My first bit of online news Wednesday was a story that some former players from the University of Louisville are suing the NCAA over the loss of their 2013 basketball title.
Good luck with that Goliath, little David.
To refresh your memory, 2013 was that bizarre year where Wichita State wore that Cinderella slipper all the way to the Final Four, beating the #1 and #2 seeds in its bracket. Louisville only had to beat a ninth seed and a fourth seed to win the national title.
In that championship game, Louisville was behind by one point at halftime, but a bench player sparked the Cardinals. Luke Hancock, who averaged 8.1 points per game, was a perfect 5-5 from deep and 7-10 from the foul line for 22 points to win the Most Outstanding Player award.
Then two years later some cathouse madam released a tell-all book about supplying girls to parties on campus, and the NCAA stepped in to investigate. Ultimately, the association decided that Louisville’s 30-5 record should be changed to 0-5 with all 30 wins vacated. The school lost its championship claim, its championship banner from its gym and its MOP.
This was similar to 2010 when the NCAA’s investigation into Southern Cal led to USC’s 2004 football title and Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman trophy award being declared null and void.
In 2012, Bush gave back his Heisman trophy, but Hancock, now a 28-year-old financial advisor, has vowed that his MOP ring is not coming off his finger.
It’s hard to blame Hancock for that. A bench player winning the top award? Come on, how long will it be before that happens again?
If I were Bush, I never would have given back my trophy because I earned it on the field.
Do I think cheating is right? Heck no, but the NCAA doesn’t administer punishment properly or fairly.
Louisville has to give up its title because some of the players had sex with women? It’s not even clear if the players knew the women were prostitutes — they may have thought they were just hoops groupies. What about the ones who take bribes? Isn’t that worse?
Corey Maggette played one season for Duke from 1998-99 and helped the team reach the national championship game. Then five years later the NCAA concludes an investigation and decides that Maggette receiving financial payment from Myron Piggie couldn’t come back to haunt Duke because the NCAA couldn’t prove Duke knew about the payment.
Plausible deniability. A college AD’s best friend.
What about when Louisiana guard Chris Duhon came to Duke, and his mother moved with him and took a job with a Duke booster (NCM Capital Management Group)? A high school teammate told a reporter in 2003 the Duhons’ only car was a 1972 VW Beetle, but Vivian Harper landed a job that reportedly was never advertised and suddenly she had a Jeep Cherokee and a new Nissan Altima that she let Chris drive.
A former operations manager at NCM said in published reports in 2003 that Harper was the only candidate for the job, despite lacking the Series 7 General Securities license required by the position.
This same manager said it wasn’t uncommon as Carlos Boozer’s family moved to Durham, and Carlos Sr. got a job at GlaxoSmithKline because the then-CEO was a friend of Coach K.
In 2009 the NCAA stripped the University of Memphis of 38 basketball wins and a Final Four berth in 2008 because of evidence that Derrick Rose might have had someone else take his SAT test in his place in high school. Rose wasn’t even in college yet, but the penalty followed him to Memphis.
Compare that to UNC Chapel Hill where the African-American studies program propped up poor students long enough to play sports. That wasn’t high school — it was right there on campus.
There was an alleged copy of Julius Peppers’ transcript released online that showed that Peppers would not have been eligible to play football and basketball at UNC based off the grades he made in most of his classes, but his GPA was boosted by some courses in African-American studies.
Rather than take tests, the students like Peppers and basketball guard Rashad McCants wrote papers that were graded highly. Of course, there are also allegations that they didn’t write these papers themselves and that there was a female who did this for them.
So which is worse? One SAT test back in high school or a whole series of classes designed to rig the system?
UNC’s answer? Well, more than 3,000 students took those weak classes, so it wasn’t just athletes. Regular students also boosted their GPAs with easy grades, so that means it wasn’t designed just for sports, so the NCAA can’t punish us for that.
Wow. And this coming from a longtime Tar Heel fan.
With this new lawsuit against the NCAA, I can’t imagine the Louisville players winning, but I applaud them for trying. The effort itself is like shining a bright light on the NCAA’s dealings, so maybe the association will be more fair — if for no other reason than public appearances.
A much better case was filed nine years ago by a group of past college athletes headed up by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon, suing the NCAA over making a profit off the use of their names and likenesses. EA Sports was also included in this suit and ended up settling for $40 million in 2013 for use of names and likenesses in sports video games.
O’Bannon and crew won their case, then had only part of it upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Yes, it is wrong to use the players’ names and likenesses, the judges said, but the players get free education, so it’s okay that the NCAA makes billions off of them.
If that is the best that O’Bannon could get, I don’t see much hope for Hancock and team.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.