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Thursday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Aaron Phelps was a diehard Louisville fan and avid reader of Card Chronicle who lost his life far too early this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who knew and loved him.

I_medium A very happy 55th birthday to Bobby Petrino.

I_medium A reminder that Jeff Greer and I will be talking about the future of Louisville basketball tomorrow morning during "Coffee with the Courier" at Quills Coffee on W. Cardinal Blvd.

I_medium Russ Smith is not thrilled with the way this whole scandal has gone, and vehemently denies his purported role in all of it.

"I probably said a syllable to her," Smith told the Courier-Journal Tuesday night. "I said, ‘Hi,' and ‘OK, I'll take the picture.' The most I've done is a picture. They were fans. That's as far as my relationship goes with them. I don't know anything cause I don't know them."

Smith, who was a senior during the 2013-14 season during the timeframe the incidents were alleged to have occured also said he believes that Powell is lying. He also told the Courier-Journal that he felt the administration's decision to enact a postseason ban this spring was not the right move.

"I think she's lying. I believe 99 percent that she's lying...I was upset because I felt like we should have let the court system do its job. I feel we pulled the trigger (too soon)."

I_medium Your constantly updated ACC Tournament bracket and schedule.

I_medium If you somehow missed it yesterday, this Luke Winn story features Louisville.

Pitino's father, Rick, had a similar CBA-Promosport connection at Louisville. On Nov. 19, 2013, the Cardinals signed 7-foot Norwegian center Matz Stockman out of CBA in what multiple news outlets called a "surprise" addition to Louisville's 2014 recruiting class. Five months later, on April 25, 2014, the school signed a $167,850 contract with Promosport for a minimum 30-person trip to Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona that was scheduled for August 2015—the first summer the Cardinals were eligible for a foreign tour after traveling to the Bahamas in ‘11.

SI obtained emails between Promosport and Louisville indicating that in 2014, the school paid two installments on the tour totaling $75,000. According to Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein, the school then canceled the Spain tour on Feb. 24, 2015, in favor of internally arranging an August 2015 trip to Puerto Rico for exhibitions against the island's junior and senior national teams—the latter of which Rick Pitino had agreed to coach in that summer's Pan American Games and Olympic qualifying.

As a result of canceling the Promosport trip, Louisville lost a $25,000 deposit and half of a $50,000 payment, thus forfeiting a total of $50,000 to Promosport. Klein said that the Cardinals worked with Promosport on a recommendation from another school, and that "there were no connections on signing Matz Stockman and our plans to use the company."

Stockman appeared in 23 games as a sophomore reserve for Louisville this season. In December, Pitino called Stockman the most improved Cardinal and said, "We're going to need him down the road in this program. He's going to develop into an outstanding basketball player."

I_medium My little sister is quite awesome and has a blog about (at least in part) her longtime struggle with chronic illness. Check it out if you or someone you know can relate ... or if you just like reading cool stuff.

I_medium Louisville bars are also about to feel the ill-effects of having no Cardinal basketball in March.

I_medium Garrick McGee with a final goodbye to Louisville fans.

I_medium ESPN calls Bobby Petrino's hiring of Garrick McGee's replacement a "crucial" one.

Yes, Petrino remains the mastermind behind the scheme and calls plays, but McGee played a vital role, especially in the development of quarterbackLamar Jackson, poised to have a breakout sophomore season. Jackson is not the only player returning; Louisville brings back nearly every single starter who played a meaningful snap in 2015.

That is a big reason why expectations have been ratcheted up headed into the season, not only among pundits. Louisville has yet to hit the offensive numbers Petrino is used to getting, but he has targeted 2016 as the year his unit finally looks the way he wants.

That brings us back to McGee. He and Petrino worked together for years and had a keen understanding about one another. McGee left his job as UAB head coach to work for Petrino again when offered the opportunity in 2014 and chose to stay on board in 2015, too.

Petrino needs to bring in a coach who not only has a clear understanding of the offense but who will fit right in with him and the staff because the talent is there for Louisville to make something happen with this group - starting with Jackson.

His development this spring remains one of the biggest story lines to watch. As terrific as he was against Texas A&M in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Jackson needs to work on his accuracy, timing and holding onto the football, all while taking on a much greater leadership role.

At this time last year, Jackson was not even on campus. When fall practice began, he was at the bottom of the depth chart. So McGee took him a long way in just a few short months. There is plenty more work to be done. The right coach will get Jackson there. Perhaps that right coach is Petrino's brother, Paul, struggling as coach at Idaho - a program that is in shambles.

