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LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 04: Coach Rick Pitino attends the 139th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

OPINION: NCAA Needs To Understand Their Role In Louisville Basketball Scandal

It was announced last Thursday that embattled Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitinio would be suspended for the first five ACC games of the 2017-18 season for his role in the team’s sex-for-pay scandal that has ravaged the school in recent years. The bigger punishment dolled out by the NCAA, goes directly to the school’s basketball program, which will be placed on four years of probation and will most likely have to vacate their 2013 national championship.

As a quick reminder, the sex-for-pay scandal refers to Pitino’s former assistant Andre McGee‘s dubious methods of securing basketball recruits. On multiple occasions, McGee would procure the services of escorts and strippers and have them put on a show for potential Louisville players. In several cases, the recruits were under the age of 18. Pitino is being punished for his ignorance in the case – although many assume the punishment is light, considering he most certainly knew what was going on.

While the behavior of McGee and the ignorance, or lack-thereof, of Pitino and the University of Louisville is abhorrent, one of the more shocking aspects of this scandal is the lack of reflection from the NCAA. While the organization did not personally give the OK on this sort of behavior, it did in fact create a culture and a system in which recruiters will do anything they think will give them an edge over other school’s sports programs.

If the NCAA allowed their college athletes to be paid – the same college athletes who generated $9.15 billion in revenue for Division I schools in 2015 – a scandal like Louisville’s would most likely never happen.

DISCLAIMER: There are many other much better reasons to argue in favor of the elimination of the “amateur” status the NCAA slaps on their “student athletes” in order to absolve themselves of the responsibility of paying the players. Nonetheless, the following is just another reason the players should be paid.

When LeBron James made “The Decision” in 2008, Miami didn’t offer him a lifetime membership to the most high-end strip-club in the downtown area. Instead they offered money and the chance to create a lasting legacy by winning championships, so, he signed.

When Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos, or when  Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Lakers, or when Barry Bonds singed with the Giants, or when any super star, or future super star signed with any professional team ever, it was almost always for two reasons, and two reasons only: money and glory.

Presently, college sports programs can offer glory. They can offer the promise of a championship and the chance to join a legacy built on the shoulders of the sports’ greatest athletes. But they can’t offer money.

Of course, there are other things schools can offer and often do – i.e., a home-away-from-home, a close-knit community, mentors in the form of coaches, peers, or alumni. But occasionally schools find they must resort to more corruptible methods, once the All-American ones don’t pan out – i.e., free cars, suitcases of secret cash, or escorts and strippers.

Some may argue that money is itself corruptible and that paying young men and women will cause problems in its own right but the system as is clearly isn’t working. Student athletes go hungry, get inadequate educations, and often always leave the school without much of a future having not made the leap to professional play. Oh yeah, and sometimes, recruiters buy them escorts in order to convince them to come to their school.

The NCAA needs to start paying their players. At least, that way, the students can pay for their lawyers once the NCAA starts taking their championship trophies away.

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Written by Jacob Kaye

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