Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal:
Katina Powell’s Breaking Cardinal Rules is a blemish on the face of the University of Louisville, but it is not the face. And like all blemishes, this sordid episode will eventually go away and the face will heal.
U of L is taking appropriate steps to investigate Powell’s allegations; we should reserve judgment until the facts are confirmed and that process complete. Calls for Coach Rick Pitino’s resignation are premature. He’s entitled to the same presumption of innocence any of us would want.
Even if Powell’s allegations are true, she does not, cannot fully and accurately portray U of L as an institution. Context matters. There’s a big campus outside Minardi Hall.
Based on exhaustive coverage of her e-book, I’m sure Powell makes no mention of theninety (90!) U of L students who have won Fulbright Scholarships since 2000. That’s more than all Kentucky schools combined. In several recent years, U of L led the nation in Fulbright winners, surpassing Harvard. The NCAA cannot take that away.
The Fulbright statistic reflects two realities. First, U of L is attracting smart students as quantified by the rise in its ACT scores. More important, U of L gives students with the desire and ability the mentoring, advising and encouragement they need to win scholarships like the Fulbright, Rhodes and Truman.
I doubt that Powell’s e-book mentions that this fall, thanks to a $6.3 million grant, U of L opened the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the College of Business. While self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders draws huge crowds, U of L is becoming a haven for the teaching and research of free enterprise and entrepreneurship as a way of “advancing the well-being of society.”
Papa John’s Founder John Schnatter, the primary donor, wrote in this paper recently:
"The Center for Free Enterprise teaches that free enterprise empowers people to reach their full potential and achieve great things. It also teaches that everyone, regardless of his or her station in life, is blessed with gifts and talents that can be used to benefit others. When people are free to apply their skills and pursue their dreams, they are capable of finding tremendous self-fulfillment, self-esteem, and self-respect."
The Center for Free Enterprise is not just a huge catch for U of L; it also can play a critical role in our nation remaining a capitalist economy at a time when many “progressives” reject the concept of the free market. I particularly look forward to the Center's speaker series.
The Center for Free Enterprise is the latest vehicle to draw top-notch students to U of L under President Jim Ramsey, but by no means the only one.
Take, for example, the McConnell Center for Political Leadership, of which I am honored to serve as chair of its Board of Advisers. The McConnell Center offers not just scholarships, but seminars, trips and programming for undergraduates, as well as civics education for Kentucky teachers and a strategic broadening seminar for select members of the U.S. Army. Many of its lectures and speeches are open to the public. (Those who enjoy history and politics should get on its mailing list.)
The Brown Fellows Program similarly has caused many high-caliber students to apply to U of L, matriculate and do important research, even overseas. And the U of L Honors Program gives students small, rigorous classes and opportunities for additional international travel.
I admit that I view U of L through the prism of proud parent of a current undergraduate who is getting an excellent education. He is challenged, knows many of his professors well, and while working hard is enjoying his experience as Cardinal immeasurably. Like 5,000 U of L students, he lives in campus-affiliated housing.
U of L is no longer a commuter school. New construction has rendered the campus unrecognizable compared to when I moved here 20 years ago. This, in turn, has drawn new restaurants and shops near campus.
U of L has benefited from a powerful and loyal alum, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has been an important champion of U of L, helping it secure millions of dollars in federal and private money. The transformation of U of L’s campus is a direct result. That metamorphosis continues: The U of L Foundation expects to spend another billion dollars in new construction by 2020.
The U of L student who sued Powell for allegedly tarnishing U of L and diminishing the value of her education should take heart when that suit is dismissed, as it will be. The Powell saga will pass. No matter how it is resolved, no matter what the NCAA does or the news coverage that ensues, U of L will move forward, and upward.