By Phillip Lentsch —
While it disagrees with the NCAA’s decision to strip U of L of its championship title, the administration has no plans to sue the organization. Interim President Greg Postel and Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra held a press conference Feb. 20 announcing the decision.
“I cannot say this strongly enough, we believe the NCAA is simply wrong,” Postel said.
Postel encouraged the university to move on and continue to display a strong commitment to excellence on and off the court.
“The NCAA’s ruling cannot change the accomplishments or the excitement generated by our men’s basketball team. It cannot change the love we have for this great university. I hope you’ll join me in remembering those players and their accomplishments. It’s also my hope that you’ll join me as the university looks ahead to brighter days in athletics,” Postel said.
Tyra echoed Postel’s sentiments saying the ruling brought closure to the challenges the men’s basketball team faced not to the memories and successes the team had.
“So from here, we’ll certainly remove the formal recognition of our accomplishments from our facilities but they won’t remove it from our hearts and our minds,” Tyra said.
U of L students had plenty to say following the NCAA’s decision to vacate men’s basketball wins from 2011 through 2015. The departures of head coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were just the beginning of a tumultuous transition into the new year.
Not only did the team have to give up its prized 2013 national championship, they will have to rid of the accolades that came during those golden years of basketball.
“U of L athletics has been under a really dark cloud for a while now, and I think it’s hardest to swallow for the players and the entire student-fan base,” sophomore Om Kanmadikar said. “I don’t think it’s fair at all and I feel like the NCAA could have found a better resolution to the problem.”
Many students and faculty – along with Pitino himself – feel as though the best course of action for U of L moving forward would be to fight the decision in court.
“How do you take down a championship? They’ve earned it,” Pitino said. “You need to get an injunction. The NCAA, they have total autonomy. I’m sure Notre Dame is not going to let it happen, and neither should the University of Louisville, in my opinion. I wish I could do it. Unfortunately, I’m defenseless.”
Pitino’s statement on Notre Dame is in reference to the NCAA also vacating wins for the football team’s 2012 and 2013 seasons for academic misconduct. Some students also cited the University of North Carolina’s academic fraud investigation that began in 2011, where the school received only minor disciplinary action.
“I think we should take them [the NCAA] to court, because there’s absolutely no justification for this,” senior Kasey Golding said. “The only reason we’re being punished is because we complied with the court, unlike North Carolina, who lawyered up.”
U of L senior Olivia Campbell mirrored much of what Golding felt as well, bringing up the controversy that followed the UNC basketball team.
“What really stinks is that we are being made to be the poster child for NCAA violations when other schools are at fault too. Like North Carolina and their years of academic fraud,” Campbell said. “Not that it makes what we did right, but I don’t see any consistency in the NCAA’s punishments.”
U of L hasn’t been a stranger to sanctions and fraud. The last few years have been mired in scandal after scandal, extending all the way to the top of the administrative ladder, leaving students and faculty to deal with the repercussions. The recent NCAA sanctions have – according to many students – served as another dagger that’s been thrown at the school.
Kanmadikar believes the NCAA is punishing the wrong people for misgivings out of players’ control.
“They have taken away two of U of L’s best basketball seasons in the modern era, 2012 and 2013,” Kanmadikar said. “Future recruitment will definitely suffer from this. But still, they might be able to take the banner down, but that championship win still belongs to the players. And us.”
The sentiment was echoed by Golding and Campbell as well, who still stand by the men’s team for its triumphs during the late Pitino years.
“We all know the win happened, we all know who won the title,” Campbell said. “They can take down the banner, but they can’t take away our memories. That’s what U of L fans need to hold on to.”
“At the end of the day, U of L was the national championship team. You can take us out of the record books, but you can’t say that we didn’t win that game,” Golding said. “What’re they going to do, give it to Michigan? They didn’t win that game.”
It’s unclear how the university and the athletic department plan on handling the situation. The news is still fresh and the entire campus is still reeling from the decision. However, SGA President Vishnu Tirumala remains optimistic U of L will continue to improve.
“For now, the university community must continue to be resilient and focus on what is coming up,” Tirumala said.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal