Hello, college basketball fans of America’s struggling programs. Please dry your eyes. Life ain’t that bad.
Remember, you could be a Minnesota basketball fan.
On Sunday, Minnesota’s projected starting center for the 2016-17 season, Reggie Lynch, was suspended indefinitely after an arrest on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct.
On Tuesday, we learned that head coach Richard Pitino, who has never led the Gophers to the NCAA tournament and finished with a combined Big Ten record of 16-38 after his third season, overspent on private jet travel during his first three years with the program. We’re not talking pennies here, people.
According to an internal audit acquired by the Star Tribune, Pitino has exceeded his allotted budget for private jet travel by $175,000. Say it again to yourself. One. Hundred. Seventy-Five. Thousand. Dollars.
The school gave him $50,000 per year or $150,000 total for private travel during his first three seasons. Pitino spent $325,000 during that stretch.
Folks don’t sweat budgets when teams win. But when you finish 51-51 with a weak nonconference schedule in your first three seasons and continue to rack up negative headlines, financial issues become bigger problems for a team with a knapsack full of them.
The authors of the audit have advised school officials to recoup some of the cash from Pitino, who occasionally hopped onto a private jet because he didn’t feel like making a three-hour drive:
According to the report, as of February, Pitino had already spent $53,388 on private jet usage for fiscal year 2016. During the three-year period, Pitino also took two private jet flights that were “unallowable” because they were less than 200 miles from campus.
That’s $53,388 through February, folks. The fiscal year ends in June. That’s not good. But it gets worse.
Pitino’s other budgetary transgressions:
In addition to the private jet spending, both basketball programs spent more than allowed on hotels, private cars, birthday or holiday parties, meals and valet parking. The audit even flagged “unreasonable” spending by Pitino involving “multiple” rental cars returned without full gas tanks and instances of parking at the airport even though the team had rented a bus.
You gotta fill up the rental cars. That’s simple stuff. And why is he driving to the airport, which is just 15 miles from the Minnesota campus, if the school arranges private buses to shuttle the players and staffers to their destinations?
But school officials, who still haven’t hired an athletic director after Norwood Teague resigned last year following sexual harassment claims, can’t do much about this.
Pitino isn’t going anywhere. He has assembled the program’s best incoming recruiting class in recent years, and he’s sitting on a $7.1 million buyout that he worked out with Teague before the latter’s resignation.
Just imagine if you were a Minnesota basketball fan right now.
Now go tell your favorite teams how much you appreciate them.