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Rick Pitino, oversigning and some more ramblings about transfers

Jun 7, 2012, 1:23 AM EDT

NCAA Final Four Kentucky Louisville Basketball

For the second time in the past two months, Rick Pitino has urged one of his upperclassmen to transfer in an effort to get them more playing time.

Back in April, Jared Swopshire officially announced that he would be transferring to Northwestern where he would be allowed to play immediately (graduate transfer waivers and all). The reason given by Pitino for urging the move? He “would love for Swopshire play 32 minutes somewhere else than 10 minutes here.”

And on Wednesday, rising senior Stephen Van Treese officially announced that he would be leaving the Louisville program, ending speculation as to how the Cardinals would solve their scholarship problem with the addition of freshman Montrezl Harrell. But, as Van Treese told the Indy Star, the explanation given to Van Treese was differnt. “(Pitino) said he felt like I need to go somewhere and play and get 30 minutes a game,” he said. “That wasn’t going to happen here.”

Pitino is going to be ripped for this, especially considering the fact that it is coming on the heels of his decision to force George Goode out last season. It doesn’t help matters that, prior to the season, Pitino was already talking about how this would be Swopshire’s last season at Louisville. Or that last season, he needed three scholarship players — Elisha Justice, Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith — to become walk-ons.

This is, quite literally, the definition of oversigning.

And what makes the issue even more troublesome is the fact that the players Pitino is running off are getting “cut” due to injuries they’ve sustained. Swopshire nearly had his career ended by a gruesome groin injury he suffered after spending the 2009-2010 season as a Louisville starter. After a reasonably successful 2010-2011 campaign, there was reason to believe that Van Treese could have become a solid contributor in his final two years in the program. He played just three games this past season due to knee issues.

It would be one thing if Pitino came out and said that he is forcing these players to transfer by refusing to offer them a scholarship for next season. (Scholarships are only renewable for one-year.) Instead, he is saying that he is doing this because it is in the best interest of the players. Given the fact that both are struggling to see minutes at the college level while dealing with serious injuries, it is awfully presumptuous to think that playing 30 minutes a game in a lesser program is a better situation than being a member of a team playing for a national title.

Look, Pitino does have a point. With a front line consisting of Harrell, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan, playing time was going to be tough to come by for Swopshire and Van Treese. On an individual level, it is probably better for the potential professional careers of those two players that they go to a place where they can have a chance to play a lot of minutes.

But why is the power in Pitino’s hands to make those decisions? And why is he allowed to force his dedicated upperclassmen to transfer when he can, at the same time, refuse to release them to the school they want to go to?

That’s why this rule is unfair.

I don’t have a major problem with Pitino telling Swopshire to transfer because they ran out of scholarships or asking Van Treese to leave because they brought in Harrell. They got cut because Louisville got better players. It sucks, but it happens.

My issue is with how easy it is for a coach to get rid of a player when things don’t work out while it is, comparatively, a potential nightmare for the player if he decides he wants to leave.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. seanb20124 - Jun 7, 2012 at 5:39 AM

    Unfortunately basketball is a results oriented big business. What have you done for me lately??

    • indigdoc - Jun 10, 2012 at 9:05 PM

      This is not new for Pitino and the ‘Ville. This is an Annual occurrence…biz as usual. Remember Chad Millard?

      This is Standard Operating Procedure for many BCS schools, and Louisville has it down to a science: Bring in 6 Recruits this year…play ’em. One goes pro, keep one, let 4 go to “further their careers elsewhere”. Couple with 1 or 2 Seniors and the ‘Ville can continue to bring in 5-6 newbies annually. Same at other top schools (UK, KU, S’cuse, UConn, etc.)

      This is not news!

  2. cardsglory - Jun 7, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    I dare you to find one player who has said that they were wronged by Pitino. You say that Goode and Swopshire were “forced out”. They were on scholarship for four years, and both of them have nothing but great things about the way they were treated by Pitino. As for Van Treese, call it what you want, but he wasn’t going to see the court next season, except for in mop up time. It’s a little cut throat, but they had their four years at uofl, and they weren’t “forced out”.

    • Rob Dauster - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:04 AM

      How can you say they weren’t forced out? Van Treese and Swopshire would both still be at Louisville if Pitino didn’t recruit over them.

