If you haven’t heard, sports fans, the administration of University of Louisville Athletics, or some higher school power — James Ramsey and/or Tom Jurich and/or a Secret Committee and/or Outside Legal Counsel with/without the acquiescence and/or approval of Rick Pitino — has/have seen enough evidence that he/they deemed it wise to declare the men’s basketball team out of post season competition.
It was a preemptive strike, obviously meant to circumvent any such future penalties the NCAA might impose in response to the Herricane Katina allegations, and to display some institutional contrition with the purpose to lessen any other prohibitions the governing body might declare.
The immediate effect has been to punish the current squad, none of whose members are reported to have been recruited illegally, nor feted with strip shows or paid sexual favors in Minardi Hall.
That the current young and inexperienced Cardinals have overachieved has exacerbated the emotional commotion of the fan faithful in response to the declaration. The team is led by two grad student transfers from mid-major schools, neither of whom has previously participated in the NCAA tournament, each of whom came to U of L with the firm prospect of doing so, and neither of which shall have another chance to compete in the Dance.
(Perspective: How do you think the Cleveland State and Drexel fans felt, when their seasons were skewed, eliminating any chance to fill out a dance card, because Trey Lewis and Damion Lee decided to forego their final seasons at those schools, and bring their talents to Louisville?)
So Louisville fans, for the most part, are up in arms.
There have not been torch and pitchfork parades heading to the President’s official residence on Longest Avenue . . . yet . . . but . . . stay tuned. The dialog is getting more Trumpian by the hour.
There have been calls for Ramsey’s guillotined head to be paraded around courtside at the next home game, figuratively I would hope; and frivolous chatter about law suits to overturn the decision, plus various and sundry expressions of disgruntlement, some quite virulent, felonious even.
When the story first broke, I weighed in. You can read it here.
Many have been the conversations and arguments about the situation since.
I stand by my initial reaction, and base belief about the decision. It was the prudent course to follow.
I am disappointed, but believe it a wise move. I understand that the current squad, the members of which are by all accounts innocent of any transgressions, are bearing the brunt of the penalty. Their hopes for this season were vanquished with the simple presidential declaration.
It is indeed not fair, not fair at all.
But, given how the NCAA has chosen to handle such similar situations in the past, meting out post season bans is the organizations modus operandi, it was a legitimate action to get the heavy punishment out of the way now, instead of spending seasons with the possibility — certainty? — enshrouding the program like the Grim Reaper’s cloak.
Understand, the university is also taking a major financial hit. It will lose hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, in revenue the school would have earned from the team’s advancement in the tournament.
There will be more.
James Ramsey’s been skating on thin ice all winter, given other problems at the school, having nothing to do with athletics. Given this unpopular decision, his days are now numbered more than before.
Which brings me to Rick Pitino, the men’s coach.
I, like most, believe him, when he reiterates time and again that he had absolutely zero knowledge that any of the shenanigans alleged were transpiring in the residence hall named after his beloved, deceased brother-in-law.
But . . . and it’s a big but . . . this happened on his watch. He is responsible. Captain of the vessel, and all that.
I also am scandal weary. During Pitino’s reign at U of L, the gloriosity of the 2013 national title has been outweighed by this situation, the Karen Sypher tryst, his mysterious leave of absence for health reasons, his running off players, his manner of criticizing players in the media, etc, etc. And his failure to say he’s sorry for the current brouhaha.
Before I started writing this, I was inclined to call for his resignation. Frankly, I can’t quite do that.
But I would not be distraught if he decided to hang up his whistle.
And, though he could care less what advice I might offer, I shall do so anyway.
He’s suggested that the NCAA, in such situations, should penalize the coaches, take away their salary. He’s even said he’d coach for free if this team could compete in the Dance.
Those words however have been just that . . . words. Hypothetical.
But, hey, he could, on his own, self penalize. He could, if he were serious, take, say, half his $5 million/ year salary and set up a charitable foundation. One with, oh, the purpose of paying medical bills of former student athletes, who are financially incapable of doing so. Or, any other similarly worthy endeavor.
Now, that would be a sign to the NCAA that U of L and its coach are really serious about self penalizing, and intend to make things right.
Just a suggestion.
One which might ameliorate the situation in the eyes of the fans and NCAA.
Meanwhile, fellow Cardinal fans, it’s time to give it up. We all are pissed. Sad. For the players, and for ourselves. March is normally the grandest time of the year in these parts, and it has been taken from us in 2016.
We’ll be back.
— c d kaplan