Scandal in college basketball is not exactly a new phenomenon. Nearly 60 years ago the sport was rocked by a point-shaving scheme at City College in New York, eventually reaching seven schools and more than 30 players across the country. From those not-so-humble beginnings, the list is never-ending, from Jerry Tarkanian to Clem Haskins to Harvard (seriously).
So, where do Rick Pitino and John Calipari rank? Only time will tell, but here’s a look at 15 college basketball coaching scandals from the last 10 years alone.
1. Rick Pitino – Louisville: If only Slick Rick was just worried about recruiting violations. Instead, he's accusing a woman of trying to extort millions from him following an admitted "indiscretion" at a Louisville restaurant in 2003 that apparently led to a pregnancy and Pitino’s offering money for an abortion.
2. John Calipari – Memphis: Calipari’s Final Four run with Derrick Rose at Memphis was wiped off the record books -- but not before the coach cashed in and took the job at Kentucky. Cheat to get to the top, then get out of town before the hammer comes down. Just like he did at UMass.
3. Kelvin Sampson – Indiana: Less than two years after taking his "dream job" in Bloomington, Sampson was forced out of Hoosierland following numerous violations involving illegal recruiting phone calls. In 2008, the NCAA handed Indiana three years' probation and slapped a five-year show-clause on Sampson, meaning no team could hire him without proving to the governing body he deserves to be back … not happening.
4. Dave Bliss – Baylor: If only we could look back at Bliss’ tenure at Baylor and only see his recruiting scandals … but when one of his players murdered a teammate, Bliss tried to frame him as a drug dealer to cover his own ass. Classy.
5. Jim Harrick – Georgia: The national championship coach at UCLA with impressive stints at Pepperdine and Rhode Island resigned from Georgia in shame in 2003 after findings of academic fraud involving his son, Jim Harrick Jr., an assistant coach who granted credit hours to players too lazy to attend his easy PE class.
6. Mike Jarvis – St. John’s: After Jarvis was fired from St. John’s in 2003, it came out that a member of his staff had paid a monthly stipend to one player, while another player faced rape allegations and another was caught smoking weed on campus. Not exactly signs the coach is in control of the team.
7. Quin Snyder – Missouri: When Tigers guard Ricky Clemons was arrested for assault and battery, he spent his jail-time telling tales of other players receiving payments from Snyder's assistant coaches. Clemons' suspect academic status helped further unravel Missouri's 2002-03 season and a long NCAA investigation led to two years' probation and Snyder's exit.
8. Tim Floyd – USC: After being accused of paying cash to a "handler" of star recruit O.J. Mayo, Floyd stepped down as Trojans coach after leading the downtrodden program to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
9. Larry Eustachy – Iowa State: It's nice to see a non-recruiting scandal on this list. That said, there's nothing better than a coach extending his "campus visit" and getting photographed kissing coeds and boozing it up at college parties following his team's road games.
10. Jim O’Brien – Ohio State: O'Brien was fired by Ohio State in June 2004 for giving money to a Serbian recruit -- something he admitted to his boss, AD Andy Geiger. The NCAA slapped the Buckeyes with three years' probation and O'Brien with a five-year show-clause. O'Brien has since won a wrongful termination lawsuit and on Jan. 31, 2008, an NCAA appeals committee lifted all hiring restrictions on the coach.
11. Billy Gillispie – Kentucky: The 40-27 record may have been scandalous to fans in Lexington, but don’t forget Gillispie let his Texas A&M players know he was leaving for Kentucky via text message, filed suit for breach of contract and recently was arrested for drunken driving -- yet again.
12. Bob Huggins – Cincinnati: Huggins was forced out as Bearcats coach in 2005 following a tenure that included a zero percent graduation rate, a two-season probation for “lack of institutional control” and a DUI arrest. His current roster at West Virginia is flirting with the law, too.
13. Jan Van Breda Kolff -- St. Bonaventure: To this day Van Breda Kolff denies any knowledge of junior college transfer Jamil Terrell's lack of academic credentials. What makes this scandal different is that when it was ruled SBU would have to forfeit all games with Terrell, the team packed it up for the season two games early.
14. C. Vivian Stringer – Rutgers: No, this has nothing to do with Don Imus. This has to do with Stringer, who recruited Shalica Hurns in 2002 despite the player having been tossed out of two colleges for criminal conduct. Hurns’ time in Rutgers ended when she was kicked out and convicted of assault after stabbing, binding and torturing her roommate.
15. Isiah Thomas – Florida International: Everyone knows he’ll find a way to mess it up.
By Kevin Heitz
Issue 141: September 2009