April 09, 2013

Greedy college basketball players

According to the New York Times, Rick Pitino, Head Coach of the University of Louisville's Basketball team recently reiterated his position that college athletes should not be paid. In his view they already are in the form of 'room, board, books and tuition.' 

Of course Mr Pitinos' embrace of the amateur ideal at the heart of college athletics doesn't extend to those doing the coaching. A man has to make a living, after all.

Rick Pitino's annual base salary is 3.9 million dollars. In addition, he will receive a $425,000 bonus as a reward for winning the national championship this week. Pitino's contract runs to 2022 and will pay him roughly $42 million plus bonuses if he completes it. But what price can you really put on the wonderful job he does mentoring the young men placed in his charge?

"In a lot of ways," Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich says, "I would look at him and say he is underpaid." 

Fortunately Mr Pitino is not solely dependent on his day job as an underpaid college basketball coach. He is available for  'appearances, endorsements, and speaking engagements' starting at a very reasonable $50,001.

Of course, the NCAA rulebook ensures that purity of college athletics remains untarnished by barring the student athletes themselves, from participating such commercial activities

 As befits an avid sports man and Kentucky resident, Pitino loves thoroughbred race horses and has his own stable. In fact one his horses is scheduled to run in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.  In a truly touching gesture, Pitino even named two of his horses after the student athletes on his basketball team

"The Bellamy Road colt was a spectacular big, big colt," Pitino told C.L. Brown of the Louisville Courier-Journal "He was lanky, had great potential and goes the distance. I said I got the perfect name for him. I said 'Gorgui.' " That would be for Cardinals' 6-11 center Gorgui Dieng.

The coach didn't ignore his guards after he looked at the second colt who "is very, very quick — has a great first step, so to speak. I said I got the perfect name there, too."

That name was Siva. As in Peyton Siva of course.

"They're two of my favorite ballplayers and young men," Pitino said. "I told both guys. They're super excited."

Clearly there are some things money can never buy, and the kind of bonds Pitino has forged with his young charges is one of them. 

Then there is the tragic story of Louisville player Kevin Ware whose gruesome injury during a nationally televised college basketball game might have ended any prospect of a professional career.  Coach Pitino was right there by his bed side giving that brave unfortunate young man moral support

What a guy!

Fortunately Coach Pitino is not the only pillar of moral integrity in the sport of college basketball. Another inspirational leader is Coach Krzyzewski of Duke University. (which paid him $7.2 million in the 2010 calendar year)

Like Pitino, Coach K is well aware of his responsibility to the sport, and especially concerned about of the corrosive impact that the lure of money can have on the integrity of the college game. He is particularly critical of the many college basketball players who abandon their education after only one year in pursuit of NBA riches.

Krzyzewski says that once a player comes to college, he should be required to stay two years. Otherwise that player undermines the academic emphasis of college basketball.
"A school can’t be an extended stay hotel,"

Well put Coach K! Its time these kids learnt to give something back.
With men like Pitino and Krzyzewski at the forefront the ethical foundations of the college game look to be in good hands for many years to come!