Rick Pitino is obviously unhappy. Louisville’s graduate transfers, senior guards Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, are in tears, according to the coach. Cardinal fans are no doubt upset. Even with all that, the school did a smart thing Friday when Dr. James Ramsey announced a self-imposed post-season ban for the U of L basketball team this season.
Louisville, like previous schools under investigation, is throwing itself at the mercy of the NCAA court. Syracuse did it last year. Missouri is doing it this year. The strategy isn’t new and the past has shown that in plenty of cases it has helped lessen the risk of receiving draconian penalties down the road.
Obviously, Chuck Smrt, the former NCAA official hired by Louisville to do an internal investigation, has found enough to back up Katina Powell’s allegations concerning the school’s stripper scandal to lead Ramsey to decide to be pro-active instead of re-active.
“Based upon available information, we determined it is reasonable to conclude that violations had occurred,” said Ramsey.
In the Friday afternoon press conference, Pitino voiced “shock” at the self-imposed penalty, saying he had been kept in the dark about the findings of the investigation. He also voiced disappointment for Lee and Lewis, who now cannot participate in the post-season.
“The final home games is all they have left,” Pitino said. “This is a punishment I thought would never happen this season.”
It’s hardly unprecedented, however. Last February, while under NCAA investigation, Syracuse imposed a post-season ban on its basketball program for the 2014-15 tournaments. When the NCAA handed down its ruling, the program forfeited 12 basketball scholarships and head coach Jim Boeheim was issued a nine-game suspension. On appeal, it ended up getting four of the 12 scholarships back. And Syracuse is eligible to play in this year’s tourney.
Earlier this season, during a joint investigation with the NCAA, Missouri announced that it was imposing a one-year post-season ban on its basketball program. The school also announced that it was vacating 23 victories from the 2013-14 season under previous coach Frank Haith.
(If you remember, UK issued self-imposed scholarship restrictions while its football program was being investigated in 2000-01.)
Missouri wasn’t going to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, anyway. Louisville would not only have made this year’s tourney but the Cards figured to be a fairly high seed considering their No. 19 ranking in the AP poll and 18-4 record.
That apparently didn’t figure into the school’s decision, nor should it. Same thing with Lee and Lewis. It is always unfortunate when players who had nothing do with violations end up paying the price for other’s actions. But that also should not have any bearing on the school’s decision-making process in the face of an NCAA investigation.
The guess here is that in the end Pitino will end up with a Boeheim-type suspension, one similar to the nine-game suspension the NCAA handed SMU coach Larry Brown this season. Brown’s team was also handed a post-season ban by the NCAA. A pink slip isn’t likely in Pitino’s future -- the school would probably have already fired him if it was going so -- but some mandated time off may be.
Louisville men’s basketball remaining schedule
Feb. 6 Boston College
Feb. 8 at Duke
Feb. 13 at Notre Dame
Feb. 17 Syracuse
Feb. 20 Duke
March 1 Georgia Tech
March 5 at Virginia