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NCAA denies Louisville’s appeal, 2013 championship banner must come down

A dark day for Louisville athletics.

Charleston v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The NCAA announced Tuesday that it has denied the University of Louisville’s appeal and that the initial penalties leveled against U of L last November will be enforced.

This means, among other things, that Louisville will officially be forced to vacate its 2013 national championship. That makes U of L the first men’s basketball program to ever have a title taken away.

Louisville must vacate men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 academic years according to a decision issued by the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee. The appeals committee also upheld the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions penalty that requires the university to return to the NCAA money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships.

In the Committee on Infractions’ decision, the panel found that a former Louisville director of basketball operations acted unethically when he committed serious violations by arranging striptease dances and sex acts for prospects, student-athletes and others, and did not cooperate with the investigation. The violations in the case resulted in some men’s basketball student-athletes competing while ineligible.

In its appeal, the university argued the vacation of records and financial penalty should be set aside because they are excessive. The university contended that the penalties were based on participation of student-athletes who were not culpable in the violations, received negligible benefits as a result, and for whom reinstatement would likely have been granted.

The Committee on Infractions responded to the appeal by stating the penalties were appropriate due to the serious, intentional and numerous violations orchestrated by a university staff member for nearly four years. It further argued that student-athletes do not have to be culpable for the vacation penalty to be appropriate, and because the serious nature of the violations resulted in the participation of ineligible student-athletes, the vacation of records penalty was appropriate.

The denial of Louisville’s appeal is the final step in the NCAA’s process concerning this matter. U of L’s only remaining option is to fight this thing out in court, but the vibe of Tuesday’s press conference made it sound like the school going that route is unlikely

Look, before any of this was an even a twinkle in any of our most disgusting crevices, I was firmly on the “vacating is the stupidest penalty ever, those games still happened, yes, even the Calipari ones” bandwagon. Judging from the reaction to today’s news, it would seem most fans and sportswriters feel the same way.

Louisville’s 2013 NCAA tournament games happened. We saw them. We heard or felt the Georgia Dome explode on Montrezl Harrell’s go-ahead dunk, and we’ve seen the “One Shining Moment” montage more than any of us would care to admit. Removing U of L’s name from a few record books and forcing the workers at the KFC Yum Center to haul down a piece of cloth won’t change any of that.

Still, the 2012-13 Louisville Cardinals becoming the first college basketball team in history to vacate a national championship is thoroughly embarrassing and there’s no way for us to pretend like it isn’t. Being the first to be cast in such a dubious light is a stain and an annoyance that is going to be impossible to shake for a while.

Aside from the emotions and feelings of those directly involved with winning the title who had nothing to do with any wrongdoing here (an aspect of all this that’s being too casually swept aside by everyone), that stain and that annoyance are why the ruling matters, even if it shouldn’t.

Hang another banner in the old one’s place. Do it the second after you take the old one down.