In a press conference following the NCAA’s announcement that Rick Pitino will be suspended for five games and the program will be forced to vacate the 2013 national title, Louisville made one thing very clear: They believe that the punishment they received as “excessive”, and they are going to fight the NCAA’s rulings for as long as they can.
“I’ve lost a lot of faith in the NCAA with what they just did,” Pitino said, adding later that, “I know the committee was sickened by this. So were we. But they made a very large mistake.”
“We did not deserve any of this at all.”
Louisville fans will have roughly three more months to wait on word on whether or not that appeal will be successful — Louisville has 15 days to file their appeal, the NCAA has 30 days to respond, Louisville will get 30 days to respond to the response and then the NCAA will have 15 days to make a final ruling.
The biggest issue here is that the NCAA has ruled that 108 games and 15 NCAA tournament wins from Dec. 2010 through July 2014, including the 2013 national title, will have to be vacated by Louisville. The rest of the punishments levied — four years of probation, a five-game suspension for Pitino, a handful of recruiting restrictions, the 2016 self-imposed postseason ban — are all either relatively minor or less than what many expected, but that banner will be coming down will be a big deal. No school has ever had a national title vacated.
The crux of Louisville’s appeal will center around the value of what was provided. The reason that games are being vacated is that the players involved — according to the NCAA, 15 recruits and three enrolled student-athletes — received impermissible benefits from a member of the coaching staff. They were, in the NCAA’s eyes, ineligible to play at that point.
According to the book published by Katina Powell, the self-proclaimed escort queen that provided the strippers and sex workers, roughly $10,000 changed hands during the four years that this was happening. From a monetary perspective, these benefits are relatively minor and, according to Chuck Smrt, had they been identified in real time, the restitution to keep the athletes eligible would have been made quickly. Louisville even argued in their response to the Notice of Allegations that the value of the benefits meant that these should be Level III, not Level I, violations.
The NCAA, however, determined that the lurid nature of what occurred — a member of the coaching staff paying for “adult entertainment and/or sex acts” for recruits, 7-10 of whom were under 18, and players — the dollar value of said entertainment.
Louisville may have a point, but it does not appear to be a point that the NCAA is going to be willing to concede on.