Louisville MBB’s Journey Through IARP Ends In Celebration

It was 5 years ago that Louisville men’s basketball went from the frying pan to the fire. After College GameDay visited UofL and Rick Pitino was featured wearing a football jersey, the FBI came calling. It came calling for the men’s program who not a year before had wrapped up another scandal. This time, it was a pay-for-play scheme devised by the school’s apparel partner Adidas.

The recruit was Brian Bowen and he was allegedly paid a lot of money to choose UofL. When the announcement was made that we were University 6 and the details emerged, the aftermath was catastrophic. Coach Rick Pitino was immediately fired (later it became a mutual parting not a firing), longtime AD Tom Jurich was unceremoniously let go, and the program was put into a tailspin.

For 5 years since, Louisville has wandered through the a desert. The Cards have only two postseason appearances, by Coach David Padgett in the NIT and by Coach Chris Mack in his first season. That NCAA Tournament appearance was for a single game, where UofL lost to Minnesota. After that, it was pretty much all downhill. There were some nice moments like UofL beating Michigan in ACC-Big Ten Challenge game in 2019. It was one of the best atmospheres I had been a part of at the Yum Center and it was a huge win.

However, overall the cloud of the IARP cast a pall on the program that Mack was unable to navigate UofL through. Recruiting was at an all time low and the program was suffering immensely on the floor. While the 2020 postseason was taken away by Covid, the Cards faltered late in 2021 to miss that tournament and last year it fell apart. UofL struggled to a 13-19 record that saw Coach Mack suspended for the first 6 games and then saw him negotiate a buyout of his contract with UofL in January.

In March, the Kenny Payne era began, but once again recruiting was an uphill battle. With the IARP decision still looming, other schools were negatively recruiting against UofL and it arguably worked. UofL was in on many high level transfers they failed to land and it cannot be stressed enough that the possibility of a postseason ban had to come into play for them and their decision not to choose UofL.

Now, the pall is lifted. The shadow of postseason bans or the “death penalty” have been chased away by the light of a bright future. CBS Sports Matt Norlander broke the news.

UofL will only pay a $5000 fine, have a small, undefined reduction in recruiting days, and be placed on 2 years of probation. The hammer that could’ve come down turned out to be a toy one…as it should’ve been.

This program has faced 5 years of uncertainty and arguably punishment. You could argue that the postseasons missed were effectively a postseason ban due to the scandal. Recruiting has taken a huge hit as prospects that would normally have UofL deep within the mix cast them aside for fear of postseason bans or not being allowed to play on TV. Players want to play in the NCAA Tournament and want to be featured on CBS and ESPN. NBA opportunity often lies in getting eyes on themselves. There was no way any UofL administrator or coach could promise one or both of these things wouldn’t happen. And you can guarantee any program recruiting against Louisville knew it and used it.

Now, the air is clear and Coach Kenny Payne no longer has to fight with one hand tied behind his back. The program can begin to truly rebuild. Hopefully, it won’t be long until it is thriving again and fans aren’t talking about whether they will make the tournament or if that recruit will even visit. Instead, we will talk about being a top 4 seed and potentially landing 5 Star players. Let us celebrate as the funeral is over and life begins anew. One of the preeminent college basketball programs of all time is back up off the mat. Now it’s time to show them all why we are.

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