      • Alex K - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:41 AM

        Does Pitino have a rep as a guy that blocks an extrodinary amount of schools? As a Cards fan I haven’t heard this. I agree the rule is terrible, but as long as Pitino isn’t being unreasonable about the schools they are restricting (if there are any) I don’t see a problem with it. I’m sure that Pitino will help SVT find a new school if SVT is open to the help.

  3. jdmnash - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    I don’t understand how anyone would expect Pitino to pass on Harrell so he doesn’t hurt VanTreese’s feelings. I agree that the rule sucks. The player should be able to go anywhere he wants. Goode and Swopshire were both seniors for the record. Planning your recruiting process 2-3 years in advance i would imagine – rarely includes plans for accommodating 5th year seniors. He’s keeping the roster strong in the better interest of the team. I would be surprised if other coaches handled it differently in the same position. While recruiting Pitino has always made it very clear that his interests are with the team as a whole first then the individual players second. While coaches like Calipari make it clear while recruiting that his interests are with the players first, then the team second.

  4. cardsglory - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Because Swopshire left in very good standing with Pitino and the program, same with Goode. It’s a crappy rule, but it happens. And i dare you to find a coach who wouldn’t take Harrell over Van Treese. Again, I challenge you to find a player who Pitino has “forced out”, who has said something negative about him or the program.

  5. cardsglory - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    Also, where have you seen that he is blocking certain schools?

  6. cardsglory - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    And alas, “rising senior”? He was a good role player on our team two years ago, but that was a team that lost to Cal in the opening round, not one loaded with talent and a preseason top 3. He wasn’t going to see the court at all. Again, not saying its 100 percent right, but find a coach who wouldn’t have done the same thing. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

    • buddyloveblog - Jun 8, 2012 at 10:59 PM

      I can name one, and I bet my first born child that ‘ol Ricky can too. Hint: He’s right down I-64 and he doesn’t over-sign.

  7. joneildu - Jun 7, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    I have no problem with scholarships being 1-year renewable. I have no issues with coaches being able to “cut” players. College basketball is a business and players are assets. The problem I have is on the academic side. If a school is going to pour money into recruiting players and paying coaches and scouts, they (the school) should have some liability in choices they make. Not all student athletes go pro (cue the commercial). Players like SVT know they won’t be getting paid to play basketball upon graduation, so academics to them can be essential. Whenever a student is kicked off scholarship, they have to find a way to pay for an education they didn’t have to pay for prior, or else transfer. Not every program at every school is easily transferable. Transferring out of the speed school at UofL would be a complete nightmare. If coaches cut kids, they should have some protection on the academic side. These kids should continue to be on some kind of scholarship if they wish to stay at the school. To prevent coaches from abusing this system, the player could be banned from “walking-on” at that program. Maybe the athletic scholarship could be renewed in the future if one opens the following year (akin to sitting out a year for transfers). This gives the young kids some flexibility in their choices on both their athletic and academic futures without noticeably affecting the “integrity” of the NCAA.

  8. gardencourt2505 - Jun 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    As a huge UofL fan, I believe Pitino is going for broke trying to deliver a title to Louisville before he retires. Not sure how much he really cares about minutes a player gets once they’re gone either. I hope it works out for Van Treese. The players that get these scholarships better produce or there will be some highly disappointed Cards fans. Not that he cares, but Pitino might miss the boat on a few good players because this kind of stuff.

  9. buddyloveblog - Jun 8, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    Another example of Pitino’s desperation to try and keep up with Big Brother down the road. Good luck Ricky, your going to need it. This type of behavior is not foreign to Pitino though, just ask Rodrick Rhodes how his old coach looks out for his own players. L1C4, LOLOLOLOL.

  10. imforbigblue - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    You loserville fans kill me you were calling for blood and saying how bad cal was when he took over UK and told a few players they wouldn’t be coming back next year but now that dirty bird Rick is doing it its ok and how can you pass up this good players over guys who won’t see any playing time SMH. It’s ok you’ll still be little brother and Rick will be In Cals shadow till Rick retires lol. By the way it only took cal 3 years to win a title what’s Rick going on 10 plus years with none and to make it worse we sent you packing in the FF lol

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