Speed Read: What’s Rick Pitino Going To Do Now?

As Brooks mentioned late last night, the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had sex with Karen Sypher, the woman he has accused of extortion, then paid her $3,000 to get an abortion when she became pregnant. All of this happened back in 2003, and the reasons behind his case against her have become much clearer: she demanded $10 million, among other things, to keep quiet about all of it. He wasn’t having any of that, and went to the FBI about it.

Rick Pitino

Sypher fired back with a rape charge against Pitino, saying that the liaison that led to her pregnancy was an assault, and not a consensual incident. Pitino was never charged with anything because Sypher’s story is full of holes and she could offer no evidence of such an assault (in fact, she went on to marry Louisville’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher, ensuring that she would be spending more time around Pitino).

So now what for Pitino? His lawyer says he’s not making any public statements until the trial, but this is a pretty large matzo ball just hanging out there now. There’s not much else going in Louisville other than this, so it’s just going to keep building and building. How can the guy be an effective coach at this point?

I won’t try and recount the entire COURIER-JOURNAL story here (however, it’s well worth your time to read it), but I will mention a few things that have stood out for me since taking some time to digest everything:

1. Brooks noted months ago that it was curious that ESPN used Pat Forde to report on the situation originally, considering the fact that Forde is a Louisville resident who co-authored a book with Pitino last year. Well, the WWL obviously hasn’t reconsidered that decision, as they trotted him back out last night to comment on the situation on ESPNEWS. Forde was presented simply as an “ESPN.COM senior writer,” and no mention was made on the air of his personal ties to Pitino. Predictably, Forde tried to downplay the latest revelations and focused mostly on emphasizing Sypher’s legal troubles. He admitted that Pitino was in an uncomfortable spot now, but stopped well short of saying anything critical of the coach.

Pat Forde

(Where’s Cossack or Munson?)

1A. If Sypher filed a civil suit against Pitino for allegedly raping her, would ESPN find that worthy of coverage?

2. We don’t know for sure that this was Pitino’s kid, right? Pitino says he would request a paternity test if she decided to have the kid, but she opted for an abortion instead. She then accepted $3,000 from him for the procedure. She clearly had the abortion, but isn’t it possible that she went to Pitino for the money because she knew he would pay up? He says she told him that she hadn’t had sex with anyone else in months, but she hasn’t appeared to be entirely trustworthy here.

3. Pitino says that he and Karen Sypher met at Tim Sypher’s condo (she and Tim didn’t know each other at the time) to talk about the pregnancy and figure out what to do. Now, knowing what was going on, what on earth would make Tim go “you know what, I think I need to get aboard the Karen train”? Shockingly, the Syphers are now estranged.

Karen Sypher

4. UL president Tom Jurich is quoted as saying that Pitino “has been truthful about this matter with us all along.” Does that mean the school has known all of these details for six years? If not, when did they find out? Was there any sort of off-the-record punishment for this? Some coaches have gotten canned for drinking beer at a frat party, so I can’t imagine that UL would’ve taken too kindly to their married coach impregnating a woman at a restaurant.

5. Pitino isn’t in any sort of trouble legally, but as this drags on in court it’s going to be a huge distraction. Was that a consideration in bringing Ralph Willard over from Holy Cross to be his new lead assistant? Willard’s exactly the kind of guy who could step in on an interim basis if Pitino decides to either take time off or step down altogether. Pitino actually had a possible way out of Louisville a few months ago when the Sacramento Kings were looking for a new coach, but he decided to stick around.

Ralph Willard

(UL’s next coach?)

Is Rick Pitino going to be Louisville’s coach in 2009-10?

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It may not be the biggest soccer game the U.S. has ever played, but today’s showdown with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier sure seems like a big deal. That’s probably because ESPN has spent an inordinate amount of time hyping the game. Having just acquired English Premier League rights, and coming off a summer of showing a number of games involving European clubs touring the U.S., the network is clearly committed to promoting the sport like never before. And they finally seem to have realized that they way to make the game more popular in this country is to give us less MLS and more actual good soccer.

US soccer fans

(USA! USA! USA!)

That recent commitment has resulted in a first — ESPN has sent Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas down to Mexico City to put on a 30-minute pre-game show for today’s match. This despite the fact that the game isn’t being shown on ESPN (it’s on some channel called mun2 if you’re wondering).

U.S. Mexico soccer

Despite all the attention, the game is much less crucial to the U.S. than it may seem. The Americans are comfortable in second place in the qualifying group, and while a loss to Mexico wouldn’t be ideal, the U.S. would still have the edge in the standings. The expectations aren’t exactly high, either — the U.S. is 0-22-1 in Mexico.

