St. John's Rick Pitino sounds off on NCAA's enforcement arm: 'Tough time in college basketball'


St. John’s men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino argued Saturday the NCAA should stand down in policing its member schools as the organization faces challenges from two attorneys general over an NIL dispute.

Pitino made his opinion clear after the Red Storm fell to No. 1 UConn 77-64. The NCAA faces antitrust lawsuits from the attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia. Officials challenged the NCAA’s ban on the issue of NIL compensation in recruiting in response to the NCAA’s probe into the University of Tennessee.

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St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino watches from the sideline during the game against UConn on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

“The enforcement staff needs to go away,” Pitino said. “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.”

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Rick Pitino helps a player

St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino helps UConn guard Tristen Newton to his feet on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

The attorneys general request will be heard on Feb. 13. They’re asking for a preliminary injunction that would hold the NCAA’s rules banning recruiting inducements and pay for play.

“It’s a very difficult time in college basketball, because it’s free agency,” Pitino added. “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.

Rick Pitino watches

Rick Pitino attends a game between the Nevada Wolf Pack and the New Mexico Lobos on Jan. 28, 2024, in Albuquerque. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

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“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 Associated Press contributed to this report.



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