It’s time to fold the Cards

Back in June, the University of Louisville men’s basketball team had its wings clipped.

Now, it’s time to take the next step and put it down altogether.

Just a few months ago, the NCAA issued sanctions on the Cardinals after the team’s former director of operations paid for strip teases and sexual acts for prospective and current players on its roster.

As a result, Louisville was fined $5,000, had to vacate 123 wins — including its national championship win over Michigan in 2013 — and head coach Rick Pitino was given a five-game suspension.

The university appealed the decision and it’s still an ongoing process.

Now things have now gotten worse. A couple of weeks ago, a joint announcement by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office alleged that the Cardinals were involved in a pay-for-play scandal where an executive from the athletic gear company Adidas tried to pay $100,000 to a basketball recruit to both play at Louisville and represent the company after turning pro.

Adidas is in a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Cardinals. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a second incident where apparently a Louisville coach was videotaped negotiating a payout for a high school player.

Louisville was not officially named in the FBI allegations, but the school did admit that it is part of the investigation even though it hasn’t been formally charged.

Because of all of this, the university has started proceedings to fire Pitino.

The Cardinals were just a part of the massive joint announcement. Four assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and USC were arrested on charges of fraud and corruption. The University of Miami was also mentioned as four other people allegedly tried to create a deal to send a player to the Hurricanes for $150,000. Three of those people are associated with Adidas, which has a deal with Miami in addition to Louisville.

The allegations are damning for all of the schools involved, but it’s worse for Louisville.

Why is that? It’s the most high-profile basketball program mentioned, and as stated earlier, its track record with scandal isn’t the best.

The Cardinals are currently appealing NCAA sanctions and now the collegiate overseers have gotten word of this one, too.

Since Louisville can’t help itself from breaking the rules, the NCAA needs to do something it has only done once before — take down the Cardinals with the dreaded “death penalty.”

The NCAA has delivered that sentence only five times with the most famous ruling coming in the mid-1980s to the Southern Methodist University football program.

Though it’s been rarely applied, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been considered. It was rumored that the Penn State football program almost got that sentence after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

It wouldn’t have stuck, though, as the NCAA walked back a lot of its harsh penalties and lost whatever lingering respect it had remaining.

Seeing as it won’t go after the Baylor football program after its massive sexual assault scandal, the NCAA has to take a strong stand against corruption, whether it’s financial or morally based.

North Carolina is under investigation over offering bogus classes to help athletes remain eligible, but based on the NCAA’s recent past, the penalty won’t be as severe as it should be.

With Louisville, this is an opportunity for the NCAA to get back any honor it has left. The organization seems to hate athletes getting paid more than anything and that’s what these allegations are about.

Before he was fired, Pitino came out and said that these allegations were a “complete shock,” rich coming from a coach who will spend his first five Atlantic Coast Conference games away from his team due to the stripper scandal and who admitted having an affair and paying for the woman’s abortion.

I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t trust that guy.

So with that big announcement from the joint investigators, there’s a massive scandal that has now rocked college basketball to its core and could lead to huge ramifications.

None of the schools listed above should be considered “squeaky clean” with Miami’s football program committing its own huge impropriety just four years ago, but Louisville is coming off the worst here and its feathers need to be plucked.

One of the big reasons SMU got slammed so badly was that it was a repeat offender.

So are the Cardinals. They’re under federal investigation while appealing an NCAA investigation. I don’t think that’s ever been done before and although I’m sure Louisville won’t be the last to do it, a strong ruling could limit it happening in future.

Louisville gambled and now it appears like it did it again. Now it’s time to for the NCAA to make Louisville fold its valuable Cards.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.

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