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College Hoops Misbehaving: UW Has Avoided Pitino-Like Scandals

NCAA basketball can't seem to behave itself for very long, dealing with point-shaving, player payoffs or academic fraud. Rick Pitino is at the forefront of high-profile accusations. Seattle college teams recently have toed the line.

College basketball has always had this slimy underbelly that won't go away.

In the 1950s, the sport was taken down by a point-shaving scandal that killed the game in New York City, turning powerhouse teams such City College of New York -- the only school to win the NCAA and NIT tournaments in the same year -- forever into non-entities. 

More point-shaving schemes, academic fraud or player payoffs have permeated through the game in more recent decades at Baylor, Boston College, Georgia, Memphis, Minnesota, Northwestern and St. Bonaventure, to name few schools with missteps. NCAA Final Four appearances have been vacated, tourney money paid back.

College basketball never seems to stay clean for long. It always has some dark stain on its reputation, much like spaghetti sauce ruining a white shirt.   

Exhibit A, Rick Pitino. 

He somehow got hired at Iona in March after getting fired at Louisville in 2017. The NCAA is just now stating its case against a coach who stands accused of fostering "an atmosphere of non-compliance." 

The college governing body issued its Notice of Allegations to Louisville and Pitino, which centers around Level Two violations. Sports Illustrated national writer Pat Forde addresses the situation in the accompanying video and in this story

Under the microscope is an alleged six-figure payment to recruit Brian Bowen.

Add to that the alleged escort service provided to Louisville players and recruits, in which women supplied them with sexual favors.

It doesn't involve Pitino's long-ago restaurant sexual trist with a woman who later tried to extort money from him in a messy public case.

That's not stuff he lists on his coaching resume.

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While he has won national championships and received Hall of Fame acclaim, Pitino could face a long suspension preventing him from coaching at Iona for a half season or maybe ever.

In Seattle, we have not been totally free from college basketball misdeeds, but it's been a while. For sure, the sex part has never entered into it.

Seattle University fired John Castellani in 1958 following a Final Four appearance for providing illegal inducements to a pair of Tennessee State players who would become future pro basketball players in hopes of restocking his team. 

His successor Vince Cazzetta was dismissed at midseason in 1963 for what was described as a public power play against then-athletic director Eddie O'Brien, demanding more control over budgets and recruiting. Years later, Cazzett admitted he lost his job for committing an NCAA infraction -- for purchasing an airline ticket for one of his players. 

A subsequent point-shaving scandal brought about the abrupt departure of Bob Boyd in 1965, which was either strongly encouraged or voluntary following the banishment of three players from the program for failing to report a bribe offer.

University of Washington basketball has avoided any major infractions in recent times and has a pristine coach in Mike Hopkins so far.

The school's last brush with NCAA law-enforcement types came in 2002 and involved assistant coach Cameron Dollar for excessive recruiting contacts and he was suspended. Ironically Dollar later became the Seattle U. head coach, was fired in 2017 for performance and is a Huskies assistant once more.

Yet the UW holds the unique distinction for firing each of its five head coaches who came before Hopkins, one after another, going back 35 years. The school has shown the door to Lorenzo Romar, Bob Bender, Lynn Nance, Andy Russo and Marv Harshman. Romar and Nance were former Husky players.

Harshman "retired" after leading the Huskies to back to back NCAA tournament appearances but admitted later he wasn't ready to step down and was forced out by UW president William Gerberding, who was determined to make a change with real cause. 

Each of these UW coaches was let go for lack of success, or, in Harshman's case, incompatibility with the school administration. In other words, age discrimination.

If there is a silver lining, improper payments and sexual favors never entered into it.