Students in our Media Design & Communication course looked at the response given by the University of Louisville when they were made aware of a possible scandal involving the Director Of Basketball Operations. The students responded on how they thought the university handled allegations of the director hiring prostitutes for potential recruits.
By: Chelsea Kouri
In the Louisville scandal, it seems that the University found out about the allegations at the end of August and publically addressed them early October. I think Louisville’s actions for this scandal were mostly done well. The fact that they immediately involved the NCAA when they found out is important to me. As I read in other articles it is always hard to make decisions that affect a program you are close to. Louisville would want to protect themselves as much as possible so handing it over to the NCAA made me believe that the consequences that come from the investigation will be fair. I’m sure it would have happened under the circumstances so for them to take the initiative is important. The press conference to answer questions was necessary and they did it quickly after the scandal became public. Tom Jurich did a good job of being vague but answering questions as much as possible. He did not deny the fact that it could have happened, took responsibility for anything that would come to light and mentioned many times that the investigation was out of his hands so he could not answer specific questions.
On the other hand there are some things that I think they could have done better. It seems difficult for me to believe that it took nearly 5 months for the President of the University to get an update on what was happening in the investigation. With such allegations I assumed the investigation would go quicker. (After following up more on this case it is clear that these allegations are taking a while to be confirmed or denied as the investigation seems to still be ongoing). I thought the response that was given by Jim Ramsey after the update was done well. He mentioned all he could with the ongoing investigation, the University immediately had their own consequences for the program, he highlighted the positives of Louisville as a whole and still supported the program under fire. As the President, Louisville is more than the men’s basketball program to him and he made that clear by mentioning the other successful parts of the University. Since he mentioned he got an update the previous day I think that was what made the decision come when it did. Also, post season play was very close to beginning so if there were going to be consequences this year it would have to be during postseason play. Are the consequences hard enough? Only time will tell I am sure.
Overall, I think the University did a good job of dealing with a very difficult situation except for Rick Pitino. I know it is hard to take responsibility for something you have no knowledge of but Rick Pitino cannot use that as an excuse. In everything I read he is denying any responsibility. It is his job as a coach to know what goes on in his program when a recruit comes into town. He is closer to the issue than the athletic director so if Tom Jurich is taking the blame, Pitino should too. For these events to happen and him to have no idea may be true, but it is not acceptable. In this scenario I think I would have had to penalize him in some way. Maybe a suspension to start. Pitino may face some consequences after the investigation is closed but there should have been a more immediate one.
It seems now that there are recruits that are confirming the allegations. Nothing has been officially announced, there are just more witnesses that are making the case stronger. As more comes to lights about this the University is keeping quiet. At this point that is probably best until an official outcome is made. If they spoke now it would probably be very similar to the press conference that they had previously because the investigation seems to be ongoing or it would just be a precursor to what I am sure they will be saying later when a press conference is held after the final decision is announced.
By: Mary Walsh
When the allegations of the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball Prostitution Scandal arose in the press, I believe Louisville acted very quickly and appropriately to address the crisis as well as discuss a solution. Athletic Director Tom Jurich and his team acted quickly by conducting a press conference on the same day the Yahoo Sports article was released (Oct. 2, 2015). During the press conference, Jurich seemed transparent when it came to the investigation process. For example, in the opening question of the conference a reporter asked, “What was your initial reaction to hearing the news?” Of course, Jurich described his emotions, but also mentioned the University hired Chuck Smrt to consult and help in the investigation. I thought this statement was an appropriate way to start the conference and a great way to be transparent with the media.
In terms of addressing and handling the crisis, I thought Louisville did an exceptional job on alerting the NCAA and the ACC on the crisis when the allegations arose. I thought it was weird that Indiana contacted Louisville about identifying some pictures and the book is being published by a company in Indianapolis. In Jurich’s press conference he mentioned about he first heard about the situation from Indiana and later said “…no comment” to the question: do you think Indiana turned Louisville in? You could tell Jurich had key messages to get across to the media including using Chuck Smrt and the NCAA to conduct the investigation as well as staying behind head coach Rick Pitino during the crisis. I thought the University President addressed the crisis appropriately as well in terms of using corrective action to restore the university image. The corrective action used was to suspend the men’s basketball team to any post season play for the 2015-16 season based on the facts learned during the crisis.
If I was advising the school administration, I would have declared spokespersons (the Athletic Director and President) to discuss the crisis with the media. Once accomplishing this, I would have educated the staff if questioned by the media to have them contact me (Director of Communication) to set up a meeting with our Athletic Director or President. In terms of key messages and talking to the press, I would have told Jurich to not say “no comment” because this implies that you or the organization is hiding something. I would have advised him to say “I do not give comfortable answering that question” or “I honestly don’t know.”
The school chose to self-impose a post season ban for the current 2015-16 men’s basketball team on Feb. 5, 2016. University President Jim Ramsey made the announcement after they received the facts of the allegations being true. I believe they chose this date to announce their self-imposed sanctions because in February 2015 senior guard Chris Jones was released from the team before being arrested for rape.