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Louisville self-sanctions its basketball program, and change is needed

Not much going on in Wildcat Land, which means you get a National for the Slate today.

Damion Lee will never play in an NCAA tournament, and that's not right.
Damion Lee will never play in an NCAA tournament, and that's not right.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

This was a big weekend, both in Manhattan and elsewhere. The Wildcats knocked off the number one team in the country, Notre Dame knocked off number two, and the Broncos won the Super Bowl. But one story is worth a bit more attention this morning: Louisville ruling themselves out of the post-season as a result of the investigation surrounding the claims of Katrina Powell.

Powell, you may be aware, alleged in a book published last year that she helped provide prurient benefits to Louisville recruits at the behest of former Cardinal employee Andre McGee. That Louisville is guilty here isn't really much in question. What's brought a great deal of attention to this situation is the impact on Damion Lee and Trey Lewis.

Lee and Lewis are both graduate transfers, coming to Louisville over the summer specifically to play there this season. Both came from schools which did not make the NCAA Tournament during their careers, and were hoping for one shot before their college days ended. They obviously had nothing to do with the charges brought against the school, but now their dreams are ended.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino emotionally addressed the media, and the unified position of important university personnel is that the "system is broken" and that perhaps instead of punishing innocent players for the wrongdoing of employees and coaches, the NCAA should instead inflict monetary punishments.

They're absolutely correct.

We can debate whether infractions committed by current student-athletes warrant punishments we might consider harsh. After all, most Kansas State fans are in agreement that the Jamar Samuels situation was unfair; some blame the administration incorrectly, arguing that they should have tried to skate. If there's blame to be laid there, it's with the NCAA's absurd insistence on clinging to the outdated and classist notion of amateurism. But under the rules, had Samuels been investigated by the NCAA and found guilty, at least suspending him would have served the purpose of punishing the guilty party.

That's not the situation here. Louisville's current players are being punished for doing nothing. Some may suggest that Louisville is being punished financially already, by missing the NCAA Tournament, but they're really not. Indeed, if another ACC team makes the tournament that wouldn't have if Louisville made the field, Louisville loses nothing except a participation note.

A more substantial financial penalty -- fines in the millions is what we're thinking about here -- for NCAA violations would certainly act as a major deterrent in the current environment, where money is everything. Scale those penalties to the egregiousness of the violation and the level of revenue realized by the sport in question, and you're onto something. Worried about Auburn buying a championship? A twenty-million dollar fine would make the coaching staff thing twice.

Of course, that's something the NCAA itself would have to agree to implement. And that, in turn, means getting the NCAA member schools to agree to do it. It's probably never going to happen, because when an NCAA member university has to choose between agreeing to a system which puts them at financial risk or a system which just makes fans angry and crushes the dreams of their unpaid labor, we know which option is going to win.

Then again, is Louisville itself really the guilty party? The other aspect of this sordid story is that the person who's actually responsible, McGee, is completely out of the purview of the NCAA now. Sure, he'll probably never work for an NCAA school again, but that would be true whether they could punish him or not.

The obvious solution to this, you'd think, would be contractual language in all contracts which holds the staff member financially responsible for any acts committed by them which lead to NCAA sanctions. But do you think Andre McGee has any money now?

It's all unfair. Most especially to Lewis and Lee, but also to the other players on Louisville's roster, their fans, and to those of us who'd rather see Louisville in the tournament than whatever team's going to get in as the 36th at-large selection. (Unless it's K-State, of course.) Maybe the outrage will result in a better solution.

But don't hold your breath.

No major content on Super Bowl Sunday, but Gracey threw you some Fanshot content. Cartier Diarra dunking, a current shot of the state of construction on the north end zone at BSFS, and the late signing of Cerritos JC cornerback D.J. Reed.

It wasn't a strong news day yesterday off BotC, either. But Jerry Palm at CBS says Oklahoma's still a one seed after the loss to K-State. The Wildcats, on the other hand, are still outside the top 40 at-large candidates.

On Friday, the Wildcats dug themselves a 3-0 hole against Colorado at the Body First Wellness and Recreation Center, but then stormed back to claim a 4-3 win over the Buffaloes (3-3). K-State (3-1) dropped the doubles point and Sara Castellano and Ana Garcia Navas -- the Wildcats' one and two positions -- both lost. But the bottom end of the lineup (Carolina Costamagna, Iva Bago, Livia Cirnu, and Millie Stretton) fought back. Costamagna won in a thrilling three sets with a 7-6 third set, while Bago and Stretton also requred three sets; Cirnu scored a two-set win over Kyra Wojcik to even the match at three before Stretton sealed the match victory. (Match Highlights)

Next up, the Wildcats head to Columbia on Wednesday to take on Missouri.

The final stretch now looms for K-State's equestrian program, and it began with an 11-6 loss on the road at fifth-ranked Oklahoma State. The loss drops K-State to 3-4 on the season, 1-3 against Big 12 teams. February 27 in Athens, Georgia is next for the HorseyCats, as they take on the second-ranked Bulldogs.