temptation of Christ" notwithstanding, the book initially strikes an Old Testament note of Babylonian excess as the University of Louisville built lavish sports facilities under its athletic director, Tom Jurich, to "monetize basketball better than any other university in America." Some considered Jurich a bully, but Sokolove writes that at "the very least, he was a bulldozer, a determined and relentless builder - the Robert Moses of college sport." His glittering football and basketball stadiums, natatorium, field hockey complex and other athletic amenities impressed and attracted Louisville's moneyed class and helped the university shed its commuter-school stigma. Sitting atop the basketball throne was the Hall of Lame coach Rick Pitino, whom Jurich lured to Louisville to lead the school back to its glory years of the early to mid-1980s under Denny Crum. Sokolove succinctly summarizes Pitino's 16-year reign, which included two embarrassing scandals that likely would have ended the career of a lesser coach - a one-night stand with a woman who eventually extorted him and "Strippergate," where women were hired to entice recruits to the school with "sex parties." Pitino denied any knowledge of the parties; what tripped him (and Jurich) up, in the end, causing them to lose their positions, were the loose shoelaces and looser lips of Adidas representatives. The story becomes not so much a tale of hubris on the parts of Jurich and Pitino - though neither did a lot to help his own cause - as one of corruption bubbling up from below. One veteran assistant coach says, "The shoe companies are recruiting kids just like the college programs are, but they're in there first. That's the underbelly of this thing_ft's really a hunting ground - a hunting ground for street agents and leeches." Sokolove lays out the ecosystem - from Pitino (making $7.8 million in 2016-17) down to the players (officially making nada) - in prose that's clear and brisk. He follows and explains the LB.I. case that starts with a probe into the misdealings of a financial adviser to professional athletes and then ropes in shoe company representatives, players' parents and hangers-on. Sokolove reports in depth on the courting of Brian Bowen Jr., an elite high school player who committed to Louisville, seemingly without knowledge of the machinations at work to land him there. In a trial at the end of October (after the book was published), three men with ties to Adidas were convicted of wire fraud. As Sokolove readily admits, this kind of underthe-table dealing is no surprise to anyone in big-time college sports, but the involvement of the RB.I. in pursuing criminal charges and potential prison time (rather than simply the threat of N.C.A.A. sanctions) ratchets up the consequences of the sub rosa system. Pile this book under sports/explanatory journalism. Adidas also makes a surprising appearance in the autobiography TIGERBELLE: The Wyomia Tyus Story (Edge of Sports, $27.95). As far back as 1961, when the great sprinter, an eventual Olympic gold medalist, was 16 and just beginning her career, the shoe companies were competing for bigname athletes. Her coach at Tennessee State, Ed Temple, was savvy enough to game the system for his program, the Tigerbelles. "When Adidas was giving shoes to a Tigerbelle who, for example, made the 1960 Olympic team," Tyus writes, "that person wore five different sizes of shoe, according to Mr. Temple's order. That way everybody could get shoes when they were ready for them." He doled out his stockpile of the ultralight Adidas (at that time made of kangaroo leather) to the fastest runners as prizes for performance, while the slower runners were forced to wear the "heavy, heavy" Spaldings. fn this collaboration with Elizabeth Terzakis published by Dave Zirin's Edge of Sports imprint ("articulation of the daily collision between sports and politics"), Tyus proves as winning a storyteller as she was a runner. Shy to the point of near silence in her youth, she recounts her childhood on a dairy farm in Georgia with straightforward, lyric love: "We made piecework quilts, and Mama made blouses for me and my girl cousins and shirts for my brothers and boy cousins out of the feed and flour sacks we got from the dairy. She was that type of person, always busy making something good out of what seemed like nothing much." Devoted to her father and competitive with her three brothers, Tyus eventually traded piecework for sports and the outdoors, turning her dolls into makeshift footballs and developing a warrior mentality ("They could knock me down 20 times, and I'd be back up fighting"). She acknowledges that she was somewhat shielded from the dangers of the Jim Crow South by her parents' desire to create a "safe haven" for their children, and the examples of the close-knit black community's support for her talent are touching. An envelope (a photograph of it is in the book) was passed around her high school for contributions and $23 was collected - "three dollars came from Room 8-B, which was my homeroom" - toward a summer session with Temple at Tennessee State in Nashville. The first person to win back-to-back 100-meter Olympic gold medals (in 1964 and 1968), Tyus and her achievements were overshadowed by the limited regard and publicity for female track athletes at the time and by the attention