Seth Greenberg: “I really believe” Louisville basketball will not receive a postseason ban

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Louisville basketball will be fighting for the short-term future of the program when the NCAA levies its sanctions this summer, and a prominent ESPN reporter believes the Cards will receive good news.

When Louisville basketball received its notice of allegations from the NCAA on May 4th, many locally and across the country were quick to jump to conclusions about what kind of punishment will be doled out to the Cardinals.

After a scandal involving the payment of strippers in the University of Louisville’s Minardi Hall saw the Cardinals formally lose their NCAA Championship banner and vacate multiple seasons during the Rick Pitino era, the Louisville athletic department faced a probationary period.

Only months later, however, the Cardinals were right back in the headlines again- This time at the forefront of an FBI investigation into a pay for play scandal that has seen a slew of big name schools receive notices of allegations.

In Louisville’s instance, highly coveted recruit Brian Bowen committed to the university after it was allegedly agreed upon that installments of payments totaling $100,000 would be paid to Bowen’s father. Adidas agent Christian Dawkins arranged the payments after meeting with the FBI in order to steer Bowen towards Louisville. Later, it was alleged that former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson paid Bowen’s family $1,300 while they were living out of the Galt House in downtown Louisville.

Unlike schools like Arizona and LSU, however, Louisville was not only proven innocent in federal court, but deemed a victim of a sting operation involving Adidas and Dawkins.

Still, the NCAA does not have to operate under the scope of the law, and it may levy punishments as it sees fit.  If a school’s actions do not comply with the organization’s standards, they have the right to reprimand said institution.

The issue with this, particularly in Louisville’s case, is that the NCAA does not operate upon a consistent moral compass. All one needs to do is look at recent history as a reference.

During Louisville’s first scandal, a rogue former player and staffer, Andre McGee, was accused of paying exotic dancers upwards of $10,000 over the span of five years from 2010-2014. Though there was no evidence to back up the payments, the NCAA only needed to hear alleged first-hand accounts of what took place in order to levy sanctions. Louisville lost its wins over a four year period on the grounds of actions that the NCAA called “repugnant.”

Louisville did almost everything that it could to stave off any sort of further punishment by self-imposing a postseason ban during the 2015-16 season where the Cardinals were projected as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament and boasted seven players who have spent time on NBA rosters.

On the other hand, there are examples of the NCAA completely ignoring what most would consider immoral behavior.

A school like Baylor is an example of the NCAA’s sliding scale of morality. The athletic program and school administration was found to have systematically covered up more than a half dozen sexual assault cases from 2012-2016. 

The punishment for Baylor? Nothing.

The NCAA doesn’t have bylaws in regards to systematic cover-ups of horrifying assaults and gang rape involving its student athletes. As abhorrent, nay, “repugnant” as this sounds, that’s where the governing body of college athletics stood on the matter.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association doesn’t have rules about systematic cheating either. Not as long as everyone has an opportunity to commit fraud together, says the organization.

Though the front page of the NCAA’s website clearly states things like…

We were founded to keep college sports safe. Today, we work hard to promote safety, excellence, and physical and mental well-being for student-athletes.

…. and statements like…

All college athletes deserve a fair shot. We focus on respect, integrity and responsibility, both on and off the field, so that college sports prepare student-athletes for life.

… the actions of the association, which brought in a cool $867 million in revenue in 2019 alone, seem to be far from consistent.

Where was I again? Ah, yes, systematic fraud. Like that at the University of North Carolina- An esteemed institution that quite literally made up classes for two decades, defrauding the university and, in the process, keeping “student” athletes above water just enough to make them eligible to play.

“The scheme involved nearly 200 laxly administered and graded classes — frequently requiring no attendance and just one paper — over nearly two decades in the African and Afro-American Studies Department,” wrote the New York Times in 2017. “Their students were disproportionately athletes, especially in the lucrative, high-profile sports of football and men’s basketball. They were mostly administered by a staff member named Deborah Crowder. In many cases, athletes were steered to the classes by athletics academic advisers.”

The school made up over 200 classes in which athletes were disproportionately enrolled into so that players could circumvent the “collegiate” part of NCAA, yet the association could not levy any punishments. This decision came five months after the University won its second NCAA national championship over the course of the time that the scandal took place.

The NCAA decides who, what, where, and when it wants to deal blows to universities.

Notre Dame’s football program discovered internal violations from 2012 and 2013 and self-reported academic misconduct when it came to light that the university had suspended seven players prior to the 2014 season.

The Irish, similarly to Louisville basketball, cooperated fully with the NCAA, allowing investigations to freely take place, admitting to and taking responsibility for all wrong doing. Yet the NCAA brought harsh sanctions against the University of Notre Dame, vacating all of its wins from a perfect 2012 season that saw the Irish finish as the national runner-up and a 9-4 season the year after.

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