Billy Reed: NCAA justice as swift as a 400-pound lineman

Billy Reed: NCAA justice as swift as a 400-pound lineman
Billy Reed

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - I see the good Mormons at Brigham Young are bent out of shape because the NCAA negated two basketball seasons in which they played an ineligible player, guard Nick Emery.

I understand that nobody likes to have earned victories and championships taken from them. Yet I've also thought this kind of sanction was merely a matter of the NCAA thinking it has the power to revise history, which it does not.

Consider the University of Louisville, for example. The NCAA has taken a lot of victories from the Cardinals, including the 2013 national championship. The members of that team currently are negotiating with the NCAA about that, but I'll be surprised if anything changes.

It's just silly, in a way. Everybody knows who won the 2013 NCAA title. It wasn't "Vacated." It was, and always will be, the Louisville Cardinals'.

At the next NCAA convention, the presidents representing the member schools can do something about this. The rules should require the NCAA to certify the eligibility of every player before the season.

If the NCAA has a player under investigation, it can tell a school to hold him out pending the results of the investigation. But if the NCAA certifies a player, and subsequent violations are found, then the NCAA should take the responsibility instead of the school.

In other words, the NCAA has to say, "We missed that one." If they want to take the school and player to court for lying to them, that's their prerogative. But it's the NCAA's fault if they certify a player who later proves to be ineligible.

In truth, the NCAA's most effective punishment is justice delayed. Again, consider UofL. To this day, a dark cloud hangs over the athletics program.

At the same time Cardinal fans were celebrating the 42-0 victory over Eastern Kentucky that ended a 10-game football losing streak, the news broke that UofL attorneys will meet Tuesday with former men's basketball coach Rick Pitino's attorneys to discuss a settlement of Pitino's lawsuit that could cost the university $40 million.

The meeting was ordered by a court, and nobody expects anything to happen. Eventually the sordid mess could end up in a court trial that will tarnish everybody concerned to some extent.

It's in the best interests of both sides to negotiate a settlement. Even if Pitino were somehow to win in court, he will not be able to wash the stain off his reputation. But he seems determined to punish UofL instead of accepting any responsibility.

And who knows how much longer it will take the NCAA to conclude its investigation into the recruiting of Brian Bowen? This is the case that arose during the FBI's investigation of the influence shoe companies have on basketball recruiting.

Considering UofL already was on probation for the "Strippergate" scandal at the time of Bowen's recruitment, the NCAA pretty much has free rein to hammer the Cardinals as hard as it wants, and never mind that everyone who was in charge during the Bowen recruitment has been replaced.

Nobody knows how much longer the investigation will drag on. NCAA justice is as swift as a 400-pound tackle. And every day it lasts is another day when the university's reputation is muddied.

In the last years of his regime, former athletics director Tom Jurich made two glaring mistakes. First, he should have fired Pitino when his affair with Karen Sypher became public. Second, he never should have brought back Bobby Petrino to be the football coach.

Had Jurich fired Pitino for breaking the morals clause in his contract, and had he told Petrino he didn't even want to talk to him, there never would have.been reason for NCAA investigations — or the ghastly 2018 football season.

This isn't just hindsight, either. The decision to keep Pitino after the Sypher mess was second-guessed every bit as much as the decision to bring back Petrino. But Jurich put winning ahead of principle, and the damage to UofL's brand and reputation has been incalculable.

So all athletics director Vince Tyra, football coach Scott Satterfield and men's basketball coach Chris Mack can do is just soldier on and not worry about what will happen when the NCAA finally completes its investigation.

Let’s just hope it’s over by the time the 2013 basketball team, the NCAA champion for all time, will gather to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its title.

Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter and regular contributor of sports columns to Contact him at

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