College sports has produced scandals far worse than anything that’s happened at Louisville in the last decade. But the Cardinals are still the country’s most reliable source of athletic-department salaciousness, consistently tripping over themselves and getting caught up in zesty headlines. Here’s a timeline dating back to 2009, updated as appropriate:
August 2009: Basketball coach Rick Pitino gets caught up in a sex scandal in which a mistress is indicted for trying to extort him
“Some unfortunate things happened,” Pitino said in the courtroom packed with spectators from basketball-mad Kentucky. “She opened up my pants.”
”Did you have sex that night?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Ford asked.
”Yes, very briefly,” said Pitino, who wore a dark suit with a white shirt and red tie. The two have said they had sex at the table.
April 2013: Louisville wins the men’s basketball national title, which is cool, but it’s going to get vacated later on because of one of these scandals.
January 2014: Louisville hires Bobby Petrino as football coach even though he’d already left the school once, shortly after signing a decade-long extension, and carried all kinds of other baggage.
Let’s just refer to the running Bobby Petrino shenanigans tracker.
October 2015: An escort provider accuses Pitino’s program of spending thousands of dollars on strippers and prostitutes for players and recruits
This is not the scandal that’s eventually going to get Pitino fired. But it does lead to a one-year postseason ban and, later, the NCAA stripping Louisville of its 2013 national title. In a way, it’s still unfolding years later, with players from that team suing the NCAA.
November 2016: Louisville’s offensive coordinator becomes a central player in #Wakeyleaks, the football espionage caper of the century
Text messages later suggest that OC Lonnie Galloway met with Wake Forest game plan-leaker Tom Elrod the night before the two teams played a game in Louisville.
Petrino claims no knowledge of any ill-gotten information. Louisville’s stance continues to be that assistants on both sides of the ball knew about plays Galloway had gotten from Elrod, but Petrino wasn’t involved. After all, it’s normal for an offense-first head coach to know nothing about what his offensive coordinator is up to.
Galloway is later suspended.
The entire 2016 and 2017 football seasons, really
Louisville has Lamar Jackson at the peak of his powers for two years and fails to win its division even once. I am counting this as another scandal.
September 2017: Pitino and AD Tom Jurich get fired after Louisville comes up prominently in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption
The feds accuse Pitino’s program of working with Adidas to funnel $100,000 to five-star recruit Brian Bowen, who initially committed to Louisville but never played there. After his firing for cause, Pitino sues Louisville for breach of contract, asking for more than $35 million that he was lined up to make if he stayed on as head coach.
It’s possible that Louisville’s administration uses the FBI probe as a way to get out of paying lots of money to a coach who’s been around the scandal block a few times. Either way, Pitino’s gone from the program forever.
July 2018: Program mega-donor and board of trustees chairman Papa John says the N-word on a conference call, resigns from the board, and has his name taken off Louisville’s football stadium
John Schnatter’s downfall at Louisville is, on one level, a long time coming. He’d tangled in the past with Jurich, leading Schnatter to resign from the school’s athletic board in 2017.
But Papa John actually outlasts Jurich at the school, thanks to the latter’s firing in the FBI scandal. He seems set to stay involved for years to come until his racism comes to public light. Amid a bunch of organization’s cutting ties with Schnatter and his pizza company (and that company taking Papa John off its logo), Louisville decides to rename Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. One good idea would just be to name the place after Muhammad Ali.
For now, it’s just Cardinal Stadium.
These are just the athletic scandals.
Louisville’s had a handful more in the last decade involving other departments and important, non-athletics staff members. Here’s an incomplete listing, which includes the time the university president and a bunch of his staff dressed in sombreros, panchos, and fake mustaches for Halloween in 2015.