Louisville basketball ban right move, but questions on scandal remain
The highlight of Louisville's season came last Tuesday with a win over North Carolina. Its lowlight came just a couple of days later.
University of Louisville president James Ramsey and Cardinals director of athletics Tom Jurich announced Friday afternoon that the men's basketball program was self-imposing a one-year postseason ban in the wake of allegations made involving improper benefits to recruits in a sordid scandal that includes prostitutes and recruits.
After months of denials and calling Katina Powell, a self-described madam and author of a book detailing the sexual favors given in exchange for money, a liar, the program decided that there was enough evidence to torpedo its postseason dreams to try to show the NCAA it was sorry for what went down.
It's no small penalty for a program that has yearly national championship dreams. The Cards are ranked. They showed they can play with anyone in that win over North Carolina, and Rick Pitino had more than enough talent to go far in March. This was going to be someone's sleeper team in the Big Dance despite the inconsistency the team has shown.
Which is how you know Louisville's investigation into this whole matter discovered that there was a lot of truth to Powell's accusations.
You don't spike a season unless you're certain there's trouble headed your way.
"Based upon available information, I determined it is reasonable to conclude that violations had occurred," Ramsey said.
On one hand, it's good for Louisville to get in front of the punishment, to take this drastic step to start to atone for what the program is claiming was the actions of one rogue former assistant coach. Andre McGee may no longer be with the program, but his impact is going to be felt for a while.
Still, the postseason ban doesn't put to rest a lot of the questions that still surround the scandal. How does such a plan with so many moving parts—players, recruits, women, people sneaking into and out of dorms, etc.—stay silent on campus to the point that Pitino didn't know about it? How does a guy who is known for being a micromanager somehow miss out on this huge secret involving a pile of players and recruits?
WATCH: Rick Pitino Talks About Louisville's "Substantial" Ban
Teams can hide things from coaches, but this is a different level. This is the kind of thing that ends up in tabloids, not the sports pages. In our social media world, the fact the alleged arrangement stayed quiet as long as it did is stunning.
Still, fingers have to be pointed at Pitino, who could have and should have had all the answers he needed about this situation shortly after the story broke in October. The second he heard about it, he needed to get in front of his team and say, "Spill it. Spill it all, or you're out of here."
The lead investigator in the case says that neither Jurich or Pitino know all the facts to this day, and although that may be technically true, they know the main truth of the story—the did it or did it not happen—and they have for a while.
Instead, this turned into a long-term investigation, one that was pushed to the back burner once the games began. There's obviously an investigative process that goes into each one of these situations, but it wasn't until Louisville got word from its investigative staff that there were, in fact, violations that they made the postseason decision.
Yes, there's a process. Yes, every program is going to do all it can to try to wiggle out of the most severe of punishment. But for Jurich to say the program wanted to "deal with this in the most rapid way that we possibly can" just isn't true.
The facts should have been clear for Pitino months ago. He could have looked into his players' eyes and seen the truth. It must have been the case.
At least the Cardinals aren't stretching out this issue into the future, to try to put so much time between the allegations and the resolution through a long, drawn-out investigation that any penalties would be meaningless (we're looking at you, USC football and Ohio State basketball in the 2000s). It may have taken some time, but the program did the right thing.
Still, it was telling that instead of apologizing to fans for what had been found to have happened in his program under his watch, Pitino invoked the pain long-time head coach and current U of L assistant Ralph Willard would feel from the postseason ban. Willard is well-respected and has had a long career. He'll get over it.
The fans, however, will take a while to be won over. We promise that won't be a quick process at all.
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