That puts all of the pressure squarely on Mexico, which sits in fourth place in the group and needs to get into the top three to automatically qualify for the World Cup. A loss to the U.S. would be a complete disaster and might put them in too deep a hole to dig out of. In other words, the Americans don’t have a whole lot to lose out there, and if they can shock Azteca Stadium with an early goal, watch out. That won’t be easy, though, as this LA TIMES article contends. At 7,400 feet in the middle of a smoggy afternoon in a cavernous stadium that will be shaking with noise, it’s maybe the worst stadium atmosphere for visitors in the entire world.

Azteca Stadium

Let’s get on with the links:

• The BOSTON GLOBE has a great photo essay of Kevin Youkilis losing his s*** after getting plunked by Detroit’s Rick Porcello last night:

Kevin Youkilis charging mound

It was a poor effort by Youk, who had all the upper hand when he tossed his helmet at a stunned Porcello, and still ended up getting spun down to the ground by the 20-year-old. In other words, he only did marginally better than Zimmer.

Don Zimmer Pedro Martinez

A horse trainer in Arizona has been accused of sexual abuse with his students. People (young girls), if you’re wondering.

• Politicians in New Jersey are threatening to withhold state money from pro teams that play there but don’t mention the state on their uniforms. Which appears to be all of them except the Devils, now that the Nets have removed the “New Jersey” from their road unis.

new jersey nets dancers

(OK, so maybe these don’t technically say New Jersey, but we get the picture)

• Baseball and softball are out, but women’s boxing might be in for the 2012 Olympics. Also, it’s about time they fixed the debacle that is the modern pentathlon.

• All these years, I had no idea that Brooks was in a country music duo with Adam Dunn. Well, used to be in a country music duo.

• Coming soon to “The Ocho,” the world championships of catching laptops in your butt:

Adrian Gonzalez set a Padres franchise record with 6 hits in a 9-inning win over the Brewers last night. The last Padre with 6 hits was Tony Gwynn, who did it in an extra-inning game 16 years and 80 pounds ago.

• Australian Trent Oeltjen spent 9 years in the minors, but he’s 12-for-24 with 3 homers in his first 5 games in the majors with Arizona. He got a standing ovation from the Chase Field crowd during his 4-hit game last night against the Mets (it’s been a rough year there).

• We reported yesterday that the USFL is supposedly coming back, and wants to resurrect the teams from the old league. Not sure how they’re going to get a license for those names and logos, though, as this site has been selling USFL logo merchandise for a few years (I got a Portland Breakers shirt there).

New Jersey Generals

(Now here’s a team the fine folks of New Jersey can be proud of)

• One month later, Arturo Gatti’s death is just a big a mystery as ever.

• You think pro athletes in this country behave outrageously? Australia’s National Rugby League is in the midst of a crisis due to one ridiculous scandal after another. Sponsors are considering pulling their support from the league until things get under control. The latest incident involves Greg Inglis, said to be one of the best players in the world. He is charged with assaulting his girlfriend over the weekend. It’s kind of the equivalent of Kobe Bryant hypothetically getting accused of something like sexual assault…oh, wait.

Speed Read: T.O. Lobbies, Tweets For Mike Vick

When SbB held its first 30-day moratorium poll this past week, I was somewhat disappointed that there could be only one winner. And while the actual choice (who shall not be named) was fine enough, it meant that we were still going to have to talk about what Terrell Owens is doing.

TO and Michael Vick

And that, today, is apparently suggesting that Roger Goodell go spend some time in prison so that he knows what Michael Vick has been through. This in response to the idea floating around that Goodell plans to suspend Vick for four games as a condition for returning to the league. Ray Ratto thinks T.O. might have some ulterior motives, but that he appears to be genuine in his support for Vick. Now, about the suspension…well, I can’t put it nearly as eloquently as T.O. can (via FANHOUSE):

“I don’t think it’s really fair for him to be suspended four more games. That’s almost like kicking a dead horse in the ground.”

Well said, sir.

He’s also using Twitter to try and round up support for Vick, hoping that a groundswell of public sentiment will sway Goodell. I mean, it’s just like that whole thing over in Iran.

