When ACC basketball media day is held next Wednesday in Charlotte, Louisville coach Rick Pitino won't be there. The school issued a release on Friday saying that Pitino has been advised by legal council to skip the conference's annual preseason meeting with reporters. Instead, Louisville is sending two players: grad transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee.
"I do not want the allegations we are facing to negatively impact the other 14 institutions on what should be a great event to talk about the approaching basketball season," Pitino said in the release. "I realize that while many would like to question me on the allegations, the NCAA does not permit me to speak on the subject."
This isn't the first time an ACC basketball coach has found himself at the center of a scandal entering media day. The difference is that when it was time for North Carolina's Roy Williams and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim to face the music last year, they showed up and handled the obligation.
By sending two players and not Pitino, Louisville is shielding its 63-year-old head coach in favor of asking players in their early 20s to face the same similar questions from reporters. It's not like Pitino has been particularly quiet about the scandal since it surfaced:
Pitino has done two press conferences, two radio interviews, a speech, a blog post & several other comments, but ACC media day gets whacked?— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_cj) October 23, 2015
Pitino has maintained he has no prior knowledge of the allegations made against the program by Katrina Powell. The story seems far from finished. On Friday, Andre McGee, the former Louisville staffer at the center of the scandal, resigned from his assistant position at Missouri-Kansas City. McGee also made his first public comments since the scandal came to light and said Powell's allegations are false.
Louisville's decision to have Pitino skip media day likely has something to do with the coach's inability to keep quiet on the allegations. "No comment" might seem like an easy answer until Pitino is involved. Pitino has hinted for weeks that he would skip media day, but sending players and not the coach certainly appears like a bad look for Louisville at this time.
Lewis and Lee, who transferred to Louisville this summer from Cleveland State and Drexel, were not named in "Breaking Cardinal Rules", the book by Powell and author Dick Cady that details Louisville's use of prostitutes to help recruiting efforts. There's irony to the fact that the two players Louisville is sending were recruits this year.
It's also unfortunate that Lee and Lewis will have to face question after question about the scandal. Even if they maintain they have no knowledge of the situation, it won't stop reporters from asking about the mood around campus and the program following weeks of speculation over the scandal.
Pitino has maintained he will not resign because of the scandal. For a story that has already generated so much attention, it feels like the fallout is just getting started.