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Louisville basketball scandal: The only question is why

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports


I am Cardinal, like my father and mother before me. My father has it, my mother has it, my brother has it, I have it, and that same blind loyalty to everything red and black is in you too.

For 28 years I have been a card carrying fanatic for the University of Louisville, and since 2013 I have taken great pride in being an alumnus of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Until last Friday I had only ever felt shame, embarrassment, anger, and disgust with "my Cardinals" once. There was a bleak period from 2007-2009 where everyone, including the fans, were thrown under the bus to save a certain football coach known only as he who must not be named. The emotions and disbelief that overtook me Friday afternoon have continued as I bang away on this keyboard and are almost indescribable. The wrong decision was made, the wrong people are being punished, the wrong are being rewarded, and in the end, the only question is why.

As we have seen since news of the scandal broke in early October, voicing strong or offensive opinions behind a keyboard is an easy task. With that being said, let us discuss what we know thus far.

The investigation is nowhere near being completed and Rick Pitino has not conducted his formal interview with investigators. President Ramsey, along with his "committee" that is unrivaled by even the most skilled CIA or FBI agents, made an embarrassingly misguided decision by excluding Tom Jurich from the process. The men's basketball program is guilty of NCAA violations, but no one outside of a select few know the severity of these violations. Chuck Smrt, whose last name is dmb, has two degrees from Indiana University, worked for the NCAA for 17 years, and has had a very influential role throughout this process. Coach Pitino and Mangok Mathiang are the only two individuals currently associated with the program that are may be directly or indirectly involved with the allegations. Lastly, the wrong decision was made.

It is infuriating that Louisville has tried to spin this as a quick and strong decision. Friday's announcement and press conference was a cool, calculated move straight out of public relations 101. Every corporation worldwide releases bad news on Friday afternoon to dampen the effect when markets open Monday. Also, was it just coincidence that two days after the announcement that every phone, keyboard, camera, and fan would be turning their attention to the biggest sporting event of year? How long has the administration been sitting on the knowledge they now possess and why did they wait until four weeks remained in the season to announce the postseason ban? The unknown has sparked well deserved outrage.

Tom Jurich's long and storied tenure at Louisville has been successful beyond anyone's wildest of imaginations. Jurich is a Louisville legend, but like everyone else, he isn't perfect. The cloudiness surrounding this situation wasn't helped by the failure to clearly communicate who made the decision and why. Originally, it appeared President Ramsey made the decision unilaterally, but Coach Pitino professed that it was Tom Jurich's call and Ramsey signed off on it. Regardless, the people in charge made an atrocious decision and offered zero explanations to back it up.

The number one reason this ruthless self-imposed ban makes zero sense is that it punishes individuals and student athletes that had no involvement with any of the violations. In a pretend world that I wish I could live in, common sense rules the day and justice is served upon wrong doers. If the powers that be decided that immediate and swift punishment was a necessity, then why didn't Louisville punish the only two individuals connected to the allegations? Mangok Mathiang was recruited during the time period when these disgusting activities took place and he arrived on campus in summer of 2012. Mangok isn't accused of anything and he wasn't explicitly named, but his timeline as a Cardinal matches up with the allegations. Coach Pitino has been the head man at Louisville since 2001 and will most likely face some type of suspension upon the conclusion of the NCAA investigation. If Mr. Jurich and or President Ramsey felt compelled to act immediately, then why didn't they simply suspend Mathiang and Pitino indefinitely? This would have showed leadership and strength, and would have allowed innocent student athletes to pursue their dreams.

Why rob Peter to pay Paul when Paul may or may not take your money? The NCAA isn't the Supreme Court of the United States, a circuit court, or even a local family law judge. The NCAA is a non-profit organization with no oversight. It isn't bound by legislated code or well established precedent from endless case law. The NCAA does what it wants, when it wants, and for whatever reason they invent on the day they hand down punishment. If you don't believe me ask North Carolina, Syracuse, SMU, SMU, SMU, Miami, UNLV, Missouri, Kentucky, and etc. North Carolina's academic fraud, which should be viewed as one of the worst scandals of all time, was first a news story in 2010. In early summer 2015 the Tarheels received their official notice of allegations. Today is February 8, 2016 and North Carolina hasn't acted, the NCAA hasn't acted, and many believe nothing will ever be done.

Since the inception of the investigation into North Carolina's violations, Syracuse, SMU, Missouri, and Miami have all had cases opened and closed by the NCAA. Syracuse ignored compliance for 10 years and self-imposed a tournament ban, but it didn't matter and the NCAA banned them again while suspending Boeheim for several games. SMU was accused of lack of institutional control for ignoring one violation, they self-imposed scholarship restrictions, but that wasn't enough as the NCAA banned them from the postseason and suspended Larry Brown for 30% of SMU's games. Miami Football and Basketball were investigated for a pay-for-play scheme, impermissible benefits, and "Entourage-esque" recruiting parties. Miami feared the death penalty before the NCAA botched the investigation, announced two self-imposed bowl bans coupled with restitution was punishment enough, and then tucked tail and ran back to Indianapolis.

What is the moral of the story in those limited examples? Consistency doesn't exist in the NCAA's world, they display urgency as they see fit, and jumping the gun on punishment is like rolling the dice at the casino. If Louisville believes the violations are severe enough to warrant immediate action, then suspend Pitino and self-impose after the season so that innocent student athletes can actually evaluate their status and better their situation. Why sacrifice these innocent kids when the program is in bigger trouble down the road? If the violations aren't so severe and the NCAA takes into account Tom Jurich's impeccable compliance record, why punish the program and the kids with one month remaining in the season?  I am not a compliance expert and I'm certainly not paid millions to make these decisions, but I have followed NCAA sports long enough to know that this decision makes no sense any way you spin it.

Anger, sadness, and disgust overtook me Saturday afternoon as Louisville demolished Boston College. Attempting to uplift a team full of innocent kids with vocal support felt forced and fake. Many of Louisville's current roster were between 13-15 years old when the violations occurred, and two others were attempting to make a name for themselves at programs not even on Louisville's radar. Coach Pitino is 100% correct, the system is broken, but it isn't the NCAA dealing a brutal hand of injustice to these student athletes. The injustice is being handed down by the university making millions due to the relentless effort and success of these athletes, the same university making even more money marketing the phrase "We Got Your Back", and the same institution that completely rebranded itself with a motto known as "Louisville First, Cards Forever".

The University of Louisville made a decision that goes against everything it claims to stand for and has incited fits of anger and depression throughout its supporters. No explanation exists that will magically morph this into the right decision, and an apology to Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and the rest of these student athletes will never suffice. For only the second time in 28 years I am ashamed and embarrassed by "my Louisville Cardinals", and the only question will always be why.