Oddly, T.O. has a bit of a point. Vick’s livelihood was taken away while he was in prison, so why would Goodell feel the need to tack on a token suspension that is the same length as one for a first violation of the league’s drug policy? I mean, if he really considered the prison time as separate from the league’s punishment, then you would think the suspension would be harsher, like a year or something. Otherwise, isn’t being out of the league for two years and going bankrupt serving the same purpose? I don’t think Goodell has to give him four games off to prove that the NFL doesn’t approve of dogfighters. I think that’s pretty well understood, considering you get in trouble for wearing your socks wrong in that league.

Michael Vick chased by dog

Don’t be fooled by that 5-0 win by Mexico over the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final yesterday at Giants Stadium. The Americans have been playing this entire tournament with a second-tier squad made up mostly of players with little international experience. The Mexicans, meanwhile, put a much better team out on the field, as was shown by their dominance throughout the tournament. And, while it was sad to see the U.S. team fall apart, the way Mexico dismantled our guys in the second half was quite a thing to watch (the game was scoreless at halftime). Get ready for goooooooooooools-a-plenty:

The U.S. was somewhat fortunate to advance this far, struggling to a tie with powerhouse Haiti and needing extra time to beat Panama. So a loss was to be expected, though the magnitude was larger than anyone thought. It’s the worst loss for the U.S. since 1985. Perhaps it was for the best that it was only on in English on the tiny Fox Soccer Channel.

If anything, this was a moral boost for the Mexicans going into the huge showdown on August 12th between the two countries in World Cup qualifying in Mexico City. None of the players the U.S. used yesterday are likely to play in that game, while a couple of Mexico’s players will probably see action. But I can’t imagine that this game is really going to have much impact on the qualifier. The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’ Filip Bondy seems to think that the credibility the U.S. earned in games against Spain and Brazil is diminished by this result, but anyone who follows the sport closely (ie. everyone in the world besides Americans) knows that the U.S. lineup was a shell of the team that made waves in South Africa.

The NEW YORK TIMES seems to have grasped this, and notes that all of the goodwill Mexico earned yesterday could be lost if they can’t beat the Americans in August. The U.S. is 0-22-1 all-time in Mexico, but a win by the Americans would be devastating to the hosts, who are fourth in the qualifying group (only the top three automatically make the World Cup). The U.S. is currently in second place behind Costa Rica.

Mexico gold cup

• The Ravens were stunned by Derrick Mason’s retirement, so they went out and signed Drew Bennett to replace him. Bennett lasted all of two days before deciding to retire yesterday. You just aren’t meant to have wide receivers, Baltimore.

• Wait, who’s in first place in the NL Central? Oh yeah, it’s the team the Phillies are going to sweep in the first round in October.

Keith Olbermann says that Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose spoke for the first time in 20 years on Saturday in Cooperstown. Rose shows up every year to sign memorabilia on HOF weekend.

Sparky Anderson Pete Rose

• Ladbrokes is offering 100-1 odds that one of Roger Federer’s twin daughters will win Wimbledon by the age of 25. They’re five days old.

Dinara Safina: Really good at winning tournaments nobody cares about.

Lou Holtz took a Notre Dame alumni team over to Japan, where he coached them to a 19-3 win over the Japanese national team. No word on whether or not “Dr. Lou” made an appearance on Japanese television.

• MENTAL FLOSS challenges you to pick which hat 14 Hall of Famers wore to their induction.

Dwyane Wade is tweeting to Lamar Odom, trying to coax him down to Miami. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that a bag of Jolly Ranchers will do the trick.

candy

• A cricket player was struck by lightning in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon during a match. He’s listed in serious condition. The ghost of Gil Hodges has been brought in for questioning.

• Massive rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan met yesterday in, of all places, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. In other news, the Giants and Jets will play each other this year in Reykjavik.

• French president Nicolas Sarkozy can’t stand the heat. Literally. He collapsed while jogging yesterday in Paris, but he’s going to be just fine. Which means we can run this picture of his wife without any guilt:

Carla Bruni Sarkozy

 

What do you think of a rumored 4-game suspension for Michael Vick?

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Speed Read: Hansbrough, UNC Handle Duke Again

You have to hand it to the Cameron Crazies. Not so much for dressing a student as Beaker from “The Muppet Show” to point out the resemblance with North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. Frankly, this is old news. But having said Duke student/Muppet wear a T-shirt that says “D League,” as the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER noted. That’s classic - even North Carolina players were laughing over that one.

Tyler Hansbrough and Beaker

But then again, it was the Tar Heels and Hansbrough who had the last laugh again, as North Carolina pulled away in the second half to take down the Blue Devils 101-87 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Which made Hansbrough and senior teammate Danny Green the only two players to play in four straight victories at Duke since Mike Krzyzewski took over as the Blue Devils’ coach.

