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Wednesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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I’m only ok with Cubs fans being on the front page of this “blog” because the Reds won this game.

—Wide receivers are having a stellar spring so far for U of L football.

—Jeff Greer spent some time with Chris Mack in San Antonio and wrote a good story about the experience.

In between his media obligations, Mack rotated between goofing around with his daughters, planning the family’s next steps in San Antonio with his wife, posing for photos with fans and working the phone for his new job.

It was the best in-living-color illustration of Mack’s life. The son of a Pre-Cana marriage preparation class coordinator and a long-time attorney who later became a charter school teacher, Mack prefers to blend, not balance, being a dad and husband with being a coach.

That’s why — after firing off a few text messages and getting his coach’s credential because the security guards hassled him a little when he first tried to enter the convention floor — Mack grabbed his daughters’ hands and made for the exits.

The girls wanted to check out Final Four Fan Fest, which the NCAA described as a “sports wonderland of interactive games, special celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph signings and much more.”

”I try to be myself,” Mack said. “I try to involve my kids as much as I can, whether it’s on a recruiting trip, whether it’s going to Vegas in the summer, or a media day. I can’t leave this coaching world and not have been a good dad.”

—Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman writes an open letter to Lamar Jackson begging him to get an agent.

—Lamar’s mom serving as his agent is also the focal point of a lengthy feature piece from Sports Illustrated.

Louisville entered the 2015 season with plenty of quarterbacks, but the Cardinals were struggling to find a punt returner.

True freshman QB Lamar Jackson’s athleticism was so tantalizing, and the need for a dynamic returner so urgent, that someone on the coaching staff asked him to go field a punt and see what happens.

Seemingly minutes after practice had ended, members of the coaching staff got a call from Jackson’s mother, Felicia Jones. Head coach Bobby Petrino had lured Jackson to the Bluegrass State with the assurance that the freshman would be a quarterback and only a quarterback. Punt returner doesn’t look like quarterback, Jones said. She reminded them all of the promise Petrino had made to her and her son while sitting on a couch in their South Florida home. Jackson never went back for a punt return in practice again.

—Will the Brendan McKay two-way experiment work? His first full year as a pro is about to begin.

—GoLocalProv released a story on Monday alleging that Rhode Island had been set to hire Rick Pitino as its new head coach before the school’s president squashed it.

URI is now vehemently denying that there’s any truth to the story.

GoLocalProv, for what it’s worth, is standing behind the story.

I stand by the belief that Rick Pitino will be back as a college head coach, just not in 2018-19.

—Speaking of Pitino, he’ll be on The Dan Patrick Show at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday.

—Yahoo’s Charles Robinson wonders if Lamar Jackson could be the heir apparent to Tom Brady in New England.

—Mr. Bovada’s first national championship odds for the 2018-19 college hoops season are here.

Odds to win the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

Duke 6/1

Kansas 7/1

Kentucky 8/1

Villanova 8/1

North Carolina 12/1

Auburn 18/1

Gonzaga 20/1

Michigan State 20/1

Virginia 20/1

Michigan 25/1

Nevada 30/1

Oregon 30/1

Tennessee 30/1

West Virginia 30/1

Florida 40/1

Maryland 40/1

UCLA 40/1

Purdue 50/1

Texas Tech 50/1

Wichita State 50/1

Arizona State 60/1

Cincinnati 60/1

Clemson 60/1

Miami (FL) 60/1

NC State 60/1

Ohio State 60/1

Syracuse 60/1

Vanderbilt 60/1

Baylor 80/1

Butler 80/1

Florida State 80/1

Louisville 80/1

LSU 80/1

Mississippi State 80/1

Penn State 80/1

Seton Hall 80/1

St. John’s 80/1

TCU 80/1

Texas 80/1

Texas A&M 80/1

Virginia Tech 80/1

Wisconsin 80/1

Xavier 80/1

Arizona 100/1

Notre Dame 100/1

Loyola Chicago 200/1

—Louisville’s pitchers struggled to find the strike zone in an 8-5 loss in Lexington on Tuesday. The Cards lost for just the second time in their last 10 meetings with Kentucky. The two teams meet again at Jim Patterson Stadium on April 17 at 6 p.m.

—Another potential grad transfer for Chris Mack:

In addition to Johnson and Albany guard Joe Cremo, Louisville has also reportedly reached out to South Carolina-Upstate guard Mike Cunningham.

—It appears DePaul basketball is under NCAA investigation.

You know somebody who can get you nine last place Big East finishes in 11 years without cheating? This guy.

DMs are open.

—Good tweet.

—The first three episodes of Donovan Mitchell’s “Rookie on the Rise” show are now available to watch online.

—Will Stein is the new offensive coordinator at Texas high school powerhouse Lake Travis.

—If you lose by 33 to Louisville in basketball, don’t give up hope.

—The CJ profiles new U of L president Neeli Bendapudi.

—Gary Rodemeier gives his top 20 Derby candidates five weeks ahead of the big race.

—Pro Football Focus does a deep dive on Lamar Jackson’s game tape.

—Can’t lose the local audience.

—Jay Wright was once a season away from leaving basketball and selling bait. Now he might be on the verge of becoming the new Coach K.

—Lamar Jackson is scheduled to meet with the Cleveland Browns next week.

—Diddy’s coming to Derby.

—Louisville softball is taking on Kentucky Wednesday night at 7. The game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network.

—The Washington Post gives additional details on the case of Brad Augustine, who allegedly took money to give to recruits to entice them to go to Louisville and Miami, but then kept the money for himself. That’s an issue for both the FBI case and the NCAA.

But in February, prosecutors dropped all charges against Augustine, without explanation. Two weeks ago, in a court hearing in New York City, one of the lawyers on the case offered a possible reason why: After his arrest, Augustine apparently told federal prosecutors he never intended to pay the players and their families, and had kept the little money actually paid out in these deals for himself.

The revelation is the latest sign that some of the allegations that attracted the most public attention last September, when a U.S. Attorney and a top FBI official touted the results of the ongoing probe in a news conference, may be based on recorded conversations of men who falsely represented relationships to top coaches and star recruits in order to get money from Adidas officials. It also demonstrates the central role NCAA rules regarding amateurism play in many of the criminal charges produced from a now two-plus year investigation that has drawn criticism from some legal experts as a waste of federal law enforcement resources.

...

That federal prosecutors apparently decided to drop charges against Augustine after he told them he hadn’t been brokering deals to steer recruits to specific college programs, but instead had kept money for himself, is a reminder of the unusual legal theory at the core of much of the criminal charges produced so far in the FBI probe.

Fraud is a crime that requires a victim. When Augustine was charged with wire fraud, the alleged victims were Miami and Louisville, prosecutors allege, as the schools could have been sanctioned by the NCAA, and sustained financial penalties, if it had come to light some of their players were profiting from their talents.

“So if the money doesn’t go to the athlete, the FBI and prosecutors are fine with it?” said Andy Schwarz, an economist and outspoken critic of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. “How does that make any sense?”

—Yelling “Dilly Dilly!” will get you kicked out of the Masters this year. It should get you kicked out of everywhere.

—And finally, WDRB covers new U of L president Neeli Bendapudi meeting the public.