NCAA, play your hand, or put the Cards down

The University of Louisville and the community are ready to turn the page on the school’s recent sordid history, but we have to wait for one more institution to weigh in before we can all move on.

Last week, interim UofL President Neville Pinto received a letter from the NCAA outlining a notice of violations of rules for the Katina Powell sex scandal. Pinto got the letter only because the former president, under which all of this occurred, James Ramsey, was forced to resign after this and many other scandals over the past several years.

The university and community collectively should want to do what it can to put all of this behind us. I would like UofL to just accept the allegations and any additional punishment. But, no — UofL says it will defend coach Rick Pitino, who is accused of having been derelict in his duties by not knowing about the sex-for-hire parties with his players, recruits and strippers.

This is another example of how the NCAA — what New York Times columnist Joe Nocera calls “The College Sports Cartel” — continues to impose its monopolistic stranglehold over thousands of college students and prospective students. That is correct, the amateur-athletics organization, which makes a billion dollars a year, can besmirch the university, and drag its national reputation through the mud, indefinitely.

I’m not saying UofL should not be embarrassed — it should be. But UofL is a public institution of higher learning, so why is it beholden to a sports cartel? This is the real problem — a senseless system where institutions of higher education are dabbling in the billion-dollar business of sports.

While I’d prefer the school just accepted the allegations and move on, I understand why it feels the need to defend the highest-paid employee of the university, one who brings national attention and profit to the school through his on-court success. That said, if the allegations against Pitino really are so abhorrent that the NCAA could suspend him after a hearing, then he shouldn’t coach until it’s resolved — but let’s have the hearing and make a determination now, not after another season.

The NCAA’s response to this scandal, from the beginning, continues to demonstrate its ineptitude. It’s taken NCAA investigators a year to complete their work, and now, according to The New York Times, the next phase won’t happen until the spring. Is this a process intended to protect the integrity of the game, the student-athletes … or revenue?

It took Kentucky courts only a single offseason to clean up the mess Gov. Matt Bevin made, by illegally dismissing the UofL Board of Trustees.

The notice of allegations is fascinating. It is as if the NCAA is making up rules as it goes along. According to the allegations, the NCAA considers “aggravating factors” in determining its punishment. The aggravating factors listed in this notice of allegations includes three “major violations” by the UofL men’s basketball program from 1998, 1996 and 1957.

Why are those aggravating factors if those violations occurred under the leadership of different coaches, staff and even presidents?

The NCAA has demonstrated an erratic history (at best) in levying punishments and has a minimal sense of urgency. But one thing has remained constant: The NCAA has never stripped a basketball team of a national championship. Even in the eight-year investigation into Syracuse University, which brought historic penalties to the program and its coach, the NCAA still mysteriously exempted its 2003 title. (The NCAA, once again, oozing with integrity.)

In the end, the NCAA continues to prove its fecklessness, unable to figure out how to punish a coach who they found guilty of not watching his staff close enough. While we wait for this cartel to decide what to do, the real question is why we continue to believe the lie that these players are “student-athletes” and not just athletes working (without pay) for the NCAA and UofL fans.

NCAA, play your hand, or put the Cards down.