Louisville's Self-Imposed Tournament Ban an Unfair Solution to Larger Problem

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Louisville's Self-Imposed Tournament Ban an Unfair Solution to Larger Problem
Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press
Louisville coach Rick Pitino spoke to media on Friday after the school announced a self-imposed postseason ban for the 2015-16 season.

The decision by Louisville to self-impose a postseason ban for its basketball program this season seemed harsh.

Don't be fooled. It was entirely self-serving.

This decision announced at a Friday press conference was made with an eye toward the future by the men in charge, who were admitting that some form of a violation had occurred.

In case you're just tuning in, this mess stems from the book published by self-described madam Katina Powell in October that documented numerous alleged parties with paid dancers and escorts arranged for Louisville basketball players and recruits between 2010 and 2014.

The NCAA is conducting an ongoing investigation of what happened and has yet to send the university a notice of allegations.

In other words, Louisville did not have to act yet.

On Thursday, the school decided it had enough information to know that violations had occurred. Even Rick Pitino, who has been skeptical of everything that comes out of Powell's mouth, said at the presser that usually "where there's smoke, there's fire."

Pitino and Louisville's administrators admitted the madam, at least partially, speaketh some truth.

The ethical thing to do, it was decided, was to penalize the program immediately, and so a team that is 18-4 and has the goods to make a Final Four now has just nine games left to play.

That team includes two graduate transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who have never played in the NCAA tournament and went to Louisville, in part, to get that opportunity.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Louisville senior guard Damion Lee transferred to Louisville before the allegations in Katina Powell's book had been released.

Lee was one of the best players no one knew about at Drexel. He is averaging 17.0 points per game this season and is considered one of the top guards in the country. Lee and Lewis are big reasons why the Cardinals would have been in position to make a run in March.

And the fact that they will lose that opportunity had nothing to do with them.

But this self-imposed penalty was not made with their best interest in mind.

Louisville's president, Dr. James Ramsey, spoke the truth when he said the school's decision to put forth the ban this season was "made in the best interest of the University of Louisville."

He got that right.

Because for Louisville to ban itself from the postseason next year or anytime in the future outside of this coming season would be debilitating.

Such a penalty would likely result in players transferring and tie the hands of Pitino and his staff in recruiting.

Who wants to play for a team that cannot play in the NCAA tournament?

Louisville followed the playbook Syracuse created a year ago when that program also self-imposed a postseason ban. This is at least some kind of penalty, as the Orange made that call knowing the basketball team wasn't likely to make the tournament anyway.

So, the Cards and Pitino are hurting right now.

The NCAA could bring more penalties when its investigation is wrapped up, and the fact that there's enough for Louisville to act in such a manner now suggests there's probably more to come.

Did Louisville's administrators do the right thing by self-imposing a postseason ban for this season?

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As far as postseason bans go, the NCAA's recent actions regarding Syracuse and SMU suggest this is the only postseason that the Cards will have to sit out.

And so the program can start to put itself back together again.

But that doesn't make this the right call. The truly ethical thing to do would be to impose a postseason ban next season. Give Lee and Lewis their chance to play in an NCAA tournament. Give the younger Cardinals the ability to decide if they want to play through a postseason-less year.

That's where Louisville messed up. That's where the NCAA messed up with SMU when it made the decision to penalize that program after it was too late for the players to go elsewhere.

If the NCAA really wants to do the right thing, deny Louisville's self-imposed sanctions. Make the Cardinals wait.

That will never happen, because such a decision would be made in the best interest of the student-athlete.

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.

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