Mike Krzyzewski reacts to UNC loss

The spark for North Carolina was Ty Lawson, who scored 21 points in the second half to help the Tar Heels rally from an eight-point halftime deficit. (Good thing there is nothing the Duke fans could have given him grief about.) But as usual, the story was Hansbrough, whether he was hitting key three-pointers, getting compared to a Muppet, or getting cracked in the jaw by a Kyle Singler elbow:

You have to love the crackerjack ESPN crew of Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale totally missing the elbow. But at least Vitale - once he noticed what was happening - actually admitted that a Duke player did a bad, bad thing. Unlike Billy Packer, who probably would have chided Hansbrough for ramming into Singler’s elbow with his face.

And what’s the best way to celebrate a big win if you’re a North Carolina student? Why, burning a Christmas tree, of course. Take that, Christmas! (Why they still had a tree in February is another question.):

Speaking of Christmas…it’s time to give you the gift that keeps on giving: Brett Favre is finally gone. After the Jets’ meltdown to end the season, it was obvious what was going to happen, but it’s official: he’s filed his retirement paperwork with the league and is apparently done. No teary press conferences, no 24/7 ESPN media watch, just an old man making sure, as the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS reports, he gets his severance pay like an auto worker reaching retirement age.

Brett Favre

So our national nightmare is over. Unless Favre goes online and reads stories like those from Dan Pompei of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, who immediately wrote a column that suggested Favre could still “lead certain teams to the Super Bowl. Certain teams meaning “Minnesota Vikings.” For God’s sake, Pompei, let’s not give him any ideas - this is like Edward R. Murrow going on the radio and suggesting that Joseph McCarthy should try exposing gay in the military instead of Communists.

Other sports stories that happened last night as you regretted eating peanut butter and peanut sandwiches for dinner (with peanut brittle for dessert):

  • CNBC says that jewelry maker Robindira Unsworth received a surprise when one of her creations wound up dangling from the neck of Bar Refaeli on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue. Which makes me wonder: has anyone even noticed her necklace while looking at the cover? Perhaps boyfriend Leonard DiCaprio bought it for her, a nice gift - as the LA TIMES says some people think the SI cover was.
  • Bar Refaeli SI swimsuit cover

  • GOAL.COM says Mexico soccer captain Rafael Marquez is really sorry that he drove his spikes into US goalkeeper Tim Howard’s thigh, earning him a red card in his team’s 2-0 loss in a World Cup qualifying match in Columbus last night.  He might want to apologize to Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who is now in danger of losing his job after El Tri have only won one of their last seven games.
  • Remember the testing program Lance Armstrong was going to undertake during his comeback to prove that he was free of performing-enhancing drugs? What a shock - it’s been scrapped, as KCRA-TV reports that he now claims that it’s too expensive and complex to pull off this year. I guess getting rid of Favre is all we could ask for.
  • Just what the already-volatile Dallas Cowboys’ locker room needs: Ray Lewis. The DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports that Terrell Owens has been making phone calls trying to recruit the Ravens’ linebacker/non-murder to play for Dallas this season.
  • Despite claims in a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, Roberto Alomar tells ESPN that he’s perfectly healthy and does not have AIDS. And he’s willing to spit anywhere needed to prove it.
  • Former Congressman Tom Davis tells NBCSPORTS.COM that it’s time to “cut your losses,” and that you can expect charges against Roger Clemens for lying under oath soon.
  • A woman in Fresno put up her old baseball card on eBay for $10, but decided to pull the item after receiving way too many e-mails asking if it was real. It turns out that the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings card was real, and worth a lot more than she thought: the AP says she sold it yesterday for almost $65,000.
  • Speaking of eBay, IDIOTS ON SPORTS found this beauty up for sale on the auction site, although I doubt it’s worth $65,000:
  • Bobby Labonte limo thing

  • The WACO TRIBUNE reports that Baylor football recruit Willie Jefferson was arrested 10 days before signing his letter of intent and charged with marijuana possession after cops found a “small bag of marijuana, a marijuana cigarette and several cigars in a cavity on the floorboard of the vehicle” Jefferson was driving. This is why you don’t by a used car from Tommy Chong.
  • See, Sirius XM isn’t going bankrupt. If it was, why would they be flying Chris Russo out first-class to spring training- twice! - as he told Howard Stern yesterday. Just like there’s no way the banks could be going under if they can still afford to fly their executives out to expensive resorts for annual meetings.

Which rivalry are you most sick of hearing about?

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