Rick Pitino's personal failings should be
forgiven and he should remain as head basketball coach at the
University of Louisville, churchgoers in Kentucky said Sunday.
Some anti-abortion groups have called for the university to fire
Pitino because a woman with whom he admitted having extramarital
sex had an abortion soon after.
But Catholics attending Mass Sunday morning said the
high-profile coach, a self-professed Roman Catholic, should be
given another chance.
A member at a Louisville church Pitino has attended said
Pitino's moral shortcomings are between the coach and God, despite
the Catholic church's opposition to abortion.
"I still think he's a great man, he just put himself in a bad
position and it's a terrible blemish on his character," said
Arnold Brown, who attended an early mass Sunday at St. Frances of
Brown, 69, said he is a University of Kentucky fan but he
"loves Rick Pitino," who coached in the 1990s at Kentucky, where
he led the Wildcats to the national championship in 1996.
"I think he's led a good life and been very charitable and
St. Frances pastor B.J. Breen said Pitino "drops in" from time
Pitino has admitted to police that he had sex in 2003 with Karen
Cunagin Sypher, who was indicted in May on charges of lying to the
FBI and attempting to extort up to $10 million from Pitino. She has
pleaded not guilty in that federal case.
In police documents which became public last week, Pitino
acknowledged giving Sypher $3,000 after she said she was pregnant
and was getting an abortion, but didn't have health insurance.
Pitino's lawyer, Steve Pence, has insisted the money was for
insurance and Pitino never paid for an abortion.
Pence has called Sypher's decision "solely hers," while she
has claimed that it was not.
Pitino apologized publicly last week for the "indiscretion six
Meanwhile a student group at the University of Louisville called
for the school to fire Pitino due to a morality clause in his
contract that states the coach can be terminated for "acts of
Abortion should count as a morally depraved act, said Matt
Foushee, who founded the group Louisville Cardinals for Life.
"The real root of this issue is that we have someone who
would've been a six-year-old boy or girl right now, who is dead,"
Foushee said. "And the tragedy is that it is not being seen as a
problem. (Pitino is) being seen as the victim."
Martin Cothran, who works for the Family Foundation of Kentucky,
an anti-abortion lobbying group, also called for Pitino's firing in
his personal online blog last week.
But Catholics attending church Sunday morning were more
"Everyone has problems in their life," said Brian Esser, a
24-year-old law student at the University of Louisville who
attended the Cathedral of the Assumption on Sunday. "I can't judge
Cecilia H. Price, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Louisville, said in a statement Sunday that the
"church's teaching and pastoral outreach are clear, but we do not
think it is appropriate to comment on individuals or individual
Despite that, Pitino should "absolutely" keep his job, said
Steve Sims, a salesman from Owensboro who was visiting the
Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, a church Pitino once
attended when he coached at Kentucky.
"It is disappointing from a personal level, but at the same
time that would be between him and God," Sims said. "And as human
beings, we all from time to time disappoint one another."
But Linda Harvey, who said she once saw Pitino at a mass at
Christ the King, said she hasn't made up her mind whether Pitino
should be let go.
"I just don't think he gives very good witness to the Catholic
faith with the abortion issue," said Harvey, a social worker who
said she was offended when she heard about the abortion by the
woman who had sex with Pitino. "It's a serious issue."