focused on the medal-stand, black-gloved protest of her fellow American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City in 1968. Her perspective on the protest, from a trackside seat with the other athletes, adds immediacy and drama to a nowiconic scene. "That was one of my first thoughts," she recalls. "I hope nobody hurts them. I wanted to get out of the stadium before something happened." Reading that, we're reminded of the danger and violence of that time and the fact that the consequences of the protest could have been tragic. Tyus declared her solidarity through her own protest, wearing black shorts for the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay. The team set a world record. The last chapters of the book are devoted to examining the current state of civil rights and equal rights for women (athletes and nonathletes) and African-Americans. Tyus is both optimist and realist: "I am thinking that things will change, but they will change so slowly that I won't be around to really appreciate it." I also learned in the book that the "a" in Wyomia is silent, but thankfully, the woman who owns that name is not. The desire to tell a sports story set amid the roiling politics and social upheaval of 1968 and thus illuminate the era makes up the meat of at least two new books by acclaimed authors, Wil Haygood's TIGERLAND, 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing ( Knopf, $27.95) and George Howe Colt's THE GAME: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968 (Scribner, $28). Haygood is the author of biographies of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson, among others, and Colt's "The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home" was a National Book Award finalist. Haygood recreates the basketball and baseball seasons of East High School in Columbus, Ohio, during the 1968-69 school year. Like almost every other city in America at that time, Columbus was struggling with the legacy of systemic racism, including school and neighborhood segregation, economic immobility for black citizens and social stereotyping; and Haygood knows the landscape of this Columbus well. "The main record stores in the city that sold black music were the Miami Record Shop, on Miami Avenue, and Early's Record Shop, on Mount Vernon Avenue, both within walking distance of East High," he writes in a section about East students' musical tastes. His forays into the minutiae of life in Columbus give the book depth and texture. But Haygood's admirable goal is to tell an uplifting story during a time of turmoil by drawing detailed portraits of the extraordinary people in "ordinary" positions, like the East High principal, Jack Gibbs, and the basketball coach, Bob Hart. Gibbs, in particular, who grew up in poverty in Harlan, Ky., emerges as a man of great integrity and character, if sometimes stodgy and dogmatic. He'd buttonhole businessmen on Mount Vernon Avenue to support not just the sports teams but the quiz-bowl squad; he'd announce impromptu dances to raise morale. If students occasionally referred to him as an Uncle Tom, because he was "full of confidence in himself and his mission, the slur simply sailed by his ears." For all the book's rich detail about the city and the school and its championship basketball and baseball teams, Haygood fails to deliver on the promise of a coherent narrative that interweaves seminal historical events - like the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. - with the fortunes of the school's sports teams. A 29-page chapter on Jackie Robinson seems unnecessarily long and maybe unnecessary. His descriptions of the games themselves often devolve into cliché (baseball players repeatedly "smack" hits and teams are "not to be denied"). Haygood's narrative strategy of indirect discourse, appending a single and often bland direct quotation to a description by the author, undermines the potential for the reader to hear the voices of the book's characters. This approach proves, at the very least, distancing, unfortunately defeating one of Haygood's noble stated aims of covering a year in a city not in the headlines of the civil rights movement: "What the whole of America so often missed was the quiet tapestry of the movement, continuously alive in the conversations of black men." Colt's book more successfully blends the tenor of the times into the narrative of the two elite universities as they march toward their end-of-season football showdown in 1968. In the early chapters, he paints detailed portraits of the schools through selected players and their backgrounds and personalities while judiciously panning out at times to survey the country at large. We learn that Rick Berne, a 230-pound tackle for Harvard who "was brash and boisterous, a smart aleck with an assertive bass voice who loved nothing more than a Saturday night at the Pi Eta, a frat-like club frequented by athletes," also had a "deep conviction that the Vietnam War was morally and politically wrong"; he attended meetings of the radical student group S.D.S. and a poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg. The free-spirit streak on the football team was exemplified by the Friday ritual of the scout team, composed of secondând third-stringers, which would run a complicated play backward, as if the coach, John Yovicsin, were reversing