In case you haven’t been paying attention to national sports news, the University of Louisville might be the first college basketball national champion to have a title vacated.
There have been Final Four appearances and runner-up finishes taken away — and by “taken away,” I mean the banners are removed from the arena and results are stricken from record — such as UMass or the “Fab Five” Michigan squad back in the 1990s, just to name a couple infamous ones.
Never a national champ, though.
But thanks to Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s “lack of institutional control” in the school’s escort investigation in which there were allegations of women hired to have sex parties and strip for Cardinals’ recruits and players, the NCAA will likely take away their 2013 NCAA championship, pending an appeal.
Louisville already penalized itself after an internal investigation, banning itself from postseason play last season.
Thing is, none of it has affected recruiting for the upcoming season — at least not yet.
Louisville is ranked No. 6 in the composite ranking of all recruiting sites by 247Sports for the 2017-18 campaign, and fourth in 2018-19 at the moment.
“Everyone’s known what happened, the transgressions that took place, and Louisville’s recruiting has been just as good as it’s ever been,” 247 Sports scouting director Jerry Meyer told the Associated Press. “It’s kind of odd. You think it’d have a negative impact. It just seems logical. But it’s been a very counterintuitive situation.”
That includes the Cardinals’ most recent recruit to sign, La Lumiere graduate Brian Bowen.
Yes, the five-star player and McDonald’s All-American who helped the Lakers win the Dick’s Sporting Goods Nationals on ESPN and finish with the No. 1 national ranking in USA Today made it official about two weeks ago that he was headed south down I-65 to Louisville.
Bowen had said back in early March that he would make up his mind in April, and he was deciding between Oregon, Creighton, Texas and Arizona. April passed and still no decision, even though recruiting sites stalked his every move — hey, that’s what they do now in this new world of constant information. It looked like Oregon was going to be the choice after Bowen’s visit there.
But then, Michigan State moved up the list with his LaLu teammate, Jaren Jackson, committing to the Spartans months ago. And DePaul emerged as a sleeper with Lakers’ coach Shane Heirman now there as an assistant and immediately notching a commitment from LaLu guard Tyger Campbell.
Somehow, though, Louisville came out on top despite Bowen not visiting there until late May and Pitino saying during a May 23 press conference the Cards weren’t planning on adding anymore players. Bowen supposedly expressed interest after that date, and since he’s likely going to be a draft pick in the NBA sooner rather than later, of course Pitino would change his mind.
“Happy to announce my commitment to The Ville !! Let’s get it,” Bowen said on June 3 on his Twitter account.
It makes you wonder a little, especially since Pitino has emerged as the sketchy, smarmy coach in the state of Kentucky instead of his counterpart in Lexington.
• Gotta get away … from La Porte: You know that phrase from Southwest Airlines commercials, “Gotta get away,” right? Well, that’s what it looks like a La Porte assistant coach is doing after what happened to his head coach in the past week.
Joe Wagner, a very good friend and loyal lieutenant of the unfairly-deposed Tom Wells, will be the new head coach at South Central, pending approval by the school board. The most recent South Central School Board meeting was this past Tuesday, so it could be a while. But you can bet it will go through since Wagner is a really good choice.
The Satellites’ job came open when Eric Branz left to take over as head coach at downstate Yorktown, following his fiancé who got a job in Westfield.
You can’t blame Wagner for wanting nothing to do with the Slicers anymore. And coincidentally, South Central is southwest from La Porte High School, as the crow flies.
Of course, maybe we’re all wrong about Wells and he deserved to be let go. That’s what La Porte School Board President Mark Kosior wants us to believe.
He responded to my email request to defend what the board did (I actually emailed six of the board members and he’s the only one to respond), and it was fairly vague. But I’ll leave that up to you to decide since almost every La Porte basketball fan feels (like I do) that Wells was a great man, very good coach and didn’t deserve his fate after getting a stellar review from his bosses.
“As I mentioned (in the school board meeting) there are always at least two sides to every story and employers are generally not able to share details of non-renewals or other actions not voluntary on an employees part,” Kosior said in the email. “I would like nothing more that to be able to share the case the superintendent presented and then to be able to discuss its merits, allowing all to agree or disagree based upon the facts. I do believe that the facts presented to our board justified a non-renewal of an extracurricular role (Tom Wells is still employed by La Porte Schools as a teacher; I'm not sure everyone realizes that). Unfortunately for several reasons any board or organization is bound by laws and subject to legal action when information is shared and therefore (I am) unable to provide the details many would like to hear.”
Well, that’s a lot of words without much substance. I don’t necessarily agree with the part about legal action if he would just tell us why Wells was not brought back as a coach, but still kept a teacher. Did he not win enough games? Did he say a bad word to a superior? Were two moms on the board unhappy with the way he treated their sons?
I’m all about the truth and avoiding honesty is just as bad as flat out lying, in my humble opinion.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.