A group of former Louisville basketball players is suing the NCAA, pertaining to its redaction of the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship.
The plaintiffs in the suit include Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson, Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, and Michael Marra, all of whom were part of the 2012-13 Cardinals team.
Below is an excerpt from the suit Luke Hancock, Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson, and Michael Marra vs. the NCAA, provided to SB Nation from representing attorney Mike Morgan of the law firm Morgan & Morgan:
As part of that broad representation, the NCAA led the Plaintiffs to believe that any and all wins, championships, awards, honors and achievements the Plaintiffs earned as eligible student-athletes would be theirs, in perpetuity, absent a specific finding that they, individually, were ineligible.
62. In reliance on the NCAA’s representations, the Plaintiffs worked innumerable hours and endured other, numerous sacrifices in order to maintain their eligible status and accomplish high achievements all the while benefiting the NCAA both in reputation and monetarily.
63. The Plaintiffs earned the right to be called champions and Plaintiff Hancock earned the right to be forever known as the 2012-2013 MOP
64. Despite no wrongdoing or improper conduct by the Plaintiffs, the NCAA, without just cause, vacated, removed and otherwise impaired the Plaintiffs’ wins, championships and individual honors, awards and recognitions.
65. The NCAA benefited and profited due to its inducement of the Plaintiffs’ work, sacrifice and achievements.
The suit goes on to state that, given the players’ eligibility during the 2012-13 season, they are seeking seek a declaration that they are champions, and those wins and championships are their property.
In June 2017, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions ruled Louisville staffers had bought strippers and sex workers for players and recruits, and vacated the 2013 title in February.
“We are used to fighting giants,” representing attorney John Morgan said via the Associated Press. “In the sports world, I don’t think there is any Goliath that exists like the NCAA. The NCAA is a giant, but the NCAA is a morally bankrupt organization that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged young people throughout our country.
”They answer to nobody but are bad for everybody.”
Former Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino and athletics director Tom Jurich were fired last October following the FBI’s a bombshell scandal released in September 2017, which involved Louisville.
Vacating wins is a common NCAA punishment, and it’s even vacated a title before, from USC football in 2004.
Some former players have been outspoken about the vacating:
Still got this fat ass ring which means my guys definitely won a chip, if I’m not mistaken of course.— Kevin Ware (@kwareofficial) February 20, 2018
As far as who actually vacates these wins, that’s done by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions:
To get extremely technical about the whole situation, the group that levies the penalty is actually the NCAA’s committee on infractions. It’s a group of up to 24 people who hear NCAA rules violation cases. The committee can include conference reps, university faculty, members of the general public with legal training and current or former administrators and coaches. They serve defined terms, and can re-up when those terms are done.
When it comes to the penalty phase of the investigation. There are a few ways the COI puts down penalties on NCAA member schools. Vacating wins is one big way to “get” a school for things that happened in the past after a player or a coach has left the program.
NCAA sanctions must be legitimately punitive to be effective. The intent of penalties is to ensure they are sufficient to deter schools from breaking the rules again and that they remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained. For this reason, penalties can be retrospective (such as a vacation of records) or prospective (such as scholarship losses or recruiting restrictions). Usually, based on the specifics of the case, it is a combination of both.
After a 2013 decision simplified the connection between penalty and enforcement, the COI essentially has a menu that makes things more straightforward in regard to discerning what violation lines up with what penalty.
While getting vacated wins back from the NCAA isn’t exactly common (Penn State managed to do it), perhaps fighting for them from a player’s standpoint just might work.
We’ll update this story as more information comes available.