LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — My timeline showed a 19-minute gap from the moment that The Athletic delivered its story that the University of Louisville had received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA until an assistant coach who recruits against U of L texted me a screenshot of that story with this message:
"What does this mean?"
Wouldn’t everybody love to know?
Undoubtedly it means another round of antacids around the Louisville athletic program, especially the basketball staff.
Uncertainty about additional NCAA penalties. Questions from players, recruits and their parents about how substantial any further NCAA action could be. Another spin through the media scandal cycle.
It will give opposing coaches one more item they’ll try to wedge between Louisville and a clearer, more productive future.
Five minutes later I received a text from another high-major assistant coach wondering what was going on at Louisville.
Stay tuned. We're just getting started -- again.
Just when you thought the debate shifted to whether the Cardinals deserved the spot in several pre-season Top 25s for next season that they were given this week, there was a reminder that Rick Pitino, Brian Bowen, Jordan Fair, Kenny Johnson and other snapshots of 2017 continue to cloud the program’s outlook.
It's not as if this was unexpected. Considering this was Scandal No. 2, the one that cost Pitino, Fair, Johnson and athletic director Tom Jurich their jobs, you knew the NCAA would return to the discussion.
You know all the details, the ones that trickled out in the federal courtroom in New York City and eventually resulted in three relatively light prison sentences for a wannabe agent and two representatives of Adidas.
For the last year athletic director Vince Tyra, basketball coach Chris Mack and their staffs have worked to move Louisville past the story of Bowen’s father being promised $100,000 (plus at least another $1,300 handed over by an assistant coach) to complete his fairy tale recruitment to Pitino's program in the spring of 2017.
They convinced three graduate transfers to join the program. They secured commitments from six talented high school players.
They won 20 of 34 games, finishing tied for sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference after they were predicted to finish 11th and made the NCAA Tournament when they were supposed to play in the NIT.
But the completion of this story was always inevitable and potentially disruptive, primed to stall any momentum Tyra and Mack were able to create.
Now the volume will be cranked up on a familiar debate:
How much more should Louisville be punished?
The school has undergone a significant regime change. The most popular athletic director in school history was pushed into retirement.
A Hall of Fame coach was locked out of his office, tumbling all the way to the European League. All three of his assistant coaches as well as his equipment manager, personal assistant and strength coach are no longer at the school.
Louisville took a substantial hit, a considerably more significant hit than other programs that have been included in this scandal. Other schools have slow-played their responses without changing coaches, coaches who ignored the noise and had success in the NCAA Tournament that ended this week.
You know those names -- and how this worked. When the tournament began, people talked about breaking brackets, not breaking rules.
For a school that has already taken down a national championship banner, there is little appetite for more probation and the financial and emotional pain that would come with it.
That's one side. This is the other, from the law-and-order crowd:
If you’re not going to squash a repeat offender with evidence gathered by the federal government, who are you going to punish?
Cleveland State? Darth Vader? Bambi?
It's not like this is a case about a coach sending too many text messages or giving a recruit extra sneakers and T-shirts.
This is about the last-minute pursuit of a five-star recruit with $100,000 of Adidas money by a program that had already taken itself out of an NCAA Tournament because another former staff member thought strippers and prostitutes were the Go-To move in recruiting.
If that's not thumbing your nose at the rules and authority, what is?
How can the NCAA shrug at this when the evidence has been hand-delivered by the FBI? NCAA investigators could work decades and not come up with material this solid.
No wonder there is talk about more severe probation or even the death penalty.
That is where Louisville basketball sits, jerked back into the tawdry discussion about what the heck was going on during the final years of Rick Pitino’s program.
And, all of college basketball is watching to see how it plays out.
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