NCAA should leave the past alone


Former Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino watches from the bench as the Panthers play the Cardinals Jan. 24, 2017, at the Petersen Events Center. (TPN File Photo)

By Colin Martin | Staff Writer

The last time the Louisville men’s basketball team won the NCAA tournament was 22 years ago — at least according to the NCAA.

The NCAA vacated 123 wins from Louisville’s program — from between 2011 and 2015 — on Tuesday. The Cardinals will also be stripped of their 2013 NCAA championship win after being the subject of a NCAA scandal and FBI investigation over the past few months.

The NCAA’s decision comes as punishment for program violations including accusations that the program paid an escort to have sex with Louisville recruits.

Former Louisville player Kevin Ware, who famously broke his leg during the team’s NCAA tournament run in 2013, responded to the NCAA’s decision to vacate his former team’s wins on Twitter.

Still got this fat [expletive] ring which means my guys definitely won a chip, if I’m not mistaken of course,” Ware said on Twitter.

Ware and his teammates will still own their National Championship rings, though the NCAA will no longer count the squad’s win. He went on to post pictures of his team hoisting the National Championship trophy, showing that the game and victory can’t be taken away in the player’s eyes.

Louisville interim president Greg Postel announced his displeasure with the ruling in a statement.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” Postel said.

Ware makes a very good point, and he’s not alone. ESPN College Gameday Host, Rece Davis, echoed Ware’s message on Twitter.

I disagree w/ the punishment of vacating games or championships. It’s silly. Accomplishes little or nothing. When rules are broken, heavy fines, show causes for offenders, etc seem more appropriate. We saw the game. We know Louisville won,” Davis said on Twitter.

So now what happens to the 2013 NCAA title? Is the NCAA going to award the National Championship to Michigan — the team that Louisville beat in 2013’s title game — since Louisville isn’t the champion anymore?

Vacating wins and titles is pointless. Louisville already lost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino, who was fired back in October. It would be more reasonable to just impose a postseason ban going forward.

This also isn’t the first time that the NCAA has vacated wins and championships from a program. Most famously, the University of Southern California football program had the final two wins of its 2004 season and all of its 2005 wins vacated.

Former Trojans running back Reggie Bush, who won the 2005 Heisman trophy while playing at USC, decided to turn in his Heisman trophy after facing pressure from the NCAA. The Heisman trophy was not retroactively awarded to Vince Young — the Heisman runner-up in 2005.

There is no 2004 National Champion or 2005 Heisman Trophy winner according to the NCAA. And yet, we all still remember that USC and Bush both won.

If the NCAA is going to vacate all 123 wins that Louisville basketball had for four years, are they going to take away the losses their opponents had too? No. So what’s the point?

Instead of vacating wins, the NCAA should be handing out fines, taking away scholarships and placing postseason bans on programs. We’ve seen these types of punishments work in the past.

Penn State football knows this firsthand, as they lost 10 scholarships per year for four years after the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011.

The program was able to recover since then and has won a conference championship and played in both the prestigious Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl within three seasons of regaining full scholarships.

As for the current players at Louisville and other punished programs, players should be able to transfer to other schools freely without losing eligibility. Current players aren’t at fault for prior NCAA violations. Punishments should be focused on the administration and coaches only, not record books and current players.

Louisville basketball is clearly in the wrong. It’s hard to argue anything else when there is an FBI investigation that proves as much. But vacating wins does nothing. We all know Louisville won all 123 of those games and went to back-to-back Final Fours.

Pitino even has a tattoo on his shoulder celebrating the team’s 2013 National Championship. Should he erase that as if it never happened too?

Well, probably.