The NCAA announced on Tuesday that it denied Louisville’s appeal of their initial findings in the escort scandal investigation, meaning the men’s basketball program will lose NCAA recognition of its 2013 national title and have to pay back millions earned in tournament money.
The decision does not in any way pertain to the school’s ongoing involvement in the FBI investigation of college basketball recruiting; this series of sanctions against Louisville comes as a result of former men’s basketball staffer Andre McGee setting up high school-aged recruits with escorts to convince them to don a Cardinals jersey. The NCAA instructed Louisville to vacate all its wins and losses from 2011-2015, remove all on-campus references to the 2013 championship team, and return the money it made in that tournament, as well as the previous year’s 2012 Final Four run. The ruling marks the first time a school has had to pretend it didn’t win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
In a statement via ESPN, interim university president Greg Postel reiterated Louisville’s position that it feels the NCAA’s final ruling was too harsh given the school’s prior actions.
“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong,” Postel said. “We disagree with the NCAA ruling for reasons we clearly stated in our appeal. And we made a strong case — based on NCAA precedent — that supported our argument.”
“This dark cloud has hung over our heads for more than two years, and it has had a negative impact on our athletics program, our fans and the entire university family,” Postel said in his statement. “While we disagree with the NCAA’s decision, it is time for the university to close this chapter and move forward with a stronger commitment to excellence on and off the court.”
Louisville initially accepted 37 of the NCAA’s 40 allegations and self-imposed a postseason suspension in 2016, but in an effort to soften the blow to their books and their egos, the university unsuccessfully argued last January that the benefits the athletes were provided only cost several hundred dollars and even went as far as to write, “the University does not believe these dances or sexual activities greatly assisted its recruiting efforts.” Initially, the school seemed most concerned with ensuring that Rick Pitino and the university would not be hit with a lack of institutional control charge—now that he’s been shoved out because he helped woo recruits with cash instead of escorts, the university is more concerned with putting the escort brouhaha behind it and focusing on the FBI investigation and impending wrongful termination lawsuit from Pitino. A year in Louisville scandals really is 10 years for any other program.
As has already been pointed out by former Louisville player Kevin Ware, the only sanction that really matters here is the NCAA recouping the tournament money made by Louisville’s athletes—the game was already played and the Cardinals are already champions, whether the NCAA chooses to write it down in its books with an asterisk or not at all.