The Heartbreak of a Louisville Cardinal

It is a tough time to be a Louisville fan, that is for sure. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t care at all about sports), shockwaves rolled across the Commonwealth on Friday when it was announced that University of Louisville Presdient James Ramsey is instituting a postseason ban for the men’s basketball team for the 2015-2016 season. The punishment is a result of allegations by a Madame that she provided strippers and sex with players and recruits in exchange for money and basketball tickets from 2010-2014. The NCAA has launched an investigation as did U of L, the findings of U of L’s investigation was bad enough that Ramsey imposed the ban. We don’t know what was found in the investigation, we won’t know until the NCAA is done with their investigation and the findings are announced.

It was heartbreaking to hear that our current men’s basketball team would not be able to play in the postseason. We are ranked 19 and just pulled off a stunning upset over second ranked North Carolina. Going into the NCAA tournament, we were looking to make a good run. It is especially heartbreaking for two fifth-year seniors that transferred to U of L just to get to the post season. They were not present during any wrongdoing, but they are being severely punished. 

Cardinals fans everywhere are angry with Ramsey for imposing such a harsh punishment, even Head Coach Rick Pitino is flabbergasted by the decision. By “self-policing”, Ramsey is hoping the NCAA will be merciful in their own punishment. But to ban the current team from the post season, which is just a few weeks away, is quite uncommon. There is a lot of speculation on why he would do this-I personally don’t see any upside for Ramsey other than potentially lessening the NCAA’s punishment. He’s already on thin ice with criticism over his salary and a culturally insensitive Halloween costume which earned him bad press. I don’t think he is trying to dig himself in a hole. It does make me wonder what exactly is in that report.

The other big question is: Did Rick Pitino know? The coaching staff member implicated was Andre McGee who no longer works for U of L. Pitino claims he had no idea that anything like this was going on. I personally believe him. Not too long ago, Pitino was caught in a scandal of his own. He had an affair with a woman and when he ended it she tried to extort money from him. He called the police and owned up to the affair. This past evidence of honesty leads me to believe he wouldn’t lie now. And frankly, Pitino is one of the most respected coaches in the country, I can’t imagine him hiring strippers to try and land recruits. 

The hardest part about all this, for me, isn’t the post season ban or the bad press-it’s the fact that it happened here. The world of college sports is no stranger to scandal. It’s everywhere. NCAA rule violations are so common, it’s just a matter of if and when you get caught. But as a Louisville Cardinal I was proud that we were above that. I was proud that we won our championship in 2013 the right way. I was proud of players like Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Luke Hancock, and Kyle Kuric who aside from performing amazing things in the court, were also great people and role models. 

It doesn’t matter how many schools use tactics like this to recruit players (and I’m sure it’s common), it matters that we did it. That isn’t what we are about. That isn’t who we are. 

It is absolutely disguising to me that a U of L staff member would hire strippers and pay for sex for teenagers. First of all, it’s wrong. Second of all, it’s degrading to this University. We are a Divison 1 school, member of the ACC, winners of the 2013 National Championship, home of the legendary Rick Pitino. Players would give anything to play here. It is an honor and a privilege to be a cardinal, not something we bribe people into doing. 

This all goes back to a bigger issue that we treat college athletics like the ‘end all, be all’ and as a money making machine. But that’s for another day, you don’t want to get me started on that. 

I hope Rick Pitino did not know what was happening. I hope the NCAA doesn’t levy more punishments to our players. But if they find Pitino knew, he should be fired. If the NCAA sees that we need to be punished then we should accept it and make sure nothing like this happens again. We need to take pride no just in our athletic ability but in our ethics and values.

For better or for worse, I stand by my Cardinals. I am one, I am a University of Louisville Cardinal. This isn’t who we are, this is not who we are going to be. Louisville First. Cardinals Forever.



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