The University of Louisville’s 2013 men’s basketball national championship never happened as of Feb. 20, according to the NCAA, following the institution’s failed attempt to appeal sanctions enacted June 15. The vacated title, along with other erased wins, is punishment after former basketball administrator Andrew McGee was found to have supplied prostitutes to players and recruits over a four-year period.
These sanctions included the vacating of all wins from 2011-2015, including the team’s national title in 2013, whose banner was promptly removed from all university facilities.
The NCAA explained in a press release that, “In its review of the case, the appeals committee found that because of the serious and intentional violations with direct involvement of a university staff member, the Committee on Infractions panel was within its legislated authority to prescribe the vacation of records and financial penalty.”
Louisville clearly deserved a severe punishment for allowing McGee’s operation to remain in existence for that long, but the NCAA once again missed the mark completely.
How does vacating wins thoroughly reprehend a program? Even if five years worth of wins for Louisville won’t be officially recognized in the record books, the games themselves still took place.
None of the players from the 2013 championship team have to give back their rings, and the memory of that season and magical tournament run will never leave them or the thousands of Cardinals fans around the country.
If the NCAA really wanted to send a strong message, it would hand Louisville at least a one-year ban from the NCAA tournament.
By doing so, the NCAA would not have only served a stern warning to the rest of the teams around the country, but would have provided a bigger blow to Louisville than they actually did.
With at least one year of no postseason eligibility and a culture of one-and-done players, there’s no doubt that Louisville would have lost at least a few big time recruits who would rather play on teams that were eligible for selection to the NCAA tournament.
The university would have also missed out on potentially millions of dollars of revenue through ticket and merchandise sales for arguably its most popular sport. Yes, these upheld sanctions do require Louisville “to return to the NCAA money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships,” but the money it makes in one tournament season alone is enough to make up for that loss.
Not appearing in this massive revenue-making NCAA tournament costs the school more, and banning Louisville for at least one year would’ve ended up being a suitable punishment. Plus, harsher penalties it may have scared other teams who don’t follow the rules into not cheating in future seasons.
The NCAA has penalized other collegiate organizations in a similar fashion in the past. In 2010, the University of Southern California was forced to vacate its 2004 BCS National Championship and all wins from 2005 after Heisman running back Reggie Bush reportedly received improper benefits while attending the university. The program endured less success than it had during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, but its was still competitive, going a combined 73-33 from 2010 to 2017. Although the Trojans weren’t nearly as good as they were in the early 2000s, they were still competitive even with the sanctions, and Louisville has the ability to do the same on the hardwood.
What the NCAA essentially did was force Louisville to take down a banner and erase a fair amount of wins for a historically great program. The punishment doesn’t even come close to fitting the crime, and until the organization starts handing out serious retributions for these sorts of incidents, it’ll continue to be criticized as the joke of a governing body it has come to be.