If the previous scandals didn’t ruin you as a Louisville fan, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Earlier today, the University of Louisville “effectively fired” both Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich, ending arguably the most historic era in school history.
Following an affair, an on-campus prostitution/stripper scandal, and a bribery investigation involving the FBI, there was no other option. A death penalty is entirely possible, with years of tournament bans, vacated wins, and massive scholarship reductions almost guaranteed. Cleaning house was the only way to truly give the program a fresh start following this mess.
Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I actually feel sorry for UofL fans.
Like most UofL and UK fans, I live for this rivalry. When the Katina Powell news broke, I was giddy. It was an infinite supply of ammunition for the Big Blue Nation’s utter hatred for all things red. When news trickled out throughout the day yesterday and into this morning, I was like a kid running down the stairs on Christmas morning. It’s a KSR writer’s dream.
But when I talked to a few fans following the breaking news, I understood some of their pain. It wasn’t just the beginning of a punishment that will likely cripple the program for many years to come, it was the end of a true fandom for many.
“The year we won the championship, that was the first time I connected with my dad through college basketball,” said one diehard Cardinal fan. “That’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. But it’s so hard to continue to try to defend Louisville when this stuff keeps happening. I love the city of Louisville and I love our athletic department, but being a real fan sucks right now. It’s honestly depressing.”
For some fans, the pain they have for the innocent players in the program feeling the brunt of this punishment is the worst aspect of this entire situation.
“My heart breaks for the honest and innocent college players at UofL to play a sport they love. Guys like Quentin Snider, Anas Mahmoud, Ray Spalding, etc., who have absolutely nothing to do with this, are going to get punished for the acts of a few selfish coaches and teammates. We already saw it with Trey Lewis and Damion Lee following the Katina Powell scandal. Those are the people I feel awful for.”
I grew up in Louisville, playing in the youth basketball circles with Louisville senior guard Quentin Snider. From the time he was eight years old, Snider had the dream of suiting up in a UofL uniform in the future and winning a national championship, and he let everyone know it. It was inspiring. Because of the work of several disgusting members of the administration and on the coaching staff, however, any chance of Snider reaching his dream as a senior is destroyed. Even as a Kentucky fan, seeing that transpire is truly heartbreaking.
For most Louisville fans, this is a time of shame in a “pot-meet-kettle” moment. When Calipari was hired at Kentucky, the entire Cardinal fanbase believed future NCAA sanctions were inevitable. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports wrote that the program “sold their souls” by bringing on John “PayPal Cal” Calipari as head coach. There is no way a coach with a history of vacated Final Fours at two different schools could ever survive at the University of Kentucky.
Eight years and three significant scandals later, the Cardinals are seen as the embarrassment of college basketball, while Kentucky has gone unscathed.
“Funny though because Louisville always tried to differentiate itself from Kentucky by calling Calipari a slimy car salesman, insinuating that UK was the more dishonest program,” another Cardinal diehard said. “If we want to play the integrity card, we have to put our money where our mouths are.”
One Louisville fan doesn’t even understand the thought process behind the program’s cheating, especially considering it hasn’t resulted in massive success.
“Here’s the sad part to me. Louisville is like B/B+ at sports in my mind,” he said. “How can a school with so many scandals not just destroy and pillage all other schools when it comes to sports? Like the Russian Olympic teams of the 80’s where the records are still unbroken, we should be dominating for how often we are in the news with this nonsense.”
When news leaked of the Louisville program being included in the FBI investigations, another fan said he hopes those involved on the coaching staff are punished to the fullest extent.
“Good on the FBI, punish to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “This is a blatant disregard of the law and disrespectful to the city and fans.”
And he’s right. Above all else, this situation is utterly disrespectful. The NCAA forced the school to vacate 108 regular-season and 15 NCAA Tournament games, including the 2013 National Championship. A month and a half later, a Louisville assistant coach was recorded on camera telling a recruit he had to be “low-key” about how he’d give him cash under the table because his school was on probation. Another player was paid $100,000 to attend the school, and is still officially listed on the roster.
Now, the NCAA is forced to go back to the drawing board on where to even start on not only concluding their original punishment process for the strippers, but beginning arguably the biggest scandal in the history of the sport. No remorse, no guilt, just an arrogant attempt at skating by yet again.
It’s a blatant slap in the face to the fans that spend their hard-earned money to attend games and dedicate their time and effort on a program that doesn’t respect them back.
As much as it absolutely pains me to say it, the Louisville fanbase deserves better than this.
The UofL athletic department is a disgrace to their fans, the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky. Getting rid of Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich was just the beginning of this incredible mess they got themselves into.
But it was at least a fresh start.