With legal disputes escalating over the use of name, image and likeness compensation in the recruitment of college athletes, Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino said he believes it’s time for the Indianapolis-based NCAA to stand down when it comes to policing member schools.
“It’s a very difficult time in college basketball, because it’s free agency. And now I think what’s going to happen is, they’re going to say everybody can transfer, and then if they don’t like it, they’re going to take ‘em to court,” the first-year St. John’s University coach said Saturday.
“So, I think the NCAA enforcement staff just should be disbanded. It’s a joke. Not because I dislike them. But, they’re of no value anymore. Because just, Tennessee now will take ‘em to court, Virginia will take ’em to court …”
The attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday that challenged its ban on the use of NIL compensation in recruiting, and in response to the association’s investigation of the University of Tennessee.
A judge will hear their request on Feb. 13 for a preliminary injunction that would put on hold NCAA rules banning recruiting inducements and pay-for-play, the court posted Friday.
The 71-year-old Pitino, who has a history of run-ins with the NCAA, volunteered his thoughts on the organization following his team’s 77-64 loss to top-ranked UConn at Madison Square Garden. His comments came at the postgame news conference in response to a reporter’s question about stoking a renewed rivalry with the powerhouse Huskies, the defending national champions, as he rebuilds the St. John’s program.
“The enforcement staff needs to go away,” Pitino continued. “We need to stop all the hypocrisy of NIL. We need to stop it. Because they can’t stop it. Whether I’m for it or against it doesn’t matter.
“They are professional athletes. Get professionally paid. It’s not going away. You can’t try to get loopholes, because they take you to court. That’s why I say—so I‘m not knocking the enforcement staff—they’re going to get taken to court every time they try to make a rule. So it’s a tough time in college basketball right now. And for us, you can’t really build programs and a culture because everybody leaves.”
Pitino, who won national championships at the University of Kentucky in 1996 and the University of Louisville in 2013, has had been dealing with scandals for more than a decade.
The title at Louisville was vacated for NCAA violations and another NCAA case related to the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting led to him being fired by Louisville in 2017.
The final ruling from the NCAA’s outside enforcement arm on the FBI case came down in November 2022 and exonerated Pitino.
After leaving Iona last March to take the St. John’s job, Pitino brought in 12 new players for this season—including 10 transfers. But he said the current college landscape involving NIL and the transfer portal makes it “very tough” to build a consistent culture at a high-level program.
“I think so many football coaches are getting out, so many basketball coaches are getting out, because of this culture,” Pitino said. “It’s tough to build a program. You’ve got to really innovate, get creative and understand these rules right now—or lack of rules.”