the game film to make a point. Yale's team was led by Coach Carm Cozza, who had a knack for attracting players who could have earned scholarships from much higher-profile football schools. In 1968 his quarterback was Brian Dowling, who had turned down the likes of Southern California to suit up for the Bulldogs. Dowling's casual excellence on the field and phlegmatic personality ("he'd hand the ball to the referee after scoring as matter-of-factly as if he were returning a book to the library") earned him the simple nickname "God" and a role as "B.D." in the Yale Daily News comic strip drawn by the undergrad Garry Trudeau. Compared with Harvard's, Yale's student body was less engaged in the politics of the day - the school's own S.D.S. chapter, the Yale Alumni Magazine reported at the time, was "singularly dormant" - but dedicated antiwar leaders like William Sloane Coffin, the school chaplain, were influencing players like Calvin Hill, the team's talented running back. As the epic game approaches, the reader has come to know and be invested in so many players from both sides that one wishes there would be no winner. It's no spoiler - if you simply look at the book's cover image - to reveal that's exactly what happened. The slashingest book covered here is Jeff Pearlman's FOOTBALL FOR A BUCK: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28). It fully earns its label Of sports/humor/business/law/current events. Pearlman's enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and dates to the 1983 inaugural season of the United States Football League, a start-up spring professional league, featuring a team from his own home state of New Jersey, the Generals, owned by one Donald J. Trump. Pearlman was not quite 11 at the time. Thirty-five years later, he has channeled his youthful affection into a raucous, well-reported, supremely entertaining ripsaw of a story. Pearlman disputes the conventional wisdom that the U.S.F.L. failed because it was a bad idea. In fact, he asserts, "the idea was a great one." Teams would capitalize on the college allegiances of fans by stocking franchises with players from schools in the region, playing at a time of year when other sports leagues were coasting through their regular seasons. Furthermore, quoting from Jim Byrne's 1986 book "The $1 League: The Rise and Fall of the USFL," Pearlman notes that the teams "would operate under strict budgetary controls with a limitation on player salaries dictated by anticipated income from broadcast, attendance and marketing/licensing revenues." Throughout his own book, Pearlman provides evidence that suggests the league could have succeeded had it simply stuck to this plan, but a few millionaire owners, particularly Trump, nixed any attempts at collective benefit over time in favor of personal desires (surprise!), namely a move to the fall so the league could be absorbed by the N.F.L. Trump used both bullying and undermining means to engineer the move. John Bassett, the owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, who (correctly) thought the idea meant the death of the league, eventually sent Trump a letter saying: "You are bigger, younger, and stronger than I, which means I'll have no regrets whatsoever punching you right in the mouth the next time an instance occurs where you personally scorn me, or anyone else, who does not happen to salute and dance to your tune." Among shady owners, however, Trump hardly stands out. Pearlman's account of a surreal scene involving Steve Young's signing by Bill Oldenburg, the owner of the Los Angeles Express, reads like a satirical one-act farce ("those who met him recalled a volatile, erratic, simple and clinically insane man"). Clinton Manges of the San Antonio Gunslingers was so cheap that the team's rickety bus had a broken gas gauge, requiring the driver to measure the amount of fuel by placing a stick down the tank. There are dozens of such horror stories here but equally many about the gratitude of marginal players for the opportunity to play professionally, the emergence of stars who wouldn't have met the N.F.L.'s physical algorithm (like the future All-Pro linebacker Sam Mills) and the freewheeling atmosphere that endeared the league to owners, players and fans alike. Pearlman reminds us of the highprofile players who began there (Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly) and the innovations the league encouraged (like the Houston Gamblers' high-powered run-and-shoot offense). If few were in the stands as witnesses, then so be it. As the Philadelphia Stars coach Jim Mora said at a Stars reunion decades later, "It's not about the game. It's about the ride." JAY JENNINGS is the senior editor at Oxford American magazine and the author of "Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of an American City."


Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Chapter 1 Familyp. 9
Chapter 2 Footprintsp. 27
Chapter 3 Waiting for Brian Bowenp. 45
Chapter 4 The 'villep. 57
Chapter 5 Absolutionsp. 77
Chapter 6 Fishing In Polluted Watersp. 97
Chapter 7 The Saginaw Connectionp. 121
Chapter 8 The Playbookp. 147
Chapter 9 When We Sin Against Our Naturep. 161
Chapter 10 "I Feel It Was an Assassination"p. 187
Chapter 11 The Chardonnay Crowdp. 199
Chapter 12 The Spoils of Uncompensated Laborp. 225
Acknowledgmentsp. 247
Indexp. 251