BOZICH | Louisville sanctions protect 2017 season, but 3 critical questions remain
With its self-imposed recruiting sanctions Wednesday, the University of Louisville protected its 2017 basketball season. But major questions about the program remain.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville is kind of sorry about the scandal that has surrounded the basketball program for the last six months – even though the school is not using that word.
Sorry enough that Rick Pitino will not continue as the Cardinals’ basketball coach?
No, not that sorry.
Sorry enough that the school has decided to self-impose additional penalties of uncertain significance on the basketball program over the next three years?
Yes, that sorry, although I’d argue that the hits the school said it would start taking this month are modest obstacles the program can quickly navigate and overcome.
Know this: Until the NCAA says so, there’s no reason to take the Cardinals out of your Top 10 for next season. The school appears determined to protect that team.
CRAWFORD | Louisville self-imposes additional sanctions on basketball program
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Nothing U of L announced Wednesday diminishes the optimism around the 2017 team. See Syracuse Final Four Run of 2016 for details.
The school has advised the NCAA that it will eliminate 30 off-campus recruiting opportunities, two on-campus official visits and two basketball scholarships over the next three years.
That’s 34 self-imposed penalties in addition to the self-imposed withdrawal from the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournaments that the program took in February.
That’s the question everybody has wanted answered since early October when Katina Powell published her book – “Breaking Cardinal Rules” – that alleges she provided strippers and prostitutes for parties at the U of L basketball dorm from 2010-14.
How much of Powell’s story is true?
It’s still too soon to say. U of L does not admit to any specific NCAA violations in the statement the university released at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The announcement was merely the latest inexorable bump in the story line.
Eventually we’ll see the official letter of allegations from the NCAA, followed by the university’s response to those allegations, followed by a hearing with the NCAA Infractions Committee, followed by the penalties the committee chooses to assess.
Know this: The more the university chooses to penalize itself, the more credible Powell’s story about a representative of the basketball program (allegedly former director of operations Andre McGee) paying for sex and strippers becomes.
Rick Pitino coached a team that defeated two teams that played in the 2016 NCAA Final Four. Self-imposing a post-season ban on the program this season was a harsher hit for the players, coaches and fan base than what U of L said it was adding to the penalty Wednesday.
Reputations were stained by the post-season hit. Dreams were dismissed. Achievements were denied. March was a dreary month around here.
The Damion Lee/Trey Lewis team was a team that was likely to join the six other ACC teams in the Sweet Sixteen – and possibly join the Syracuse and North Carolina team the Cards defeated in the Final Four.
That one stung – and will continue to sting.
The cut in 30 off-campus recruiting opportunities by the coaching staff? Pitino, assistant Kenny Johnson and the rest of the staff can overcome that. Recruiting is their specialty.
They’ve already been on the road chasing players in the 2017 class. They’ll miss April, but most of the top prospects don’t choose their schools until late summer or fall. Pitino and his staff can recruit in July with hustle, phone calls and networking.
Cutting one official visit this season and another next season?
Programs are allowed 12 per year. Most recruiting classes include four-to-six players. Do the math. “Cutting one means nothing,” said a Division I coach at another school.
Cutting the roster by one player in 2018 and 2019? If you’re competing at the elite level of the game, you roll with nine or 10 guys. The final two or three spots add grit to your practices and fill out the team picture.
None of this is the critical stuff. The critical stuff remains unchanged:
Will Rick Pitino continue as the Louisville coach? Will the NCAA add another year to the post-season ban? Is the Cardinals’ 2013 NCAA championship banner in jeopardy?
Too soon to say – until we see the official notice of allegations. That will be a more telling development in this story than the one that unfolded on Wednesday.
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