The University Of Louisville Is Not Everything That’s Wrong With College Basketball

Andy Lyons

So I've been emailed, tweeted or forced in other ways to notice a published piece titled "The University Of Louisville Is Everything That's Wrong With College Basketball" many times today, which means I should probably get around to reading it.

Let's do this together.

The Wall Street Journal's Dennis K. Berman wrote a piece this week comparing the basketball programs at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Kentucky coach John Calipari, as Berman notes, built his program on the backs of players who spend one mandated year in college before jumping to the NBA. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, by contrast, built his with players who are more likely to stick around for the full four years. The implication from Berman is that Kentucky's program is "hollow" like the Death Star, while Louisville's is built in the manner that most fans and basketball observers would consider the "right way."

My observation is quite different: to me, there is no college basketball program in America that epitomizes the problems with college sports better than the Louisville Cardinals.

Interesting start.

I don't think Berman went so far as to attempt to paint a picture of right and wrong, in fact I've heard little debate over his stance that having players stick around for multiple seasons forms tighter bonds throughout the program and feels like a more rewarding experience. Every single one of my friends who are Kentucky fans has said that if they had a choice in the matter, they would prefer their players to stick around for multiple seasons the way they did when we were all growing up.

A deeper bond between players and coaches, players and fans and players and players results in positive vibes that permeate throughout the entire program. It's kind of a no-brainer.

Still, I'm interested in how Louisville could possible "epitomize the problems with college sports" more than any other program in the country.

Louisville's basketball program is by far the richest in the nation. Thanks in large part to a beautiful new publicly-financed arena that has sent its revenues through the roof, the program hauled in more than $40 million in revenue last year. It made anywhere between $23 million to $28 million in profits, far more than any other school. The young men who helped generate those profits, who 21,000 fans pack the KFC Yum! Center to see play? They were paid nothing, even though a 2011 study calculated the market value of a Louisville basketball player at just short of $1 million.

Okayyy, but first of all this has nothing to do with the Wall Street Journal article that you led with in your opening sentence and which is supposed to be the basis for this contrarian piece.

Is this about paying players? Because if so, dude, it's been beaten into the ground at this point and is a topic for which singling out a particular program makes absolutely no sense. If you're of the belief that college athletes should be paid, then this can't possibly be a Louisville problem.

This isn't just a Louisville problem: it's what schools across the country are doing. Revenues are rising rapidly, and they are going to pay skyrocketing salaries for coaches and to build new facilities or upgrade those that already exist. At none of these schools is the athlete sharing in the system.

No, I know, that's what I was just saying.

So then why single out one program? Why begin like you're going to address some monster issue that's foreign to all programs in college basketball but one when you're really just addressing an extremely tired topic that has to apply to all programs if it applies to any?

It sort of feels like a forced vendetta piece, but I don't understand wh---

Kentucky (which is my alma mater) is no exception

Oh.

But here's the thing about Kentucky...

You can stop, bro.

Calipari's program more than any other takes advantage of the fact that college basketball is a minor league business for the NBA by understanding that the most talented basketball players are using college to get to the pros as fast as possible.

Seriously, man, I've already heard all I needed to hear.

If Kentucky's players can't share in the riches they generate for Kentucky, they'll at least be getting paid for their work soon enough. That's far from an ideal setup and hardly excuses Kentucky from scrutiny, but it at least halfway acknowledges and exploits the flaws in the argument that the top levels of college basketball are anything other than a business.

The mystery's already been solved. Thank you.

Because it does that, the program is a slap in the face to purists, right way-ers, and the "amateurism and education crowd" that hasn't updated its views to fit reality.

This doesn't even have anything to do wi--why am I arguing?

Major college sports operate in a perverse system that generates billions of dollars a year off the backs of free labor, and both Kentucky and Louisville are willing participants. But if no basketball program does a better job of making the system look ridiculous than Kentucky, perhaps no basketball program is right now doing a better job of epitomizing the lies on which that system is built than Louisville.

You forgot the BBN hashtag as your signature.

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