Senior guards Damion Lee and Trey Lewis had never played in an NCAA tournament game their entire careers. Both took advantage of the fifth year graduate transfer rule after last year and committed to the University of Louisville looking for a chance to guide the Cardinals to an NCAA tournament berth and get to live their dreams of playing in March Madness.
On Friday February 5th, with only 8 regular season games left, Louisville’s President, Athletic Director and Coach Rick Pitino held a press conference detailing their decision to impose a postseason ban for this year’s team for the ongoing recruiting scandal that the NCAA is investigating.
This is a scandal that has been ongoing since roughly October that involves Katina Powell, a self-described former escort, who wrote a book alleging that Andre McGee, a former member of the men’s basketball staff at Louisville, hired dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players at an on-campus dorm. This is a scandal that has not been seen by the college world so the NCAA sanctions could be devastating for the Cardinals program and University as a whole.
My initial thought was how sad I was for both Damion Lee and Trey Lewis and quite honestly how selfish the school was in this decision. Though this scandal took place from 2010 to 2014, and some players currently on the team may have committed to the Cardinals due to the actions taken by former staffer McGee, I still do not see the need for a postseason ban. Schools get the chance to self-impose penalties before the NCAA sends out their sanctions strictly to help their cause and lessen the sanctions by the NCAA. Why take away the dream of playing in an NCAA tournament from these kids who had no knowledge about this at all?
Let’s get this straight, I am not against a postseason ban, BUT I am against a postseason ban that is announced for the current season, once that year has already started. You have now blindsided these kids and given them no other option for the current year. Personally, I think this is just a move to help recruitment in the future. If their self-imposed penalty was a postseason ban for next year, I would have nothing wrong with that.
In this specific case for the University of Louisville, I would have suspended Coach Pitino for the rest of the year, taken away 12 scholarships over the next four years (3 per year) and paid a certain amount of money to the NCAA. I chose four years for the scholarship reduction since the scandal was said to have taken place for 4 years.
In the end, what Louisville did was outrageous and there is no place in sports for that, so harsh penalties are needed. But why punish these guys who had nothing to do with the scandal? Louisville is currently no. 19 in the country and in 1st place in the ACC. They travel to Cameron Indoor to play Duke on Monday.