It is becoming more commonplace for lower-level FBS coaches to leave head coaching jobs to become assistants (as McGee did). The Petrinos have worked together at various stops, including Louisville when Bobby was head coach from 2003-06. Bobby just promoted his son, Nick, to receivers coach so this could truly be a family affair.

Or Bobby Petrino could opt to go in a different direction and select somebody such as Memphis offensive coordinator Chip West, with whom he worked at Arkansas.

I_medium This dedication from Louisville native and Cardinal fan Jeff Duncan to his recently deceased father is really worth your 5-10 minutes.

I_medium Storming your opponents court with the tournament championship trophy you just won is some next level ish.

I_medium Everyone handles the pressure of the ACC Tournament differently.

I_medium There's a bunch of cool old U of L stuff on eBay, which still exists.

I_medium New music from Damion Lee (I don't feel comfortable enough calling him DameO yet):

I_medium Poor BC Interruption looks at Boston College's year of futility in the ACC.

I_medium Your announcer pairings for this year's NCAA Tournament:

Jim Nantz / Bill Raftery / Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson*
Brian Anderson / Steve Smith // Dana Jacobson*
Verne Lundquist / Jim Spanarkel // Allie LaForce*
Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner // Lewis Johnson*
Ian Eagle / Chris Webber / Len Elmore // Evan Washburn
Spero Dedes / Doug Gottlieb // Ros Gold-Onwude
Andrew Catalon / Steve Lappas // Jamie Erdahl
Carter Blackburn / Mike Gminski // Jaime Maggio

I_medium Help the U of L managers win a rematch of the 2013 national title game.

I_medium Your ACC dunks of the year.

I_medium Proud of Wood for being a No. 1 seed in the tournament of Buffalo.

I_medium John Calipari, who has taken one grad transfer and actively recruited multiple others, blames the horrible graduate transfer (which is a rule that is "bad for the players" somehow) of Damion Lee to Louisville for the firing of Bruiser Flint at Drexel. If you listened to the radio show yesterday, you heard me make my thoughts on this very clear. Of all the hypocritical stances Cal has taken in recent years, this one is at the very top, at least in my eyes.

I_medium DeAngelo Brown can bench more than I can bench.

I_medium Sheldon Rankins was impressive yet again at U of L's Pro Day.

I_medium If you think it's been a rough few months around these parts, check out the headline of Bruins Nation's postgame wrap after UCLA was slaughtered by USC last night for the third time this season.

The Internet is a fun place.

I_medium People keep talking about this being the 10 year anniversary of the Gerry McNamara Big East Tournament. It's actually the 10 year anniversary of the Fort Minor Big East Tournament.

Getting through this postseason ban is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, zero percent pleasure and nine thousand percent pain.

I_medium Eddie Jordan is out at Rutgers after three miserable seasons. I think Brad Stevens will do great things there.

I_medium CBS' Dan Bonner was not a fan of the way U of L handled its self-imposed punishment.

I_medium Jeff Brohm is the No. 3 coach in college football when the coaches are ranked based on their playing careers.

I_medium The Petrino Family Foundation golf outing is set for April 15. You can find all the details right here.

I_medium Wednesday was a big one for James Burgess.

I_medium ESPN examines the state of the Louisville football program.

I_medium Nobody thinks DePaul's new $250 million arena is a good idea, but it's getting built anyway.

I_medium Is that good?

Of all the things I'm excited about for next season, the way that the staff utilizes Bonnafon is near the top of the list.

I_medium After back-to-back wins over two top 10 opponents, Louisville lacrosse swept the Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Lacrosse weekly honors as senior midfielder Kaylin Morissette has been named the ACC Offensive Player of the Week and sophomore goalie Brittany Read is the ACC Defensive Player of the Week.

I_medium When Kevin Keatts makes the NCAA Tournament, Kevin Keatts' youngest son will dab on 'em folks.

I_medium Bilal Powell is coming back to the New York Jets.

I_medium Speaking of the Jets, you should probably know who Lorenzo Mauldin is, Mike.

I_medium U of L starts its countdown to spring ball by taking a look at the quarterback position.

I_medium Louisville's fastest football player? Apparently it's sophomore Cornelius Sturghill.

I_medium You don't see enough "Hot Hoop Action" promos anymore.

I_medium Damion Lee has been named to the 2015-16 United States Basketball Writers Association All-District IV team.

I_medium Six U of L track and field athletes will compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend in Birmingham, Ala. The two-day championship begin March 11-12 and will be held in the Birmingham CrossPlex hosted by Samford University.

I_medium The NCAA is running a deficit for the first time in 11 years, losing a reported $9 million.

I_medium And finally, we'll talk with Samaki Walker and I'll do fake play-by-play for the game Louisville should be playing in from 3-6 on 93.9 The Ville. Listen here.