Since the story first broke in October, everyone associated with the Louisville basketball program as well as members of both the local and national media have attempted to discern what, if anything, about this scandal could be categorized as an absolute fact.
Four months later, here's one of the only things I'm certain about: there are no winners here.
Louisville basketball has already lost. It has lost some of the shine off one of the most impressive runs in program history, it has lost most of the good vibes that the era provided, and it has lost a shot at a national championship in 2015-16.
Louisville basketball fans have already lost. They've lost the opportunity to have a conversation about college basketball void of questions about strippers and violations, they've lost all the excitement that comes with the weeks leading up to the NCAA Tournament, and they've lost the most magical time of the year to be a resident of the city of Louisville (yes, including Derby).
Katina Powell has already lost. She's never been particularly clear about why she chose to write Breaking Cardinal Rules, but if it was with the intention of becoming a rich reality star, she has to be coming to the realization that this dream is never going to come to fruition. Even if Powell escapes any major legal troubles (which is far from a guarantee) the vast majority of the city now knows not just her name, but the names of her daughters. That's not going to be an asset for any of them going forward.
Rick Pitino has already lost. The Hall of Fame coach who has spoken at length in recent years about his desire to continue coaching at Louisville for as long as he can has sounded less confident about the prospects of that scenario playing out since the news of the postseason ban has come out. Regardless of what happens next, this has been a major blow to Pitino in a number of different ways.
Damion Lee and Trey Lewis have already lost. Perhaps the biggest victims in all of this, Lee and Lewis -- who came to Louisville from Drexel and Cleveland State, respectively, with the dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time -- have now been forced to come to terms with the fact that their college basketball careers will end without either one of them being able to experience March Madness. You can make the argument that no two people have been punished more in all of this than Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, which is especially cruel considering that they are two people associated with Louisville basketball who we know with 100 percent certainty had nothing to do with the events that led the program to this place.
Rival fans taking joy out of the misfortune of college athletes have already lost. They've been losing their entire lives.
College basketball has already lost. There is no place in America that lives for the NCAA Tournament the way the state of Kentucky does, and now the epicenter of that madness has had its home team kicked out of the big dance before it even had a chance to check in. The absence of Louisville from the field of 68 doesn't just leave college basketball without one of its most prominent programs chasing the 2016 national title, it lessens the amount of attention that the tournament will receive from the place in the United States that gives it more focus than any other.
The University of Louisville has already lost. The headlines are bad, the rumors of a rift between some of the primary figures at the school are bad, the lost revenue is bad, and the hit to the reputation of the entire institution is bad.
Maybe the worst part of Louisville taking the drastic step to self-impose a postseason ban for 2016 is that, as difficult as the move is to stomach for everybody involved, it's still not the end of the ordeal. We don't know how long this is going to last, we don't who is and isn't going to make it out of this unscathed, and we don't know whether or not the worst is still yet to come. We do know that there are no winners here, only losers.
A version of this column runs in the current issue of The Voice-Tribune