What does the Rick Pitino NCAA ruling have to do with Hugh Freeze? Maybe a lot

Hugh Freeze
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports

Does it matter if a head coach didn’t know about NCAA violations? The NCAA said no in Rick Pitino’s case, and that may be a bad sign for Ole Miss.

The NCAA handed down a suspension of five ACC games for Louisville basketball coach Pitino in connection with the Cardinals’ recruiting scandal.

Other penalties include the vacation of all games involving ineligible players from December 2010 to July 2014 (it’s not yet clear whether this includes the team’s 2013 NCAA title), scholarship reductions, four years of probation and a 10-year show-cause penalty for former director of basketball operations Andre McGee, who was accused of paying for strippers to perform at sex parties involving recruits.

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But the case has wider implications beyond Louisville.

Although Louisville argued that Pitino was not aware of the violations, the NCAA ruled that by not preventing McGee’s actions, the coach was guilty of “failure to monitor.”

If this reasoning is applied to other NCAA investigations, it could present a problem for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, even though the circumstances of the two cases are different.

Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann immediately noted the implications.

When Ole Miss responded to the NCAA’s notice of allegations earlier this month, the school acknowledged that some violations occurred, but also said that Freeze himself “has met expectations to emphasize (and) promote compliance.”

Ole Miss also said that its case “does not involve a head coach who facilitated or participated in violations or otherwise ignored red flags associated with them.”

Based on the standard in the Pitino case, though, that may not be good enough – for Freeze or any other coach falling afoul of the NCAA rulebook in future years.

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