BOZICH | Louisville fans should cheer this team -- and then demand accountability
Louisville fans should cheer like crazy for this team -- and then demand accountability for the NCAA issues that led to Dr. James Ramsey taking the team out of the NCAA Tournament.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After the University of Louisville basketball program confirmed the Cardinals will not make a single post-season jumper, Rick Pitino asked University of Louisville basketball fans to cheer for this team more passionately than they have cheered for any team.
Give Damion Lee and Trey Lewis the love they deserve.
That’s reasonable. Nobody has suggested Lee and Lewis broke a single NCAA rule. They came here for one shining moment at U of L – and now the school has killed the spotlight by taking itself out of the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments while admitting at least one NCAA violation occurred.
On the Harsh Meter, I’d score that as an 11.
You can argue from now until Selection Sunday about fairness of this call. You can say there had to be a better way. You can follow Pitino’s call to go crazy for this team.
Cheer. Scream. Holler. Wave signs. Give them the sendoff you gave Darrell Griffith, Pervis Ellison and Peyton Siva.
Are you finished?
Because when you’re done cheering, this is what every reasonable fan should do next:
Demand that the folks in charge at the University of Louisville explain how a scandal this outrageous could unfold over four years here without anybody in charge knowing that prostitutes and basketball recruits and players were frolicking at the basketball dorm.
Not free meals. Not $50 handshakes.
Prostitutes and strippers. In the basketball dorm. For four years. Let’s not bury the lead:
U of L president Dr. James Ramsey believes that the basketball program broke NCAA rules.
And nobody knew? Nobody stopped it until the guy allegedly responsible for the shows left town for another job?
Not Rick Pitino, the head coach who built the dorm for one of the same reasons that any coach wants an athletic dorm – to create more control.
Not Tom Jurich, the athletic director who is responsible for keeping all of his programs on the right side of the NCAA rules.
Not Dr. Ramsey, the university president, who has seen his school’s signature athletic program dragged through not one, but two scurrilous sex scandals since 2010.
That should not happen. Not at any Division I, II or III school.
Prostitutes and strippers. In the basketball dorm. For four years.
There needs to be a penalty for the people in charge, other than a shrug that nobody knew anything. The tone at the press conference was not apologetic for breaking the rules. I need to replay the video, but the words, "I'm sorry," didn't lead the talking points. The push was to create sympathy for players who'll miss the important games of the season.
If it’s unfair to punish players who did nothing, then the penalty should rest with folks who are paid to ensure that rules are followed. I wrote in October that I didn't think Pitino could fix this mess -- and I have not budged from that stance.
This isn’t intramurals. This is a multi-million dollar business responsible for packing a spectacular downtown arena with a state-of-the-art practice facility and fancy athletic dorm. At a program that grosses more revenue that any Division I program in America, control – and security cameras -- has to be better than that.
I understand that fans are angry because fans are suffering. The conference and NCAA Tournaments are the signature moments on the sports calendar in this town. People watch, analyze, celebrate and agonize every pick and roll.
Now Louisville is a bystander. The Cardinals’ season will end four weeks from Saturday, on March 5 at Virginia.
No 14 words ever caused so much heartburn.
Fans will be miserable. Lee and Lewis will likely lament this missed opportunity for the rest of their lives. I feel for them. This team has been practicing for March since last summer. Louisville just toppled second-ranked North Carolina on Monday night. In a season when anything is possible, everything seemed possible for this improving U of L team.
Not now. The ending has been defined.
Cheer for this team. Be angry.
Then demand accountability. From the Board of Trustees. From the university president. From the athletic director. From the coach.
Ramsey took the first step toward accountability Friday by making a decision that he knew had to be wildly unpopular with a passionate chunk of his fans as well as his basketball players and coach.
Ramsey’s call is to do what is best for the University of Louisville, not what is best for Rick Pitino. That is what it appeared Ramsey did Friday.
If you were looking for signs of a disconnect between Ramsey and Pitino Friday, they were not difficult to find. The president and the coach arrived and departed separately from the press conference where Ramsey announced that Louisville was punishing itself. Ramsey's face was locked in grimace. Pitino worked to create sympathy for his guys.
In a wide-open season, Louisville had a legitimate chance to advance in this NCAA Tournament. Expectations raged after the Cardinals defeated North Carolina Monday night. The Cards had opportunities to strengthen their resume at Duke and Notre Dame next week. The play of this team pushed the Katina Powell scandal into the background.
Bracketology doesn’t matter now. And it shouldn’t. The issue is bigger than one trip through the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, James Ramsey said that accountability was more important than winning several games in March. After they finish cheering for this team, Louisville fans should demand the same.
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