Don’t Let Louisville Scandal Take Anything Away From The Players

It probably feels played to death at this point, but more has to be said about the Louisville basketball scandal.

Most scandalous stories tend to remain in view until either a larger, more scintillating story appears or the people at fault for the scandal — or those close enough to it — have to face shame. Media attention persists until the central figures in the story are met with a punishment only equaled by an unforgiving god who favors sweeping away nations with floods.

Unfortunately, we are still in a place where people are not letting go of the scandal surrounding the Louisville Cardinals. It isn’t all that surprising, as it meets all the criteria to withstand periods of time which would otherwise make other college sports scandals go away (re: sex stuff). However, as the season approaches, I fear we will lose track of who is to blame, and even worse, indirectly punish those who shouldn’t be villainized for other people’s mistakes.

I have written about it before: The actual scandal at hand isn’t that mind-numbing to me. It doesn’t fill me with disgust or anger, nor does it make me think Louisville should be hit with any sort of huge postseason ban or punishment. Honestly, I merely feel this is yet another indirect consequence of not paying student-athletes real money, and if anything — putting aside the “mom pimping out her daughters” story (these stories can be covered separately) — this NCAA infraction isn’t as bad as other ones we have seen in very recent history.

What it has helped to do, however, is highlight how badly folks want to worship coaches. Because of the way many have made normal dudes who simply coach sports into “godly, leader of young men” pillars, college coaches are afforded a benefit of the doubt few people walking this planet have. A similar theory can be applied to universities which have been good at sports for a long time.

If sports have taught me anything, it is that good athletes, coaches and programs are always painted as having great characteristic traits… until we learn they never had them. It is simply, and rather disgustingly, the way we have long romanticized sports while ignoring the fact that everyone involved is merely human — the only difference being they are really good at things few others are.

No matter. That isn’t actually relevant to what will happen during the season. The acts which occurred behind closed doors are things Louisville players need not worry about when the season tips off. At least, one would hope they wouldn’t.

Sadly, it is something they have to deal with. However Rick Pitino finally deals — or doesn’t — with the media about all of this can surely help the players get through this, focus on the game (oh, and being a student or whatever the NCAA claims it cares about), and not have to answer for other people’s mistakes. Yet, here we are, only a short time removed from Pitino being “legally advised” to not be a distraction to other ACC coaches at media day — forcing his players to have to deal with any of the questions regarding the entire situation.

It could be argued that Louisville, Pitino, and other figures other than the players themselves, can put this to rest by simply hashing out every little detail they know about in public. Now, to be fair to them, the NCAA does enjoy overstepping its jurisdiction, and there’s good reason to be somewhat tepid to admitting possible wrongdoing or (at least) knowledge of it. Also, Pitino already tried this while burying Andre McGee during a presser. It didn’t really work that well for him, as people who don’t want to believe him viewed the presser as Pitino attempting to find a scapegoat.

Here is the thing: I truly don’t know where the truth falls anywhere in this debacle. Moreover, on the fictional scandal meter, it barely registers with me. I am not one who thinks this happens at every single college of consequence, but to pretend other programs have never used possible sex (or the idea of it) to lure top players to their schools would be naive. It is always weird to me when people cower in some weird form, as though they were truly prudes or still believe in pillow pants whenever “sex” is attached to anything.

What bothers me is that, as per usual in college basketball, while the previously worshiped coach and/or program are coming off a scandal (their doing or not), it is inevitably the players who will suffer for it. This might not be limited to postseason bans, either — their entire time with the program, even if one did not participate in the mess, will be known as the {insert clever pun} scandal at Louisville.

Both Louisville as a program and Rick Pitino as a man are afforded many second chances (again, something I am fine with), though the free-laborers aren’t granted such luxuries. At the very least, then, I implore us to not make the entire season about other folks’ transgressions or punishments; that court of public opinion can remain separate from the players. Let’s allow them the ability to play hoops without being viewed under the microscope of scandal, because everything in the college sports structure is broken.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.

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