Sports

The University of Louisville men’s basketball program must vacate its 2013 national title victory and dozens of other wins as the NCAA has denied its appeal of sanctions handed down following a sex scandal.

In a Tuesday afternoon news conference on the U of L campus, school officials announced the Cardinals will have to vacate 123 victories, including the title game, and return some $600,000 in revenue from NCAA tournament games in which ineligible players were used.

The decision culminates the NCAA investigation that followed allegations raised in 2015 that former Cardinals basketball staffer Andre McGee hired an escort service for players and recruits.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” said interim U of L President Greg Postel, who had argued that the NCAA exceeded its boundaries and didn’t follow its own precedent established in other cases.

Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra said the ruling is a letdown, given the punishments that U of L self-imposed after learning of the violations.

“My emotions go from mad to sad,” said Tyra, “it’s a variety of things, including disappointment, that you go through, based upon the way the process went and certainly the outcome.”

A lot changed at U of L in the months following the initial NCAA penalties.

Former Cards coach Rick Pitino and former Athletic Director Tom Jurich were both fired last fall following the school’s involvement in an FBI probe of college recruiting. Both have denied any wrongdoing in either scandal.

Pitino was replaced this season by his assistant, David Padgett. Padgett said he reached out to offer encouragement to members of the 2013 championship team after learning about the appeal denial.

“I said, ‘you guys won 16 games in a row, you went 35 and 5 and this doesn’t change that. You don’t need a banner to tell you that you’re a national champion and in my view you will always be one here,’” Padgett said during his news conference previewing the Cards’ upcoming game against Duke.

There are no more NCAA appeals left in the process, and Postel said there have been no formal discussions of taking the matter to court. But he also said it’s time for the university to close this chapter and move forward.

“People don’t send their children to a university to encounter these kinds of things, Postel said. “So when you hear stories of these things, it’s appalling.”

Several U of L students came by the Miller Information Technology Center to watch the news conference, including Thomas Nemec, a sophomore from Minnesota.

“Obviously, we love the title and all the wins that the former coach and staff here were able to bring to the university, but it’s a little weird because of the way the NCAA has been kind of inconsistent with its rulings recently,” Nemec said. “And obviously we’re not on their good side right now with everything that’s been going on.”

U of L officials said they’ve begun working out details about the process of vacating the games.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation."