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Nardone | Louisville situation remains a complete cluster

23 JANUARY 2008: Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino during the Louisville Cardinals' 80-60 win over the South Florida Bulls at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, FL.
Chris Livingston/Icon Sportswire

The Louisville Cardinals claim to have as much accountability for Andre McGee’s supposed rogue hooker/stripper for recruits scandal as Pope Francis.

It makes sense. Especially from a university that employs both Rick Pitino and Bobby Petrino. Accountability is not even a virtue in those hallow halls (yes, hallow and not hallowed). By avoiding any form of accountability, the Cardinals get to claim they are not responsible to carry the burden of penalties that come with breaking rules.

In the university’s appeal to the NCAA’s penalties against it, Louisville had some strong words written inside that document. “Draconian”, “unjust” and “grossly disproportionate” were all words the school felt was worth being put in a legal letter that was meant to say how the governing body did UL wrong.

The appeal also continued Louisville’s notion that McGee is the sole wrongdoer in a sea otherwise filled with great leaders of men … or something. He has been the school’s go-to scapegoat for some time and the NCAA has already issued a 10-year show clause for his hands being caught in the cookie jar.

Louisville did make a strong argument that the NCAA’s findings and rulings hold little merit, though. From a legal standpoint, UL claims it was already punished (something it did to itself) and the governing body did not factor that into its decision to potentially remove victories and suspending Pitino for five ACC games in the upcoming season.

Then again, punishing itself for actions it claims no one but McGee had a hand in doing is like my daughter grounding herself from TV because her sister ate a lollipop without permission — it just doesn’t make sense.

This is what Louisville — as well as Pitino — is good at. Creating a narrative of “people out to get them” while playing the role of victim. Mind you, they play this role while kids under the age of 18 were being recruited to their school via things most of those kids can’t consent to in the majority of the states in this country (age of consent in Kentucky is 16).

Sometimes a university, as well as people employed in roles that often get touted as forms of leadership, should just look within itself to see what values should be prioritized. Is it the money-making sports at the university that rank ahead of what is an objectively awful scandal (key figures aware of it or not), or is it to send a message that trafficking teenagers in sex for the sake of recruiting will not be tolerated no matter the cost?

We, unfortunately, already have enough of Louisville’s history to base our assumptions off of to know that answer.

This isn’t a call for Louisville to receive the death penalty or to simply roll over and take the NCAA’s punishment. It is a polite request for the university to stop being so indignant in the face of something it very clearly played a role in, even if that role was only employing one wrong person in McGee.

People like Pitino, as well as the university that pays him, often demand accountability from student-athletes. Get good grades here, work hard on your jumper there, and don’t make excuses for blown defensive assignments over yonder. They all do this while making sure to avoid any accountability themselves.

At least the cat remains out of the bag. There’s no more romanticizing Pitino as a leader of men or Louisville as a place that holds everyone to the same standard of conduct. Everyone involved is flawed, now publicly so, and no matter what happens after the appeal process, there’s no turning back from it.

Basketball is an incredibly unimportant part of the larger landscape of the human experience. We can all love playing and watching it, but the value of a ball going through a hoop enough times that our arbitrary favorite team “earns the victory” does not alter the future in any meaningful way.

Having written and sent that appeal letter to the NCAA, you would think, however, Louisville is convinced that not only are the hearts and minds of our children on the line, but the very fabric of morality in sports is a line in the sand and that line has been drawn in Louisville by the Cardinals … because how dare they be punished for exploiting kids!

Funny, given who it employs, what the employers have been caught doing, and how no one actually cares about vacated wins or five ACC games without Pitino manning the helm. This could be a story that quickly goes away, honestly, if Louisville just let it.

But, nope, that’s not UL’s M.O.

With the appeal public, now know what Louisville is ready to stand up against the hardest. It wasn’t McGee — again, only supposedly by himself — using sex to lure teenagers to campus. One postseason ban isn’t that tough of a penalty (not when using it as a shield to avoid more penalties). It is against the inept NCAA, because UL knows it is inept and an easy punching bag that everyone loves to side against.

No lessons learned. No remorse for any actions. Just defiance in the face of scandal because that’s the Louisville way, apparently.

Joseph has been covering basketball for nearly a decade. He is the host of the Relatively Speaking Podcast and a columnist for FanRag Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

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