For five years (!) Louisville was left in turmoil, waiting like a cloud of what was to come with the FBI investigation that rocked the then preeminent Cardinals program and the rest of college basketball hovering over their heads.
On Thursday morning, the NCAA finally announced the sanctions, and it turned out that the five years leading up to this moment were the true punishment.
At the time Louisville fired Rick Pitino and went from being a top 10 team in the country in the 2017–2018 season to a team predicted to be one of, if not the worst team in the ACC for the 2022–23 season.
When the FBI handcuffed college coaches on Sept. 27, 2017, the programs were figuratively handcuffed as well.
Recruiting, in particular, has been a challenge, and cloud overhead has proven to be a major hurdle for Chris Mack era and is already an obstacle to Kenny Payne personnel as Payne hopes to restore Louisville to its longtime prominence.
For years, Louisville has dealt with the questions, concerns, and ultimately reluctance of high school applicants on their recruiting journey, and it’s understandable.
According to one former employee, the conversation, which included a long series of questions and concerns, was commonplace:
“But what about the sanctions? What will they be? When will they be decided? What if my child comes here and sanctions are taken and it ends up being banned for one or two years, as it is supposed to be? All kids dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Why come to Louisville with such a very real possibility when my son has a nth number of other scholarship offers at other universities? Let’s say a ban happens and we decide it’s better to transfer, then we have to go through the appeal process and fight for immediate eligibility, which we all know will take forever and there is no certainty that it will pass (speaking of circumstances before new transmission rules).
This doesn’t excuse years of bad recruiting, but it highlights the problem that Louisville and others are facing.
But today, those figurative handcuffs that the Louisville basketball program was placed in are finally off, and they may start picking up the pieces as they try to recover.
Granted, Louisville received a two-week ban on informal visits, an additional two-week ban on recruiting communications, and a seven-day reduction in personal recruiting days this 2022-23 season, but that pales in comparison to the impact they’ve been dealing with for over five years on the trail.
Kenny Payne rightfully considered one of the best recruiters in the country. Year after year, Payne’s fingerprints left a mark everywhere, earning five stars after five stars an hour down the road at the University of Kentucky.
With the cloud overhead finally clearing, Pain is now able to do what Mack has been unable to do, which is to score with his hands free while fighting on a more level playing field.
Thursday’s news should absolutely help the Cardinals in their recruiting efforts in the coming years and could pay off in an instant if 2023’s cards roll.
In the recruiting class of 2023, the Cardinals remain firmly in the mix with Isaiah Miranda as well as AJ Johnson and if the cardinals can connect them with Caleb Glenn as well as Curtis Williamsthey’ll be the best recruiting class in louisville since Rick Pitino era.
However, Louisville should not be expected to come out of the gate with a strong class.
BUT with the arrival of the transfer portal cycle in the spring and the 2024 cycles in full swing right after that, excuses are out of the question and we can start to really appreciate what this new Louisville staff is capable of.
One thing’s for sure for the Louisville coaches: It’s a great day when they know they’ll never have to answer questions again:
“But what about the sanctions? What will they be? When will they be resolved?